Internet conspiranoids betray Iran (left and right)

Conspiranoids and freedom-haters of the left and right alike are rushing to betray the Iranian protest movement. On the supposed "left," the retro-Stalinist Workers World and its International Action Center as well as (disappointingly) Monthly Review and the World Socialist Website have weighed in for Ahmadinejad and dissed the protesters as dupes or pawns of US imperialism. How interesting to see these supposed "leftists" making common cause with right-wing cheerleaders for authoritarian regimes...

It's all too telling that many of these right-wing conspiranoids are being promoted by the ostensible "left"—such as Reagan admin veteran Paul Craig Roberts on Alex Cockburn's Counterpunch. Echoing a familiar theme, Roberts asks "Are the Iranian Protests Another US Orchestrated 'Color Revolution?'" A typical sample of his incriminating evidence:

On May 23, 2007, Brian Ross and Richard Esposito reported on ABC News: "The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert "black" operation to destabilize the Iranian government, current and former officials in the intelligence community tell ABC News."

In addition to not knowing how to use quotation marks correctly, Roberts commits the classic conspiranoid error of only believing those media accounts that fit the conspiracy theory. An ABC clip from two years ago under another administration—and attributed only to unverifiable, anonymous sources—is taken as evidence the current protest movement is "US-orchestrated." The overwhelming reality of hundreds of thousands taking to streets in defiance of the security forces in scenes reminiscent of the 1979 revolution is dismissed as a charade. As if a movement of this size and courage could be the product of a CIA op!

In an outer ring of conspiranoia, the populist xenophobe Alex Jones (another paradoxical darling of the conspiranoid "left") rants on his InfoWars website, "BBC Caught In Mass Public Deception With Iran Propaganda." His evidence:

The BBC has again been caught engaging in mass public deception by using photographs of pro-Ahmadinejad rallies in Iran and claiming they represent anti-government protests in favor of Hossein Mousavi.

An image used by the L.A. Times on the front page of its website Tuesday showed Iranian President Ahmadinejad waving to a crowd of supporters at a public event.

In a story covering the election protests yesterday, the BBC News website used a closer shot of the same scene, but with Ahmadinejad cut out of the frame. The caption under the photograph read, 'Supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi again defied a ban on protests'.

Even if Jones is correct (which we don't concede), note that he doesn't even consider the more prosaic possibility that it was an editorial error, or just plain laziness or corner-cutting on the part of Beeb. Nope, it's gotta be a Conspiracy! This is actually the least likely hypothesis, by several miles. Given that many thousands have been taking to streets for a solid week, why would the BBC have to resort to this subterfuge? Or does Alex think the entire movement is an illusion created by the Western media? Maybe all those images of angry protests we've seen from Tehran in the past week are CGI creations?

In an inner ring of the conspiranoid orbit is a post by "Middle East expert" Djavad Salehi-Isfahani on the establishmentarian Brookings Institution website, who asks "What if Ahmadinejad Really Won?":

So far, protests are confined to Tehran and a few large cities, and smaller towns and rural areas have been very quiet... [B]ehind the difference in reactions to Ahmadinejad's election [sic] may lie real divisions among the young Iranians in large cities and in small towns and rural areas. Mr. Moussavi's main appeal to them was on social, not economic, issues, which are more important to the more affluent youth in Tehran and large urban centers. Indeed, he confined his campaign to Tehran and a few large cities.

By contrast, Mr. Ahmadinejad spent the last four years traveling across the country courting the rural and small town votes. There is even evidence that his programs to distribute income and wealth more evenly have begun to bear fruit... Once these factors are taken into account, it is not so implausible that Mr. Ahmadinejad may have actually won a majority of the votes cast, though not those cast in Tehran.

"Though not those cast in Tehran." Oops. If it is implausible that the "well-to-do urbanite Iranians" (in Salehi-Isfahani's unflattering characterization) in Tehran voted for Ahmadinejad, this is evidence of fraud—whether the total of votes cast really amounted to a majority for Ahmadinejad or not. More telling (though Salehi-Isfahani doesn't mention it) is Ahmadinejad's claim to have taken Tabriz—heartland of Iran's marginalized Azeri minority. As Juan Cole notes, this is utterly implausible—especially given that opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi is an Azeri! Sounds about as likely as McCain taking Bedford-Stuyvesant.

