Posts Tagged ‘Mossadegh’

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A 5 minute introduction to Operation Gladio and covert manipulation of the public.  This should be required learning in school, but alas, it is highly censored in the United States.

 

 

Iran's Nuclear Ambitions: Options for the West

 

For ignorant Americans…

 

 

 

CIA: Operation Ajax Graphic Novel

Cognito is proud to present, in collaboration with best-selling author Stephen Kinzer, the true life spy thriller, CIA: Operation Ajax. As the value of oil explodes in world markets, global power brokers begin to take interest in the ruling political regimes of the Middle East. In Iran,
British agents have controlled oil exports for a generation. The shah is holding on to a shaky peace as a new charismatic leader enters the scene.

Secret deals, underground rumors of revolt, and dark plots of government overthrow are employed by American, British, and Persian agents. Iran’s oil would flow, by any means necessary. Every actor has a stake in the game. No one can be trusted. Nothing is as it seems.

Learn about the incredible true history of the CIA plot to stage a coup of Iran’s government. Recently declassified documents, historical photos, and video film reels from the era are embedded into the story. See Eisenhower, Churchill, the Dulles brothers, Mossadegh, and the Shah in a whole new light.

CIA : Operation Ajax is a revolutionary new way to experience a graphic novel on the iPad. Combining subtle animation with a full film score, the story unfolds in a groundbreaking cinematic reading experience.

 

 

 

Iran, Politics, and Film: “Argo” or “A Separation”?

by Jennifer Epps

On the spectrum of recent U.S. films about intense life-and-death conflicts between Persians and “our guys’, the most propagandistic, militaristic, and reactionary position is occupied by the reprehensible live-action cartoon 300. You could call this the “Kill Them All” position. On the opposite end of that spectrum, the most humanistic, egalitarian, and psychologically insightful position is occupied by the exquisite drama The House of Sand and Fog — a chamber piece that shows how misunderstandings can spiral tragically out of control. You might call this the “Human Decency” position.

Somewhere in the middle of those two extremes lies the new movie Argo,  directed by Ben Affleck for Smokehouse Pictures, the production company owned by George Clooney and Grant Heslov. Argo  is about the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979, and how the CIA came up with an unlikely rescue plan for six of the Americans hiding outside of the embassy: they would pretend to make a sci-fi movie. The premise has enormous potential, and it’s easy to see why it would be attractive to Hollywood. Unfortunately, the finished product is nowhere near the “Human Decency” end of the spectrum. I think its liberal makers would be surprised and actually ashamed if they realized how much more it leans towards 300.

There is no doubt that Argo is a very ambitious film. It wants to be life-and-death serious, funny, and exciting all at once, and to join historical accuracy with breathless pacing, jokey put-downs of Hollywood, and an absurdist scheme at the story’s core. As Affleck confided in an interview, it is also ambitious in its delicate tonal balance. It aims to be a taut suspense thriller that also provides some history of the strained relations between the U.S. and Iran, and it tries to re-create the 1970’s vibe without being too cheesy or campy. All the while, of course, it is designed to be commercial, with a budget of $44 million — the L.A.Times  alleges that this makes it “one of the season’s more daring gambles, the kind of movie most studios stopped making in the last decade.”

At the same time, it seems to want to leave us with the takeaway that even in a nightmarish scenario, bitter differences can be resolved without bombing anyone. (At the premiere, the audience applauded President Carter’s voiceover explaining that in the end we got all the hostages out, and we did it peacefully). The movie does show that deciding against a bloodbath can take courage and foresight. And perhaps this is what Affleck, Clooney, and Heslov believe made the movie the right thing to do right now — even at the risk of stoking the fires of warmongers here at home in 2012, by raising the spectre of Americans imperiled by Iran.

Well, it achieves all those goals in spades, and I applaud its ambitions and its aplomb. But I wish it was considerably more ambitious.

Argo catapults between, as Affleck put it to the L.A. Times, “three different themes and three different worlds: the CIA, Hollywood, and the Iran tensions.” Affleck’s quote is informative: the third theme or world that he organized the film around was “Iran tensions’, not Iran itself. Not even the Iranian revolution. The subject is the threat to Americans. Argo is about the plight of 6 Americans hiding out in Tehran after the embassy is seized, and it cuts away only to strategic debates at CIA headquarters as agent Tony Mendez (Affleck) struggles against bureaucratic inertia, or to comic relief scenes in Hollywood between John Goodman and Alan Arkin. No matter where our wheels touch down, it’s Americans who matter. This is a movie that views Iran in the 1970s from the living-room where the 6 are hiding — and the blinds are closed.

