Opinion | Columnists

The West at the Shah's mercy

Mansour Bin Tahnoun Al Nahyan writes: He courted foreign firms and gained the silence of politicians on his suppression of the Iranian people

  • By Mansour Bin Tahnoun Al Nahyan, Special to Gulf News
  • Published: 00:01 June 20, 2011
  • Gulf News

From the recent political turmoil, we have observed that overthrown totalitarian regimes face charges of corruption, mismanagement and misuse of wealth. These charges were prominent issues that shocked the citizens, who demanded that former regime members be held accountable for their actions. However, this state wealth mismanagement would not have come to light had it not been for the popular uprisings.

Despite this, it doesn't make sense that western nations wouldn't have known about the misuse of wealth, money transfers and corruption by regimes in autocratic states.

To shed more light on this, we can analyse the reign of the former Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The Shah understood the ideological concept of both communism and capitalism. On the one hand, he realised how communism posed a political threat to his regime and its stability, which made him eliminate the communist movement in Iran. On the other hand, he understood the ideology of capitalism, which is structured on a market-based economy.

From the assessment of the capitalistic West, the Shah planned his strategies towards western companies that were vulnerable. The Shah implemented a policy design on sectors and companies that have an influence on the electoral politics of the West. So he built business relationships and joint ventures with companies in the oil, nuclear, military and banking sectors. Also, he assured a future relationship with these companies by getting involved in their future research, which was essential for the companies' market competitiveness. The Shah's policy of making western companies vulnerable and dependent assured him influence and the silence of western politicians on his regime's suppression of the Iranian people.

The Shah was able to penetrate the market structure of the West by recruiting ex-intelligence officers in his bureaucracy and using their links to western intelligence agencies in order to understand the needs of western corporations. In addition to that, the politicians' dependence on these corporations for electoral funds and for votes, which are influenced by the company's management, assured the company control over politicians. These companies were strengthened by mergers with other companies for further economic and political influence.

An example of a politician who hesitated to interact with the Shah and failed in his re-election bid was former US president Jimmy Carter. As a result of his ethical and moral beliefs, he alienated companies that had business dealings with Iran, which led to him losing domestic electoral support.

Neglect of citizens

But the Shah's policy of satisfying western companies led to the dwindling of state resources. This resulted in the government neglecting citizens and depriving them of state wealth. He believed in making people beg for his mercy. He believed that his people were tamed creatures and would be under his control only when they were hungry, not realising that hungry tamed creatures can eat him too.

Recently, we have seen how large corporations influenced western politicians to interact with states like Libya, despite its record in promoting terrorism and mismanaging national wealth. Also, the West's interaction and relationship with the deposed Hosni Mubarak regime in Egypt, is based on Israel's economic and political stability. From the same point of view, Israel exercises its influence on the West through the huge Jewish-owned banking, media and trade corporations. These Jewish funds for western politicians influence the politicians' decisions and bring them in line with Israel's interests. Another such case in point is the Egypt-Israel gas scandal.

From the above, I wish that Arab states develop a working relationship with western companies, to identify western companies' interests, benefits and future opportunities in a stable Arab region. As a result, hopefully, western companies will influence their politicians to resolve conflicts, like the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

We should realise that not only does history repeat itself but people too repeat their behaviour. 

Dr Mansour Bin Tahnoun Al Nahyan lectures in political science at the American University of Sharjah.

Gulf News
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