“Regime change” is not a new policy. Fifty years ago, on Aug. 19, 1953, the CIA with British assistance embarked on a similar policy with catastrophic consequences. Its damaging effects are still being felt in the Middle East today.

On that date in 1953 the democratically elected government of Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran was violently toppled and replaced by Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, heir to the royal throne. The Shah ruled Iran with a savage dictatorship for more than two decades, backed up heavily with U.S. financial aid and arms.

Dr. Mossadegh and his supporters in parliament had nationalized the British-dominated oil industry in 1951. The British government retaliated by launching a vicious international campaign against Iran and encouraged the U.S. to plan Mossadegh’s removal.

When the Cold War ideologues under Dwight Eisenhower took over the White House, the coup plan – “Operation Ajax” – was put into action, crushing any hope for democracy in Iran and the wider Middle East. The bloody coup resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives. Many thousands more were imprisoned or forced to flee the country. Members and supporters of the Tudeh Party of Iran, the main political force campaigning for peace and progress, suffered the brunt of executions and imprisonments. Iran’s democratic development was stopped in its tracks, and its government was directed by the U.S.

Since Operation Ajax, the policy of regime change based on covert and overt interference has become the pattern of imperialist strategy in the region. This policy is deliberately aimed at destroying the possibility of any flourishing grassroots democratic movement and preventing fundamental social development in the countries of the Middle East.

The policy has meant execution and banishment of intellectuals, and the destruction of many democratic and progressive forces. The objective has been to eliminate any internal resistance against the political and economic control of the region by the United States, and to prevent the development of strong, democratic, political alternatives.

The resulting underdevelopment in these societies and the weakening of their progressive forces have facilitated the growth of reactionary religious fundamentalism as a form of backlash against the U.S.-led policies. It must be noted that Osama Bin Laden, along with many other backward religious groups and dictators, were cultivated by the U.S. and its allies in a crusade against progressive movements and political parties.

Now, another “regime change” in Iran is being planned, this time by the Bush administration. Once more the U.S. policy is to engage with some of the most undemocratic elements, i.e., the defunct monarchists in exile. “Pre-emption” is now the pretext to another U.S. incursion into Iran. As in 1953, international conventions and the rights of people for self-determination are violated in order to enhance and safeguard U.S. hegemony in the strategic Middle East.

The growing movement for democracy in Iran, while opposing the ruling dictatorship, is aware of Bush’s bogus claim to support democracy and the destructive threat posed by the warmongers in the White House and Pentagon. Iran’s past experience and the present inhumane nightmare unleashed on the people of Iraq clearly show the consequences of the so-called regime change.

On the anniversary of the 1953 coup a statement signed by a number of prominent intellectuals and political activists in Iran expresses the sentiments of many Iranians: “Our nation remembers how the collusion between the two major powers [the U.S. and Britain], in violation of the UN charter and all international agreements, orchestrated a coup against the legitimate government of Dr. Mossadegh, and forced a corrupt, oppressive and puppet regime on our country. Iranians don’t forget how slogans in defense of freedom and people’s governance were sacrificed in the interests of plundering their national resources.”

Nima Kamran is a correspondent from the Tudeh Party of Iran and can be reached at pww@pww.org