There is actually a continuity between the more vulgar conspiranoids like Alex Jones and genteel-wonkish types like Salehi-Isfahani. The latter represent the so-called "pragmatist" wing of the ruling elites, who favor accommodation of authoritarian regimes (as opposed to neocon "regime change" hubris). The former represent populist yahoo-ism that sees every development on the world stage as evidence of The Conspiracy. They are united by their hatred of the neocons—and their comfort with despots and repression (as long as they aren't the ones being repressed). Paul Craig Roberts dances somewhere between these two poles.

What's sickening is the how this line is shared by big chunks of what passes for "the left" in the United States—the sector that we call the idiot left. Note how the pseudo-logic of these right-wing entries is mirrored by supposed rad-lefty James Petras, who writes on Ziopedia a nearly identical screed entitled "The 'Stolen Elections' Hoax":

The demography of voting reveals a real class polarization pitting high income, free market oriented, capitalist individualists against working class, low income, community based supporters of a 'moral economy' in which usury and profiteering are limited by religious precepts... The Opposition's attack on the regime's 'intransigent' foreign policy and positions ‘alienating’ the West only resonated with the liberal university students and import-export business groups. To many Iranians, the regime's military buildup was seen as having prevented a US or Israeli attack.

Petras is dealt a little well-earned chastisement from Gabriel Ash, writing on the (strongly anti-Zionist) Jews sans frontieres blog. Even if Ash has engaged in conspiracy-mongering of his own on occasion, his words here are tonic for all the instant experts out there who would betray the Iranian protesters:

There is certainly a class split in Iran as there is everywhere else. But the...class content of the latest Iranian intifada is very difficult to discern, and the claim that all these oppositions, market vs. community, high income vs. low income, city vs. country side, align neatly behind two candidates from two factions of the same authoritarian ruling class is stretching credulity... Petras, as far as I know, does not read Farsi, and doesn't have any special expertise of Iran. His knowledge is second hand, based on choosing sources from available translated material and English speaking informants. He may be smarter than the Western journalists he derides, but he is in the same position they are and I am with regards to information. That position calls for a certain humility in putting forward broad theories about what is happening in Iran. Instead, we get an airtight encompassing know-it-all theory.

Mazel tov.

See our last post on Iran.

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Thanks so much for writing this

Been busy trying keeping up with the family in Iran and occasionally combating those who are supposedly in the same ideological sphere as me about what's happening there. I've been meaning to get something very similar to this out there, but am glad to see you've got this up. Thanks so much.

Seymour Hersh -- overlooking the obvious

Is Seymour Hersh, author of the New Yorker article "Preparing the Battlefield", a conspiranoid in your view? He wrote the best known article documenting the CIA's very recent and extensive involvement in manipulating the Iranian elections. Interesting that you fail to mention that.

The problem with your argument is that you are assuming that there is a binary choice. Either there was western manipulation OR there is an organic street movement. But reality is not binary in this way; both hypotheses could be true.

Hersh, schmersh, binary, schminary

We've noted before that Seymour Hersh's journalism is based overwhelmingly on anonymous, unverfiable sources. Additionally, "Preparing the Battlefield" was published nearly a year ago, when there was a different and far more bellicose administration in Washington. We certainly never denied the CIA has got intrigues galore in Iran. But it is utter delusion to think that a movement of this scale and passion is the product of CIA intrigues. The "western manipulation" is obviously pretty irrelevant at this point.

Just wondering, Bill

Have you, in the 31 months since you wrote the above, revised your opinion that the Bush administration was 'far more bellicose' than the Obama administration? In fact, was it even slightly more bellicose, or, to put it in a way that doesn't seem pro-Bush, is the Obama regime even slightly less bellicose than the Bush regime was? If not, how does that affect your argument?

I am not, BTW, one of your straw men who thinks the anti-Ahmadinejad movement was mainly "the product of CIA intrigues". But I do believe, based on what I read back then from various sources, that (1) Ahmadinejad probably won the vote, and (2) a victory for his opponent would have been a bad thing for Iran and the world.

Of course Bush was "far more bellicose"

No contest. Obama hasn't done anything remotely as hubristic as an arbitrary unilateral invasion of Iraq. Please don't point to Libya, because that is neither arbitrary, unilateral nor an invasion.

Whether Ahmadinejad "probably won the vote" is irrelevant and unknowable since there was obviously massive fraud. Mousavi is still entirely too beholden to the ayatollah state, but of course his victory would have been far better for Iran and the world. Unless you like religious fanaticism, apocalyptic thinking, persecution of minorities, oppression of women, union-busting, nuclear power, war-mongering, etc. In which case, I wonder why you are so opposed to US imperialism...

the first bit from the conspiracy hypothsis camp to make sense.

