Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Stephen Kinzer: BP in the The Persian Gulf , Wed Report from Israel and Palestine

From: Leonard Potash lennypotash@gmail.com

Report from Israel and Palestine, Wed. June 30 at 7:30 p.m.

AR member Lenny Potash (also member of Sholem Community and Jewish Labor
Committee and longtime labor activist) and Ben Potash have just returned
from a study tour and visit to Israel and Palestine in conjunction with
ICAHD - Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions. They were mostly in
Jerusalem and the West Bank, meeting with human rights groups, and
individuals and families who've been impacted by Israeli policies. They'll
lead a discussion on how progressive Palestinians and Israelis view the
facts on the ground in light of their desire for a just and sustainable
peace, and will show visuals of the stories and the historical context of

There will be ample time for questions and discussion
No admission fee (voluntary donations accepted).

Co-Sponsored by Sholem Community and Arbeter Ring SoCal

Arbeter Ring (Workmen's Circle) SoCal District
1525 S Robertson Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90035



Tomgram: Stephen Kinzer, BP's First "Spill"

Posted by Stephen Kinzer at 10:05am, June 29, 2010.

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Some of you may remember Stephen Kinzer for
his groundbreaking work on the CIA's overthrow of a democratic Guatemalan
government in 1954 in Bitter Fruit, or his more recent history, Overthrow:
America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq. Well, his newest
book, Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America's Future, has just been published.
Andrew Bacevich calls it "history with a bite"; Juan Cole, "a must-read for
anyone concerned with the future of the United States in the Middle East."
It's a history-cum-critique-cum-policy-review of American folly in the
Middle East, especially in relation to Iran, but also Turkey, Israel, and
Saudi Arabia. It couldn't be more relevant to this moment or more riveting.
I'm almost done and can hardly put it down. Tom]

BP in the Gulf -- The Persian Gulf
How an Oil Company Helped Destroy Democracy in Iran

By Stephen Kinzer
Tomgram: June 29, 2010

To frustrated Americans who have begun boycotting BP: Welcome to the club.
It's great not to be the only member any more!

Does boycotting BP really make sense? Perhaps not. After all, many BP
filling stations are actually owned by local people, not the corporation
itself. Besides, when you're filling up at a Shell or ExxonMobil station,
it's hard to feel much sense of moral triumph. Nonetheless, I reserve my
right to drive by BP stations. I started doing it long before this year's
oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

My decision not to give this company my business came after I learned
about its role in another kind of "spill" entirely -- the destruction of
Iran's democracy more than half a century ago.

The history of the company we now call BP has, over the last 100 years,
traced the arc of transnational capitalism. Its roots lie in the early
years of the twentieth century when a wealthy bon vivant named William Knox
D'Arcy decided, with encouragement from the British government, to begin
looking for oil in Iran. He struck a concession agreement with the
dissolute Iranian monarchy, using the proven expedient of bribing the three
Iranians negotiating with him.

Under this contract, which he designed, D'Arcy was to own whatever oil he
found in Iran and pay the government just 16% of any profits he made --
never allowing any Iranian to review his accounting. After his first strike
in 1908, he became sole owner of the entire ocean of oil that lies beneath
Iran's soil. No one else was allowed to drill for, refine, extract, or sell
"Iranian" oil.

"Fortune brought us a prize from fairyland beyond our wildest dreams,"
Winston Churchill, who became First Lord of the Admiralty in 1911, wrote
later. "Mastery itself was the prize of the venture."

Soon afterward, the British government bought the D'Arcy concession, which
it named the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. It then built the world's biggest
refinery at the port of Abadan on the Persian Gulf. From the 1920s into the
1940s, Britain's standard of living was supported by oil from Iran. British
cars, trucks, and buses ran on cheap Iranian oil. Factories throughout
Britain were fueled by oil from Iran. The Royal Navy, which projected
British power all over the world, powered its ships with Iranian oil.

After World War II, the winds of nationalism and anti-colonialism blew
through the developing world. In Iran, nationalism meant one thing: we've
got to take back our oil. Driven by this passion, Parliament voted on April
28, 1951, to choose its most passionate champion of oil nationalization,
Mohammad Mossadegh, as prime minister. Days later, it unanimously approved
his bill nationalizing the oil company. Mossadegh promised that,
henceforth, oil profits would be used to develop Iran, not enrich Britain.

This oil company was the most lucrative British enterprise anywhere on the
planet. To the British, nationalization seemed, at first, like some kind of
immense joke, a step so absurdly contrary to the unwritten rules of the
world that it could hardly be real. Early in this confrontation, the
directors of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and their partners in Britain's
government settled on their strategy: no mediation, no compromise, no
acceptance of nationalization in any form.

The British took a series of steps meant to push Mossadegh off his
nationalist path.

They withdrew their technicians from Abadan, blockaded the port, cut off
exports of vital goods to Iran, froze the country's hard-currency accounts
in British banks, and tried to win anti-Iran resolutions from the U.N. and
the World Court. This campaign only intensified Iranian determination.
Finally, the British turned to Washington and asked for a favor: please
overthrow this madman for us so we can have our oil company back.

American President Dwight D. Eisenhower, encouraged by his Secretary of
State John Foster Dulles, a lifelong defender of transnational corporate
power, agreed to send the Central Intelligence Agency in to depose
Mossadegh. The operation took less than a month in the summer of 1953. It
was the first time the CIA had ever overthrown a government.

At first, this seemed like a remarkably successful covert operation. The
West had deposed a leader it didn't like, and replaced him with someone who
would perform as bidden -- Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi.

From the perspective of history, though, it is clear that Operation Ajax,
as the operation was code-named, had devastating effects. It not only
brought down Mossadegh's government, but ended democracy in Iran. It
returned the Shah to his Peacock Throne. His increasing repression set off
the explosion of the late 1970s, which brought to power Ayatollah Khomeini
and the bitterly anti-Western regime that has been in control ever since.

The oil company re-branded itself as British Petroleum, BP Amoco, and
then, in 2000, BP. During its decades in Iran, it had operated as it
pleased, with little regard for the interests of local people. This
corporate tradition has evidently remained strong.

Many Americans are outraged by the relentless images of oil gushing into
Gulf waters from the Deepwater Horizon well, and by the corporate
recklessness that allowed this spill to happen. Those who know Iranian
history have been less surprised.

Stephen Kinzer is a veteran foreign correspondent and the author of Bitter
Fruit and Overthrow, among other works. His newest book is Reset: Iran,
Turkey, and America's Future.

Copyright 2010 Stephen Kinzer

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