Freshman Republican Sen. Tom Cotton from Arkansas authored an open letter on March 9 to leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The letter, whose signatories included 46 other Republican senators, mostly seemed to mock the Iranian leadership. It accused them of being ignorant of how the U.S. government functioned, and overall made clear just how opposed Cotton was to a deal. Less than 24 hours after publishing his now-infamous letter, Cotton appeared at an event sponsored by a lobbying group for defense contractors, a group that would financially gain from conflict in the region. Cotton’s vilification of the deal comes fundamentally from a conflict of interest. Throughout the Iraq War, we saw private companies like Halliburton to Blackwater benefit from the U.S. war machine. The Iran Deal, however, could herald a peaceful resolution to current Iranian tensions, which must take priority over the profits of defense contractors.
Over 50 years ago, Dwight Eisenhower gave his famous warning that “we must guard against, the acquisitions of unwarranted influence… by the military-industrial complex.” Though this warning is both important and pertinent today, it was under Eisenhower’s watch that the strained relationship with Iran began. In 1953, the CIA led a military coup in Iran, ousting the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, Mohammad Mosaddegh. This coup and the subsequent reinstatement of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as leader of Iran was carried out as a means of ensuring the safety of Western oil interests in the region which Mosaddeq had sought to nationalize. Over the next 25 years, the dictatorial Shah would proceed to oversee some of the world’s worst human rights atrocities, all the while maintaining U.S. support. U.S. aggression against the Iranian people would not stop until 1979, when a successful grassroots overthrow of the Shah made Iran the Islamic Republic it is today, thus ending the United States’ alliance with the Iranian government. Under Ronald Reagan, the United States would turn its attention to another Middle Eastern country, Iraq — under the leadership of our then-ally Saddam Hussein — backing them in their near decade-long war against Iran, again for reasons concerning oil and profit.
We must not allow the interests of the military-industrial complex to dictate our foreign policy. Unfortunately, these conflicts of interest shows signs of continuing in the 21st century, from Dick Cheney’s involvement with Halliburton, an international oil company with interests in the Middle East, to Republican appearances at defense contractor events. By highlighting the ulterior motives that have defined U.S. foreign policy since World War II, it is the job of journalists everywhere to uncover these conflicting interests and highlight them for the sake of our democracy.
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A version of this article appeared in the Monday, September 14th print edition. Email Frank Mello-Morales at [email protected]