Blowback in Iran

Iranian students demonstrate following a tribute for the victims of Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737 in front of the…

Iranian students demonstrate following a tribute to the victims of a Ukraine International Airlines crash, in front of Amirkabir University in Tehran, Jan. 11, 2020. Police later dispersed students chanting what were seen as “radical” slogans.

One of the proudest achievements of Shiraz Socialist (at the Old Place) was to have debunked and discredited the “blowback” theory/explanation of terrorist attacks.

There was a time when no Islamist terror outrage was complete without an article published within a day or two, from Glenn Greenwald, Mehdi Hasan, Terry Eagleton or the undisputed master of the genre, Seamus Milne, putting it all down to “blowback”. Such articles usually also claimed that no-one else dared put forward the “blowback” explanation, and the author was really being terribly brave in doing so. No such articles have appeared for a few years (the last one I can recall was after the Charlie Hebdo attack), but it seems that apologists for the Iranian regime like the Stop the War Coalition and (to a slightly lesser extent) the SWP, are attempting to revive “blowback” following the assassination of Suliemani and the Iranian downing of Ukraine Airlines Flight PS752.

In fact this is not a case of “blowback” in the sense that Milne, the SWP, Stop the War and other apologists for Islamist terror, the murderous anti-working class Iraqi “resistance”, the Taliban and the Iranian regime, have used the term in the past.

Discussing the 2005 London “7/7” attacks in a piece published at Shiraz (the Old Place), comrade Clive wrote:

Racism and imperialist wars, Fallujah and so on, of course must have played a part in what made these kids want to be suicide bombers. But since the vast, overwhelming, incalculably larger number of people who have been victims of racism or outraged by imperialist wars, have not chosen to become suicide bombers, it is surely an ‘explanation’ of their state of mind or their actions only in the most fantastically minimal sense. And that, surely, is another way of saying that it isn’t an explanation at all.

Yet these generalities are repeatedly presented in the liberal media – a stack of articles in the Guardian for instance – and by the SWP, George Galloway and all, as the explanation for what has happened. Moreover, anyone who questions this is ‘in denial’, as Gary Younge puts it, about the Iraq war. The ‘blowback’ argument is presented as if it’s the height of worldly sophistication, political courage, straight talking, and what have you. In fact it’s so simplistic as to verge on an insult to the intelligence.

Apart from that, its inescapable logic is to ask you to have sympathy with the bombers or their supposed cause, and to shift the blame to the government. I won’t repeat everything I’ve already said about that.

If you want an explanation about the first ever suicide bombers in the UK, you surely need to look at the ideology and MO of the type of organisations that recruited them, brainwashed them and sent them to their deaths. You need to look also, sadly, at the prevailing culture within (some) Muslim communities, the ‘narrative’ youth are being told, which might allow al-Qaeda-type groups to prey on them.

This is very uncomfortable, even to think about. But it seems to me it must be true that poisonous stuff has been coming out of some mosques, maybe not just the Abu Hamza-period Finsbury Park variety, but softer versions also.

And worse: the left is not only not in a state to do anything about this problem (ie: to fight al-Qaeda type groups and the softer versions of them), but has morphed into part of the problem. The left talks about these movements as if they didn’t need to be fought and as if to fight them is ‘racist’, etc, etc, etc.

Clive’s critique holds good and deserves to be repeated whenever such an attack takes place or a supposedly “anti imperialist” regime or movement carries out a human rights violation.

But, paradoxically, the downing of the Ukrainian airliner – acknowledged by all to have been a tragic accident, probably does warrant the term “blowback”. It wasn’t a deliberate reprisal, but the result of panic and human error on the part of Iranian military commanders in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s assassination of Suliemani.

For sure, it was Iran that shot down the plane and there should be no doubt that the immediate fault is theirs (in fact the Iranian regime has accepted their blame  – unlike the US in 1988 when it brought down Iran Air Flight 655 killing 290 civilians).

But, in fact, on this occasion, to talk about “blowback” (or its close relation, the “root cause” theory/excuse) is not so far off the mark. Trump’s reckless decision to assassinate Suliemani (himself, of course, a butcher), set in motion the events that led to this tragedy.

