Many weekend rallies by Iranians living in the U.S. involved waving American flags and calls for more American involvement in Iran. Further, some Republicans such as John McCain continued to call for more American involvement in the political struggle. However, all of this easily forgets the history of foreign involvement in Iran and how it directly contributed to the 1979 Islamic revolution and the brutal Islamic theocracy coming into power.
During World War II, an allied coalition involving the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union invaded of Iran and forced neutral leader Reza Shah to abdicate, to replace with his son as a better anti-Nazi alternative. For a time, this younger shah helped with arms transfers to the Stalin government from the United States. However, the younger Shah soon turned anti-Soviet and anti-Communist once the war was over, and was used by the United States as an ally to blunt Communism during the Cold War years, despite the fact that the rule of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was characterized by a huge number of political prisoners which numbered around 2,200 by the time of the 1979 Islamic revolution. Torture and other brutality was common during his rule. The Shah used fear and political repression to stay in power which planted the seeds of opposition to his rule among many Iranians throughout the world, including in the U.S. who routinely burned American flags and blamed the United States for keeping this brutal dictator in power. Further, every American president all the way from Roosevelt to Carter, both Democratic and Republican seemed to remain clueless to demand that the Shah make some political reforms in his nation and treat his people with more dignity. The extent of American involvement in Iran directly resulted in the long hostage drama at the American embassy in Tehran as an act of revenge for so much American support for political repression in Iran.
While the shah eventually banned political opposition of all types by 1975, and gained a horrible reputation among international organizations such as Amnesty International, the shah did allow some social reforms which also angered the Shia clergy and thereby setup his position as being viewed as a weak advocate for the Muslim faith among many more fervent Muslims. The shah was a forward looking leader working to make Iran(which was formerly the powerful ancient kingdom of Persia) into a powerful modern world empire with a modern society and huge world trade. The shah also opened up equality for women and other social reforms and made the society largely secular in nature, which certainly angered many religious radicals among the Shia clergy. But the shah did recognize the state of Israel, unlike other Mideast nations. In this regard, he was seen as a pragmatic realist.
In 1951, there was a short-lived effort by a rising political leader who became the prime minister, Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, to rule Iran and to make the nation a true democratic state. However, his effort to nationalize the oil industry was something intolerable to the British who controlled this industry. In 1953, the British oil industry was able to get the support of both the British and American governments, and the British Secret Service and the American CIA cooperatively in a covert scheme meant to end democracy in Iran and to replace Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh and the Iranian parliament with a military backed coup to bring the shah back into power, where he ruled with an iron hand. Back then as now, oil rules the American and British foreign policy towards the Mideast.
While some like John McCain call for more American involvement in Iran, the truth is that so much American involvement in this nation only resulted in the end of democratic rule in this nation once before and the placing of the shah into power as a cruel dictator. Further, so much American involvement also contributed the ending of all opposition parties in Iran by 1975, and a one party rule of Iran hardly any better than the one party rule of Germany under Hitler. The fact of the matter is that American presidents such as Richard Nixon invited the shah to the White House praising him as some great ally and hero, conveniently skirting the facts that his own jails were filled with political opposition leaders and torture and repression were how he ruled his country. When John McCain calls for more American political involvement in Iran, he ignores this history.
If Iranians want a modern society and democracy, then they need to do it themselves. The United States can't hardly use the CIA or some other covert method or an outright war to install another proU.S. government in Iran once again. Not only would such an effort fail but it would only lead to another dictator once again. The United States can condemn brutality in Iran, but that's about all. But the United States cannot really continue to go around the world overthrowing governments and putting the people in power it wants. That has all changed over time. Such gunboat diplomacy is no longer acceptable in the modern world.
At some point, the political leadership in the American government needed to demand more democracy in Iran and for a multiparty system and a parliament with some real power to exist. But instead, the United States supported dictatorship and political repression in Iran, while claiming to hold dear those opposite values at home. Too much American involvement in Iran is directly responsible for this latest mess in Iran. More American involvement in Iran probably won't help either at this very late point.
The fact of the matter is that many Iranians in the U.S. long participated in anti-American and anti-shah rallies at American universities across the United States for years. Yet somehow, every American president, both Democrats and Republicans, failed to take a clue from this that the shah had a very weak grasp on power in Iran, and was but just one good coup or revolt away from being replaced. Two failed assassination attempts on his life were further evidence at how dire the situation was politically in Iran. Long ago, the U.S. needed to co-opt some moderate opposition leader into power in Iran, much like the way that Nelson Mandala was co-opted into power by the United States and Britain in South Africa to make that nation a more representative democracy. But now it is way too late for such a co-opting of any moderate into power in Iran by the West. For the sake of the profits of the British oil industry, both the United States and Britain threw democracy out in Iran using the CIA and other elements. If democracy should ever return to Iran, it needs to be by their own hands this time. For a change, Iranians, not the United States or Britain, need to decide the future political direction of Iran.