Protestors expressed their shock, dismay and anger in response to the U.S. assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani. On Saturday, January 4th at noon, at least a hundred activists representing a cross section of anti-war and political groups gathered on the steps of the Capitol to oppose a potential war with Iran. The event was organized by several leftist organizations in Madison, including the DSA and featured speakers who took turns speaking out against the clear act of aggression against Iran. The protesters held signs that were clear and to the point: “No war with Iran!”
The turn-out was a quick response to the shocking action. A number of Madison-based organizations are building support for local participation in a global day of protest against war with Iran on Saturday, January 25 at 12 PM. Details can be found on Facebook.
-Report by Kai Rasmussen
Below, we share with permission a speech given by DSA member Shaadie Ali at the January 4 protest.
“No war in Iran, yes, but also no sanctions against Iran, no extrajudicial killings in Iran or Iraq, and no supporting Jihadist movements that aim to kill Shias across the region.”
The history of Iran-US relations is a story of horrific cruelty on the part of the Americans that dispossess and terrorize the Iranian people. From the start of the Cold War on, any meaningful attempt by the Iranian people to exert control over their political future was met with brutal repression on the part of the Americans, starting with the election of Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953. When the newly elected Prime Minister Mossadegh attempted to assert control over the ownership of oil production in 1952 (which nominally paid out 85% of profits to Great Britain and 15% to Iran, but in practice probably paid less), Great Britain imposed an embargo. President Truman agreed to this embargo, and in 1953, the CIA and Great Britain staged a coup d’état based out of the US Embassy.
The CIA and MI6 then reinstalled Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi as the Head of State, who Great Britain and the Soviet Union jointly deposed a decade earlier on the suspicion that he had Nazi sympathies. To consolidate the Shah’s tenuous position over an extremely resentful Iranian populace, the CIA helped develop and train a brutal secret police force named SAVAK. During the ‘60s and into the ‘70s, SAVAK tortured and killed thousands of political dissidents. According to the Federation of American Scientists, some of SAVAK’s favorite methods included “electric shock, whipping, beating, inserting broken glass and pouring boiling water into the body, and the extraction of teeth and nails.” Popular resistance to the Shah mostly took the form of either communism or Islamism. Though anyone who opposed the Shah was liable to be tortured, the worst forms were generally reserved for communists, with SAVAK and the Shah probably underestimating Islamism in retrospect. As popular resistance mounted in the late ‘70s, leftists and Islamists often joined coalitions to fight against the Shah. They struck hard and fast, catching both the Shah and his American allies completely off-guard. The Shah fled Iran and was granted entry to the United States for cancer treatment despite the request of revolutionaries that he be extradited. A group of revolutionary students, meanwhile, remembering that the US embassy was instrumental in the 1953 coup and many, many coups in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, retaliated by seizing the US embassy and holding the 52 Americans residing there hostage.
The hostages were eventually released, and the Americans released some of the Iranian assets they froze in retaliation.
The United States went on to support both Iran and Saddam’s Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war, an eight-year-long war lasting from 1980 to 1988 that cost hundreds of thousands of lives on both sides and included genocides. In the final weeks of the war, the US Navy shot down an Iranian commercial plane over Iranian airspace, killing 290 civilians. The United States never apologized for this. Over the coming days, you’ll hear discussion of Iranian “aggression” against American military targets, but none of those incidents produced as many civilian casualties as the murder of 290 people whose only crime was flying on an Iranian airline.
I could go on, but I’d like to skip ahead to the present conditions imposed on Iran: the Obama administration was able to secure a deal with the Iranian government. The US would agree to lift the international sanctions on the Iranian economy that devalued their currency by 80% and a 30% decrease in drug imports from Europe and the United States. In exchange, Iran would agree to more stringent limits on their uranium enrichment and allow international inspectors to inspect their facilities on very short notice to ensure compliance. In 2018, Trump withdrew from the agreement and reimposed those sanctions despite Iranian compliance. The Senate then agreed in a 98-2 vote to impose further sanctions on Iran. The effects have been devastating. The cost of meat has gone up by 116%. Hundreds have been killed in food riots. People regularly die due to shortages in cancer treatment drugs. And now, the United States assassinates one of the most decorated generals in Iranian history.
I know that was a lot, but my point is this: Iran isn’t perfect–no country is. And no, General Qassem Soleimani wasn’t perfect either. But at every turn regardless of President, Iran finds a United States government that is dishonest, cruel, violent, and acts in completely bad faith. Iran is dealing with a state which is free to bomb their airliners, overthrow their prime ministers and cripple their economy the second they attempt to control their national destiny. No war in Iran, yes, but also no sanctions against Iran, no extrajudicial killings in Iran or Iraq, and no supporting Jihadist movements that aim to kill Shias across the region. Thank you all, and solidarity with the people of Iran and Iraq.
-DSA Member Shaadie Ali, speaking at an anti-war protest in Madison