Dennis Kucinich: We Destroyed Iran’s Democracy

Congressman Warns Against Another Intervention

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project | May 29, 2007                   
[Updated May 17, 2012]

“Iran had a democratic government under Mossadegh... The U.S. helped overthrow it.” — Dennis Kucinich

Congressman Dennis Kucinich

“Iran had a democratic government which was overthrown because of oil”, said Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH), in a speech on the House floor on September 19, 2006. His review of the 1953 coup against Mossadegh is one of the most expansive ever introduced into the U.S. Congressional Record.

The speech was given during a House of Representatives debate on the recognition of the 100 year anniversary of Iran's Constitutional Revolution [H. Res. 942, Recognizing Centennial Anniversary of Iranian Constitution of 1906]. Kucinich was the only representative to point out the hypocrisy of celebrating Iran's historical efforts toward freedom and democracy, while ignoring the United States’ own role in demolishing the very freedoms Iranians had fought so long to attain.

H. Res. 942 was just one of three Iran resolutions during a single Congressional session, all designed, in Kucinich’s view, to make the case for war. Later in the evening, when Congress voted on H. Res. 976, (condemning the Islamic Republic’s horrible human rights record and expressing “solidarity” with Iranians), Rep. Kucinich again raised the history of America’s horrible anti-democratic record and complete lack of solidarity with the people of Iran beginning in 1953.

A press release from Kucinich’s office noted that “the resolutions, H.Con.Res. 415, H.Res. 942 and H.Res. 976, were all brought to the House floor on the suspension calendar allowing for only minimum debate and no amendments.’

Born in 1946, Dennis Kucinich was elected Mayor of Cleveland in 1977 at the unprecedented young age of 31. He was first elected to Congress in 1996, and was one of the major Presidential candidates for the Democratic party in 2004 and 2008.

In May 2012, Kucinich announced his decision to end his 16 year career in Congress, where he was its sole vegan member.

House of Representatives - April 26, 2006


Rep. Kucinich opposed the controversial "Iran Freedom Support Act", citing similar resolutions which led to the disastrous U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003

KUCINICH: Now, I am strongly opposed to this regime, but preventing them from developing nuclear weapons capacity must be our first priority, not prioritizing behavior change over regime change. We pull the rug out from underneath anybody in the current Iranian leadership who values survival over the nuclear program, and it clearly works to eliminate incentives for diplomatic solutions.

I have a sense of deja vu when I think back to the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 which did not explicitly authorize the use of force, but certainly got the ball rolling that led to the tragedy of this Iraq war. Knowing what they know today, how many Members of this House would have voted differently 8 years ago?

I am very worried about where all this ends. We have heard reports from the Pentagon of plans to attack Iran, indeed plans for a nuclear strike on Iran, the repercussions of which should make us all recoil with horror. Now, the administration dismisses these news reports, but the American people and this Congress got better information about what happened in Iraq from reporters like Seymour Hersh than it got from, sadly, the President, Secretary Rumsfeld and Secretary Rice.

I do not pretend to imagine the horrific things that Iran would do with nuclear weapons. We are all opposed to that. That is why we need a strong, smart, constructive diplomatic strategy. This bill does not provide it.

For over half a century, Madam Speaker, we have made a series of mistakes regarding Iran, starting in 1953 when the United States led the charge to overthrow the democratically elected government of Iran and replace them with a dictatorship in the person of the Shah. Our support for that dictatorship and its repressive policies fueled the reaction that led to the Iranian revolution. It was part of what happened with the hostage crisis in Iran.

More recently there are very credible reports that diplomatic feelers extended by the Iranian Government were dismissed by this administration 2 and 3 years ago. I sincerely hope that we do not overwhelmingly and unthinkingly pass a resolution today that makes us feel good because we all hate this regime, but instead sets in motion a process that actually is destabilizing and makes the peaceful future that we all seek harder.

House of Representatives - September 19, 2006


KUCINICH: I want to thank the gentleman from California [Tom Lantos], and I appreciate your commitment to constitutional democracies. My statement here today, while I can certainly agree with the sentiment that was expressed and the spirit of this resolution with respect to hoping for constitutional democracies, I think we need to look at the letter of the resolution and put it in the context of the Administration's policies.

First of all, this particular resolution expresses its profound hope that the people of Iran will once again enjoy a democratic government in the spirit of the Iranian Constitution of 1906. I would like to read from some research that is available on the web, Recent Iranian History, from Wikipedia. It says that: with the rise of modernization in the late 19th century, desire for change led to the Persian Constitutional Revolution of 1905 to 1911. In 1921, Reza Shah Pahlavi staged a coup against the weakened Qajar dynasty.