The cover story being used to try to smuggle the 6 hideaways out of Tehran is that they are location-scouting for a movie, so the day before they are to escape, they go out in public to make their aliases more believable. Do we, on the pretend location scout, finally see some of Tehran’s cultural landmarks? Do we get a sense of an ancient civilization and a sophisticated culture? Do we have any panoramas of people going about their business in the complexity of a metropolitan city? No, because the Americans’ expedition is just as claustrophobic as the scenes in their lair — Affleck crowds them into a van, squeezes the van in a vice as they are swarmed by furious protesters, and then jostles them around in a packed bazaar that turns hostile. Of course, he’s doing this deliberately for the tension it creates in them and in us. But throughout the film, the Iran we see in the news clips and the Iran we see dramatized are all on the same superficial level: incomprehensible, out-of-control hordes with nary an individual or rational thought expressed.

After a brief (albeit important) animated storyboard introduction that contextualizes the events of 1979 with some history, it is the storming of the American embassy which begins both the film proper and our exposure to the Iranian revolution. You wouldn’t know from this film that, despite years of persecution during Iran’s westernized government, the communist Tudeh Party was also out organizing workers’ strikes during the turmoil of the Shah Pahlavi’s overthrow. The movie does stress that the U.S. helped overthrow the democratically-elected prime minister Mohammad Mossaddeq in 1953 because he dared to nationalize Iran’s oil, and then backed the Shah and his use of the notorious SAVAK secret police to kidnap and torture the Shah’s opponents. These are obviously excellent points to make. But Argo glosses over the diversity of opinion in Iran and the intellectual ferment before the theocratic lockdown, making the culture look exactly the way an insular American public has come to believe all Islamic countries look. The film offers only scant insight into how  the Islamists came to win over a country that had previously been quite secular and sophisticated.

Very, very few Iranian characters are individualized in Argo, and most of the time when we see Iranians on-screen, their words are not translated for us. Take Farshad Farahat’s character. He is an officer in the Revolutionary Guards, one of the final terrifying obstacles the escaping protagonists must face at the airport. Farahat tries not to play stupid or cartoonish like so many ethnic villains in Hollywood movies, but most of the little he has been given to say is un-translated, so Farahat has to do almost all of the work with his eyes. The movie apparently never intended much more for him: his character’s name is merely “Azzizi Checkpoint #3”.

Another Persian, Reza (Omid Abtahi), makes an appearance in the marketplace in Tehran. His defining characteristic is whether the Americans can trust him. When he is friendly, his words are translated. When an altercation breaks out, there are no subtitles.

And even the point of the jokey snippet of dialogue that is translated seems to be to mock his idea of a Hollywood movie even more than Argo sends up the fake sci-fi B-movie. This dialogue emphasizes his cultural Other-ness, making him sound as sexist and out-of-touch as a Sacha Baron Cohen creation.

Nowhere, in a caper that exists in part to celebrate movie magic, is it mentioned that Iran has its own cinematic tradition — though if the Argo  creative team had ever seen the award-winning 1992 tribute film Once Upon a Time, Cinema  they would have seen clips from old Iranian movies dating all the way back to the silent era. By the time Argo is set, a number of Iranian film festivals had been in existence several years, including the Tehran International Film Festival ‘to promote the art of Cinema that expresses humanitarian values and promotes understanding and exchange of ideas between nations’. And there were already several film and television schools in Iran, including a decade-old  government-financed School of Television and Cinema which students attended for free. 480 feature films were made in Iran between 1966 and 1973; filmmakers, like other Iranian artists and intellectuals, had plenty to call attention to under the Shah’s oppressive regime. In fact, the Iranian New Wave, which launched in 1969, should have been known to Argo ‘s Foreign Service professionals who had spent their leisure time in Tehran; with filmmakers as respected as Dariush Mehrjui and Abbas Kiarostami already active. By the late seventies, movies were already the key form of mass entertainment in the country. Yet Affleck has the Revolutionary Guards gawking and giggling over the storyboards and poster for the fake Hollywood movie like awe-struck children.

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Argo: Hollywood’s New Hostage Thriller Could Inflame Tensions
by Danny Schechter

Earlier this year, I was in Tehran for a conference on Hollywood’s power and impact. It was called “Hollywoodism,” featuring many scholars and critics of the values and political ideologies featured in many major movies with a focus on the way Israel (aka “the Zionists”) are continually portrayed as if they do no wrong.

What we didn’t know then while we were debating these issues was that some of Hollywood’s biggest stars were at that very moment making a movie that will certainly be perceived as hostile to Iran, if not part of the undeclared war that Israel and the United States are waging with crippling economic sanctions and malicious cyber viruses.

The movie is Argo, and the hype for it has already begun. In a business driven by formula, a “hostage thriller” must have been irresistible to an industry always more consumed by itself and its own frames of reference than anything happening in the real world. An NBC entertainment site explains:

At the height of the Iran Hostage Crisis, the CIA smuggled six Americans out of Tehran in a plot that was a movie maker’s dream. So naturally, Hollywood’s gonna make a movie out of it.