This is, on the face of it true. My caution here is that there are too many jumps from A to B. Yes, the U.S. has a dodgy history here (as well as nearly everywhere else). Yes Hersch did write par usual a very compelling and well-researched piece. No, there is actually no verified evidence that connects that research to events going on during the election. Does this mean there isn't any? No. It means that there hasn't been a connection made by anyone that can be considered verifiable. My problem with people pushing this line of thought is that there is a lot of sloppy speculative guessing going on that is being passed off as sure-thing statements. People who want to press this need to ask themselves why they themselves are so convinced of it. What new information since that (in terms of current events) old piece in the New Yorker, still gives their opinion its legs?

With all due respect...

I reiterate: No movement of this size and courage could be the product of a CIA op. The CIA intrigues doubtless exist, but are irrelevant at this point. Things are obviously way, way beyond the Agency's control.

Internet crazies....

Here we find that not only is Bill Weinberg an expert on Iran but he is the foremost internet conspiracy supporter - ie. the Green revolution. We have the new King Henry I in the Pres continuing to take our money and give it to the Fxd and their inforcerers the CxA to overthrown the last remaining satelites not paying 30% interest to them....Talk to a few real Iranians.

I have nx idea whxt you're txlking xbout...

... but I will have some real Iranians on my radio show tomorrow night.

Ahmadinejad's strange bedfellows

Hi - well researched to show what strange bedfellows seek to do down the movement in Iran.

please check out my blog which quotes from you.

Corinna Lotz

Strange indeed...

Corinna, thanks for the link—and for calling out the arrogant, self-deluded crap that Seumas Milne has been spewing the The Guardian. Deeply embarrassing.

But I hope we are to assume that your A World to Win has no relation to the doctrinaire, Maoist A World to Win...


Enjoyed both this post and your "Aw, Shut Up" piece. Earlier this month I spent the better part of 2 days at Conspiracy Con 9 doing stories for my blog ( and for the local newspaper.

Like you, I've been noticing the left's emerging lock-step (goose step?) with Ahmadinejad. It reminds me that the Communists of the Weimar Republic made common cause with Hitler. We all know how that worked out for them.

Thanks for the encouragement, but...'s not quite right that the Communists made common cause with Hitler in the Weimar Republic. My preferred analogy is to the Hitler-Stalin Pact. That didn't work out too good either.

where world war 2 never happened

There is no such thing as a "Hitler/Stalin Pact" — that's an early neocon phrase to intellectually pretend that World War 2 didn't happen, that Churchill and FDR were the real "freedom fighters" and that ending white supremacy and imperialism on a global scale is just some "stalinist" talking point.

By Hitler/Stalin pact you must be forgetting who actually sent thousands of volunteers to Spain to fight Hitler. While France's "democratic" left shut its borders and the British hoped for a Franco victory, it was OF COURSE the communists who are to blame.

Same as you ever were, Bill.

Revisionism and libel

I may be the same as ever, but you are getting worse by the minute. Nobody who knows anything about the actual history of World War II will believe for a minute that there was "no such thing" as the Hitler-Stalin Pact. The standard Stalinist line has been to justify it as a ploy to get Hitler to attack the West first. Saying it never happened is a new low, although one which is too transparent to be much of a threat.

Your other post was libelous, and therefore not approved.

Go away.

Whatever you call it, there was a 'Hitler-Stalin' pact.

The formal name of the formal pact, signed in Moscow on or about 23 August 1939, was 'Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union' It is sometimes called the 'Molotov-Ribentrop' pact, since those were the foreign ministers who signed it. But Stalin was behind, and over, Molotov, and Hitler was behind, and over, Ribentrop. It was the unofficial, secret part of the pact that divided Eastern Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence and quickly led to German troops marching into Western Poland and, shortly afterwards, Soviet troops marching into the rest, as well as the Baltic states.

Given that the Hitler-Chamberlain Pact (a.k.a. the Munich agreement) had shown that the British and French imperialists were pointing Hitler eastward, it made sense that the U.S.S.R. would try to counter that. But that doesn't justify all or most of the specific actions Stalin took in connection with that pact.

Stalin's worst crime in that regard was ignoring all the warnings he received of the impending German attack on the U.S.S.R. before 22 June 1941. He even refused to believe the attack was happening after it started! Even some right-wing historian I was recently reading (the name escapes me at the moment) blasted Stalin for that, arguing (probably correctly) that Germany would have been defeated fairly quickly and with millions of lives saved if the Soviet Union had been ready to immediately respond to that attack, and had not lost enormous quantities of armaments and other strategic material as a result of its lack of readiness.