During World War II, Britain and the USSR invaded Iran from August 25 to September 17, 1941, to stop an axis-supported coup and secure Iran's petroleum infrastructure. The allies of World War II forced the Shah to abdicate, in favor of his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, whom they hoped would be more supportive.

In 1951, a pro-democratic nationalist, Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, rose to prominence in Iran. Now, Mossadegh was elected its first Prime Minister. As Prime Minister, Mossadegh alarmed the West by his nationalization of an Anglo-Iranian oil company that was later named BP, which controlled all the country's oil reserves.

Britain immediately put an embargo on Iran. Members of British Intelligence Service (BIS) approached the United States under President Eisenhower in 1953 to join them in Operation Ajax, a coup against Mossadegh. President Eisenhower agreed and authorized the CIA to assist the BIS in overthrowing Mossadegh. The Shah at first attempted to formally dismiss Mossadegh, but this backfired and Mossadegh convinced the Shah to flee to Baghdad.

Regardless of this setback, the covert operation soon went into full swing, conducted from the U.S. embassy in Tehran under the leadership of Kermit Roosevelt, Jr. Agents were hired to facilitate violence, and as a result protests broke out across the nation, anti- and pro-monarchy. Protesters violently clashed in the streets, leaving almost 300 dead. The operation was successful in triggering a coup, and within days pro-Shah tanks stormed the capital and bombarded the Prime Minister's residence. Mossadegh surrendered and was arrested on the 19th of August, 1953, tried for treason, and sentenced to 3 years in prison.

Dennis Kucinich Now, keep in mind that on March 8 of 1951, Mossadegh submitted to the Iranian mullahs his proposal to nationalize Iran's oil. According to the Cornell University library, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, most of whose stock was owned by the British Government, had been paying Iran much less than the British Government took from the company in taxes. Mossadegh's nationalization bill scared the company into concessions that were made too late. The Premier was committed to nationalization. Much to the surprise of the British, he went through with it right down to the expulsion of British technicians, without whom the Iranians could not run the Abadan refinery. Results? The West lost the Iranian oil supply, and the Iranian government lost the oil payments.

When we are talking about democracy in Iran, Iran had a democratic government which was overthrown because of oil. So let's celebrate democracy and not try to at the same time praise a process that resulted in an overthrow of democracy.

I think when we look at this particular resolution, you have to read these resolutions to the letter to get an idea of what is going on here.

Here we are expressing the profound hope that the people of Iran will once again enjoy a democratic government in the spirit of the Iranian Constitution of 1906. They had a democratic government. The U.S. helped overthrow it.

One of the last resolutions, we talked about initiating an active and consistent dialogue with other governments in the European Union, in order to persuade the Government of Iran to rectify its human rights practices. We should be talking to the government of Iran, if we object to their human rights practices.

Resolution 415 says human rights will be considered a significant factor in the foreign policy of the United States with regard to Iran, but we are not stating that with the other countries that have violated the human rights of their citizens.

My concern is that, while these resolutions, in and of themselves, may have elements that are salutary, at the same time you have to put them in the context of the Administration's policy, which is a buildup to war against Iran. That is why I am raising a note of caution here. You have to see why we have three resolutions on the floor of the House dealing with Iran, on the same day our President is before the United Nations making a statement which characterizes Iran in much the same way that Iraq was characterized before the United Nations in another visit by the President. I think we have to be very cautious about the path this country is taking.

We can stand for democracy and human rights in Iran. We can do all of those things without taking steps and letting our efforts — which might be in good faith, by the way — without lettingthose efforts be used as a buildup towards war. I am saying, look at all of this in the context in which it is occurring.

Look at Time magazine this week, and look at the stories that have been published in The New Yorker. Watch the development of this Administration with respect to covert activities in Iran.

Madam Speaker, you might be interested to know that in our House Subcommittee on Government Operations, which has jurisdiction over national security and international relations, we were supposed to have a classified briefing by the State Department and by the Department of Defense on this issue on what is going on in Iran. They refused to appear. They still refuse to appear. They are not accountable to Congress. I am raising this issue, so my colleagues know that you have to look at the context in which these resolutions are being offered.

Madam Speaker, I thank the gentleman from California for the opportunity to present these observations.

[H. Res. 942 was agreed to by recorded vote: 413 - 2 in Roll No. 457. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and Ron Paul (L-TX) voted Nay; Michael Capuano (D-MA) and Barney Frank (D-MA) voted Present].

House of Representatives - September 19, 2006


KUCINICH: Once again, I am grateful to the gentleman from California for the opportunity to offer a slightly different perspective. While I continue to associate myself with my good friend Mr. Lantos in the celebration of the imperative of human rights globally, I have specific concerns about the tenor of this resolution and its relationship to the administration's policy of ramping up for a war against Iran.