Ben Affleck is in talks to direct “Argo,” a film being produced by George Clooney, about former CIA Master of Disguise Tony Mendez and his most daring operation, reported Variety. Mendez smuggled six American’s out of Tehran in 1979 by concocting a fake movie production, called “Argo.”

Predictably, the background and context of these events is conspicuous by its absence, as are the reasons for the Iranian revolution and the role played by the United States in working with the British in the overthrow of the Mossadegh government and support for the despotic Shah.

“It’s not political,” a movie industry insider told me.

A film set in the Iranian revolution, that most political of events of an era, “not political”?

That’s Hollywood for you!

Hollywood movies want to be seen only as exercises in dramatic storytelling, so their focus is always on characters and action.

As Wired Magazine described what happened in a 2007 story based on the book that led to the film:

“November 4, 1979, began like any other day at the US embassy in Tehran. The staff filtered in under gray skies, the marines manned their posts, and the daily crush of anti-American protestors massed outside the gate chanting, ‘Allahu akbar! Marg bar Amrika!'”

Mark and Cora Lijek, a young couple serving in their first foreign service post, knew the slogans — “God is great! Death to America!” — and had learned to ignore the din as they went about their duties. But today, the protest sounded louder than usual. And when some of the local employees came in and said there was “a problem at the gate,” they knew this morning would be different.

The larger confrontation also served as the basis for a long running TV news series, ABC’s America Held Hostage, treating those Americans as victims of a crime, but never Iran as the scene of a larger crime, a country held hostage for years by a U.S.-backed secret police and military that crushed freedom of expression, repressed religion, and enabled the CIA to manipulate Iran’s politics while U.S. companies plundered Iran’s resources.

One-sided news programming was far more effective than Hollywood movie making as a tool for mobilizing Americans against Iran. The coverage was was always unbalanced. I called it “A.A.U.” — All About Us!

Now, this new movie will likely add to the propaganda even as many Americans are speaking out against a war on Iran while Washington is clearly planning one.

It will bring back all the old anti-Iranian feelings and stereotypes while progressive U.S. actors glamorize a CIA agent, even though the actual movie makes the events seem absurd and at times reportedly even makes fun of the U.S. government in 1970s movie-making style.

I haven’t seen the film but judging from the slick trailer I saw in my neighborhood theater, it’s about clever Americans outsmarting Iranians who look robotic.

Here’s the context as Wired reports:

The Iran hostage crisis, which would go on for 444 days, shaking America’s confidence and sinking President Jimmy Carter’s reelection campaign, had begun. … Everyone remembers the 52 Americans trapped at the embassy and the failed rescue attempt a few months later that ended with a disastrous Army helicopter crash in the Iranian desert. But not many know the long- classified details of the CIA’s involvement in the escape of the other group — thrust into a hostile city in the throes of revolution.

In the “not many know” department, there is no reference here either about how the Reagan campaign secretly negotiated to hold back the hostages until Carter was out of office, or the illegal Iran-Contra arms deals that followed.

This is not a “new” story — it was told years ago in books and magazines — but Argo is retelling as if it is new. It is, as you would expect, all about our brilliance and their stupidity, our good guys against their bad guys — all classic Made in the USA commercial movie formula.

Will this thriller contribute to a deeper understanding between our two countries?

Will it help us find a way of resolving our differences?

I doubt it.

As it happens, when I was in Tehran, I visited the former U.S. Embassy and wrote about my impressions in a new book, Blogothon. It is now a museum with a well-preserved group of offices, safeguarding the equipment used by the CIA for surveillance and espionage.

The Iranians had denounced the building as a “spy nest” well before the students took it over but even they didn’t know how right they were or its real covert action focus until they saw it for themselves.

U.S. Embassy security tried to destroy all its secret documents by shredding them, but the students, over months, patiently sewed the bits and pieces together and published them, exposing their nefarious tactics in books that U.S. customs would not allow Americans to see. (Friends of mine had their copies seized when they returned from a reporting trip to Iran in that period.) There is a reference to the recovery of some of this information in Argo, but not much about what was in those documents. This was all before the age of Wikileaks.

But never mind the facts or their selective retelling: In Hollywood, only story matters. You can just hear the actors telling their agents “how cool this film is” — especially because movie-making is the movie’s sub-plot, the glory of the story, so to speak, at the core of what is, in the end, sanitized drama.

Once again, mindlessness leads to malice in a search not for truth but box office revenues. Of course, I will see it when it’s out in the fall.

News Dissector Danny Schechter blogs at newsdissector.net. His two latest books are Blogothon and Occupy: Dissecting Occupy Wall Street. He also hosts a program on Progressive Radio Network.com. This article first appeared on Press TV in Iran. I wonder how they will respond. Comments to dissector –at– mediachannel.org.  Follow Danny Schechter on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Dissectorevents