Recent events in Iran are being generally perceived through an emotive or subjective lens, while the protests are invariably being coloured by the Western media in line with the foreign policy leanings of their respective countries.

Most individuals, including myself, will automatically align with people they believe are oppressed. Most of us side with revolutionary forces, especially when we don't approve of the regime.

Most of us are viscerally in sympathy with demonstrators prepared to risk their lives in the name of justice or freedom. And as human beings it is in our nature to champion the underdog.

Who, but those with the hardest of hearts, wouldn't flinch after viewing the shocking killing of a young woman called Neda, whose death has been captured on video by a citizen journalist?

I suspect that most on the outside looking in genuinely believe that the recent Iranian elections were rigged - after all, more than a million ordinary Iranians on the street are saying just that, so it must be true. But is it really? And even if it isn't, do most observers even care?

In reality, whoever nominally leads Iran takes his marching orders from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Even if opposition leader Mir Hussain Mousavi were elected president he would merely represent a softer face on an existing hard-line system.

We shouldn't forget too that Mousavi was formerly considered a staunch conservative. This is no longer about which would-be president received the most votes. This is a potential anti-government revolution.

From a personal perspective, I have no interest in defending the Iranian government, especially since it has taken to shooting down its own people and stifling reporting.

Moreover, I do believe that there is a groundswell of young people in Iran who are yearning for a more open and liberal way of life for which opposition leader Mousavi has become a symbol.

But while interpreting what's happening in Iran, it's worthwhile momentarily setting aside emotion in order to take a fresh look at facts and other possible scenarios.

Yes, up to a one-and-a-half million protestors flooded the squares of Tehran but they represent a mere drop in the ocean out of a population of 66.5 million. Secondly, it isn't inconceivable that President Ahmadinad gained a large percentage of the ballot when, not only does he have a strong following among the poor with 33 percent of Iranians living below the poverty line, in 2005, he grabbed 62 percent of votes against reformist candidate Mohammed Khatami.

As noted in a Financial Times editorial earlier this month, "Change for the poor means food and jobs, not a relaxed dress code or mixed recreation & Politics in Iran is a lot more about class war than religion".

You may get the impression from Twitter that young Iranians are overwhelmingly in support of the protesters, but only a comparatively wealthy or educated third enjoy computer access.

Moreover, Mousavi began his campaign at a very late stage. In truth, though, we are unlikely ever to know the truth one way or the other.

While the suspicion of opposition supporters is understandable, could there be anything in the government's claims of meddling by the US and Britain? Although US President Barack Obama has taken a verbal back seat throughout, there are certainly numerous precedents.

A few examples of such US interference are Ukraine's Orange Revolution, Georgia's Rose Revolution and, of course, the CIA-backed overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian president in 1953.

The CIA's record of attempting to change Latin American regimes is also well documented. Furthermore, in this particular case, the US has a very strong motive for fomenting turbulence in Tehran.

Former US assistant treasury secretary and award-winning columnist Paul Craig Roberts makes the case that the US may be escalating discontent in Iran in a recent column titled "Are the Iranian election protests another US orchestrated 'Colour Revolution'?"

He says that while there is no evidence that the election was stolen, there are "credible reports that the CIA has been working for two years to destabilise the Iranian government".

To support this assertion, he cites a document signed by George W. Bush "endorsing CIA plans for a propaganda and disinformation campaign intended to destabilise, and eventually topple, the theocratic rule of the mullahs".

Roberts further quotes "Bush administration neocon warmonger John Bolton" as saying an attack on Iran would be "a last option after economic sanctions and attempts to foment a popular revolution had failed".

Lastly, he recalls a June 2008 article by Seymour Hersh that highlighted Congressional approval of Bush's request "to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran & designed to destabilise the country's religious leadership". Bush may be long gone but this doesn't mean his anti-Iranian programmes aren't still up-and-running.

It is a possibility that those out to bring down the government are using genuine protest as a vehicle for their own agendas. On the other hand, it could be that the Iranian people are ripe for real change. In any event, understanding some semblance of the truth requires an open mind.

Linda S. Heard is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She can be contacted at Some comments may be considered for publication.

Your comments

I support this assumption. I think it is CIA who don't want peace in Arab World. Iranian people should show some reasonableness and avoid being used by CIA.
From A Reader
Posted: June 23, 2009, 08:56

Ms. Heard's comments fly in the face of logic, when you look at the timeline of the announced election victory. No way all those votes could have been hand-counted in that time. Furthermore, the Council has publicly stated there were more ballots than voters in some provinces. Definitely demands investigation.
Posted: June 23, 2009, 01:46