Again, I want to state that this is the third resolution that has been brought before this House this evening. You have to read it in the context of administration actions, which have been documented in published reports, that relate to an attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of Iran by sending elements of the Department of Defense inside of Iranian territory; number two, by planning a bombing, targets inside Iran; number three, by planning a naval blockade in the Strait of Hormuz where 40% of the world's oil flows through.

Dennis Kucinich We have to look at this in a broader context of an administrative foreign policy, which is really aimed at creating not stability, but instability in the region. You can look at the July 2006 Vanity Fair article, which goes into detail about the unfortunate administration escapade of tricking up a case for uranium from Niger with respect to Iraq. One of the administration's key advisers in that article basically made the case for chaos, which is an administration, I believe, policy. Now we are looking at Iran.

Now, this resolution, 976, in the third article, expresses its unity with all the Iranian people, shares their desire to see Iran become a free country with transparent democratic institutions and equal rights for all.

I pointed out earlier in debates that Iran had a democratic government under Mossadegh; that in October of 1951, under Mossadegh, Iran sought to nationalize its oil industry. That then resulted in a draft resolution submitted to the United Nations by the United Kingdom, and supported by the United States and France, as depicting Iran then as a threat to international peace and security.

Then we saw a coup d'etat that was organized by the U.S. and the U.K. Yes, we ought to stand for democracy. We ought to also stand for truth with respect to the historical unfolding of what we say we stand for.

Where does this resolution lead? Does it lead to a continued insistence that the Government of Iran restore human rights to everyone in Iran? If it does, wonderful. We all ought to go along with that. But if his resolution is just another brick on a path towards war, look out. This looks like Iraq all over again, and that is what my concern is.

If this resolution sets us on a path to war, how many of us in the Congress are prepared to see this administration borrow money from China and Japan to go to war against Iran, as they have borrowed money from China and Japan to go to war against Iraq? We have to look at what we are doing here.

While this resolution, I am sure, will pass overwhelmingly, we have to see that circumstances are being set in order which could lead us towards a path of war against Iran. We have to ask ourselves, is that what we really want?

I can stand here with my colleagues and say, absolutely, I support the religious freedom of the Baha'i. I do. Absolutely. I support human rights for all people in Iran, and I do. Absolutely. I support democratic principles in Iran and every other country in the world, and I do.

But I am not for war against Iran. I don't believe the American people want war against Iran. I don't think they wanted war against Iraq, but they were dragged into it.

I am just offering these remarks as a cautionary note to make sure that we have our eyes open as we walk in the days ahead with respect to policy and Iran. Yes, we need to make sure that Iran has peaceful uses of its atomic energy. We have an obligation to do that.

But, in conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I maintain that we should begin first with direct negotiations with Iran. Second, we should assure Iran that we are not going to attack it. Third, we should demand that Iran open itself up to inspections once again by the IAEA. Fourth, we need assurances, and they are fair, that Iran is not going to be developing nuclear weapons.

There is a way out of this, and I am hopeful that in our stand for human rights, we are not paradoxically beginning a process that would deprive millions of Iranians of their human right to life.

I thank the gentleman from California for his friendship and also for his willingness to see debate in this House of the people. You have always done that, Mr. Lantos. Whether we have agreed or not, you have always been willing to see the debate continue.

Interview on May 14, 2008

Professor Hooshang Ahmirahmadi of the American Iranian Council interviewed Rep. Kucinich at the Congressman's Capitol Hill office about US-Iran relations.

AHMIRAHMADI: The US and Iran have been in hostile terms for almost thirty years. Has the time come for the relations to be normalized?

KUCINICH: Yes, relations should be normalized between the US and Iran. It's quite unfortunate that the United States has not made diplomatic initiatives or has ignored diplomatic initiatives that were made by Iran in the last four years. The people of Iran have had a longstanding respect for and love for the American people.

And the people of Iran have been forgiving of America's illegal interventions in the internal affairs of Iran going back to the days of Mossadegh when the CIA helped overthrow his government. So people have a capacity for forgiveness even though they don't forget it. We have to understand that we have much in common with Iran. Our people have aspirations of freedom. Our people have a desire for economic progress. Our people have aspirations for security and peaceful relations with neighbors. Iran can be a very important partner with the United States in creating a new peace in the Middle East.


Related links:

Kucinich: NIE Report Shows Bush Falsified Claims on Iran (12/3/07)

Kucinich Quotes from Mossadegh Project article in Congress (6/20/07)

Kucinich: 'False, Misleading' Report on Iran (9/15/06)

Kucinich: US Troops in Iran (4/14/06)

Congressman Ron Paul on Iran, Mossadegh, 1953 Coup

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MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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