Stalin's "worst crime in that regard"?

Thank you for shooting down JB's rank revisionism, but I'm not sure ignoring the threat of a German invasion was "Stalin's worst crime in that regard." The pact itself was a mammoth political crime—started World War II, betrayed anti-fascists worldwide, dismantled Poland, annexed the Baltic republics and half of Finland, etc.

Anyway, I already had this argument with JB, and this item is supposed to be about Iran...

Quoted you in my post

Justan FYI, got you in my post, which I had been writing when I found this.

So far for my comments on this, Iv'e been told that I'm a mossad agent, working for the CIA and that I hate Arabs and persians (both of which would be surprising to me, my Iranian family and arab friends).


Right, you hate Persians because you don't want to see them tear-gassed and shot. Perfectly logical.

Getting this kind abuse is the price of truth-telling these days. You wanna see hate, check out the response Gabriel Ash has been getting on the vile Uruknet...

Um, not quite Bill

I have to say Bill, you have a remarkable ability to let your own demons confuse you. The "left" is not supporting the Iranian regime, nor is it supporting Mousavi – who is himself quite well ensconced in the Islamic Republic, though you'd never know what a butcher he was from reading some sources...

For example, you say Monthly Review is supporting the government. Based on what? An article in their online zine? Have the editors gone on record? Or are you literally smearing anti-imperialists because your underlying (viciously anti-communist, anti-leftist) politics need to find a target? Michael Yates, an associate editor (for one quick example) just wrote quite a piece supporting the protests. But hey, who cares when you've got an axe to grind, right?

Speaking of targets... no doubt WWP/PSL and the other tankies are doing what they always do, but to say they are "the left" is obviously absurd. They define the left about as much as you do, which is to say "not much".

Why does the desire of people not to be bombed to dust by the USA or colonized or demonized seem so gross to you? Why do you designate yourself as a professional anti-leftists? And if that's really what you are about, why are you so damn sloppy?

Also of note, Maoists uniformly oppose the Iranian regime, with one Maoist party having led one of the few uprisings against the Islamic Republic in 1983. Facts, I know, bother you. But the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (most notable parties include the Nepalese branch, the Peruvian Shining Path and the RCP, USA) – they support the protests, as does the Kasama Project which split from the RCP, USA.

It's also quite possible that Ajmedinijade won the elections. And so what? Bush won an election, so did Bloomberg. When did legitimacy get confered simply by winning a stacked ballot?

Yes quite, Anonymous

You need to develop some sophistication. No, the editors of MR don't have the courage to go "on record" supporting Ahmadinejad and the ayatollahs. But everything they've run on Iran (that I've seen, at least) is spewing the Ahmadinejad line that Iran's working class is monolithically behind him (which is bunk) and that all the protesters are either bourgeois types or on the CIA/Soros tit (which is worse bunk).

Why didn't you link to this Michael Yates piece? Glad to hear of some dissent at MR, but I just went to their website to try to find it, and couldn't. Right on the front page, however, is a piece entitled "Ahmadinejad Supporter Speaks"—as well as the transcript of Ali Khamenei's bellicose speech threatening the protesters, and several other such vile offerings.

My politics are not anti-communist or anti-leftist. On the contrary. I am defending Iran's leftists against clerical reactionaries.

You are correct that WWP/PSL do not define "the left," but not for the reasons you think. What I mean is that their pro-Ahmadinejad, pro-Milosevic, pro-Beijing revisionists stance betrays their objectively right-wing politics. Unfortunately, they are nonetheless in a hegemonic position within the US left. So what you mean when you say they do not define "the left" is, alas, way off base.

I am not sloppy. I am rigorously precise. I support all those who struggle against US imperialism without delegitimizing their struggle through embrace of political Islam or other such reactionary disorders. And don't tell me I'm not allowed to choose who I support. All those who make that criticism also choose who they support. For instance, WWP, who tell I'm not allowed to choose not to support the jihadis in Iraq, themselves choose not to support Iraq's trade unionists and feminists. That line is bunk.

Facts do not bother me in the least. I acknowledge that the Maoists (much as I disagree with them about Peru—which is completely) do not share the fashionable flirtation with the ayatollah state. Or (obviously) the Beijing revisionists. To their credit.