Let’s just hope that the demonstrations that have erupted in Tehran in the aftermath of the airliner tragedy, help undermine this clerical fascist regime. But  if they do,  that’s no vindication of Trump’s irresponsible recklessness: it’s an unintended and entirely unpredictable consequence – “blowback” in the truest sense.

11 thoughts on “Blowback in Iran

  1. The University demonstrations you led the article on are showing interesting patterns by marchers. A widely tweeted clip shows large numbers of students during anti-govt protests refusing to step on Israeli and American flags painted by the local authorities on the road. Not sure how to interpret this, but it shows some novel currents emerging, i feel

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  2. That Israeli and American flag thing on the ground is so petty and ridiculous, the modern equivalent of conquering kings using the defeated king as a footstool. Petty, vindictive and absurd.

    We have seen so many of these uprisings, and have hoped that the Iranians would get shot of that revolting theocracy and it never comes to anything except crackdowns. It has to end soon – a well educated and talented people can’t go on like that indefinitely.

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  3. Jim, Agree wholeheartedly with this. One point however: the use of the term ‘brainwashing’ is unhelpful. No such phenomenon exists, except in literature and films (e.g. ‘The Odessa File’ with Michael Caine). It’s a cliche which hides a number of complex processes and therefore, like most cliches, explains nothing. I would guess that the term originated in the Cold War with the Korean War being a probable starting point. Each side in the Cold War, being unable or unwilling to try and explain why the other’s ideology had any traction, invented ‘brainwashing’. It served a number of purposes: it provided a convenient and easily understood ‘explanantion’ as to why some miscreants didn’t follow their government’s propaganda and, at the same time, demonstrated how evil and devious the other side was. Recruiting individuals to become suicide bombers must be a complicated process at both the levl of ideology and MO as you say, but I think there has to be some kind of predisposition, existing gieveance or whatever in the minds of individuals concerned. The ‘skill’ in the MO comes in being able to spot this, bring it out and develop it. The idea of ‘brainwashing’ doesn’t help at all in understanding what is happening.

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  4. Just remembered: the ‘brainwashing’ film of all time is ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ (1962) dir. John Frankenheimer, starring Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey.

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  5. RT really excelled itself, one of its floozies, not Yobko but another of the young females, denouncing the notion that the ‘plane had been shot down as something which if true could not be determined in less than months. I don’t mind Max Keiser at all, and it’s sometimes fun listening to Eck Saumond and even Gallus George, whose odd angles do expose some details otherwise obscured of the truth, in among the dogmatics , but the doctrinaire stuff can present real guff, as well as especially on Yobko the bad old 1930s style efforts to re-state the hypothesis that what the West calls democracy is merely a neurotic device to belittle and obscure the alleged need for and advantages of a strong man, strong like a bluenose ancient cheese …

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  6. The Caine film based on brainwashing was “The Ipcress (not Odessa) File” Concur with your assessment of The Manchurian Candidate’ which, despite its cold war echoes, was a fine film. It argues that brainwashing developed in the Korean conflict and was itself based on the work undertaken in the Soviet Union as part of Ivan Pavlov’s behaviour modification experimentation. On the film,it is of (probably totally peripheral) interest that Angela Lansbury’s dad (himself George Lansbury’s son) was a member of the CPGB Executive for some time.

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  7. Yes, ‘The Odessa File’ is a different film altogether – post-war network of Nazis exposed by Jon Voight character. Didn’t know about the Lansburys – what a burden for Angela to have to carry around! JC

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  8. The Iranian regime will mass murder opponents and no one will stop them. Trump is the only person who can authorise the end of this Nazi regime but he won’t. So they continue.

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  9. If Trump had downed an airliner the Stop the War or Stop Some Wars Coalition would be going apeshit and it was Iran who downed the airliner not the US. And Iran was push push pushing before the Yanks took out their leading General: they hit Saudi oil refineries, took out a US drone, seized a British flagged tanker, protesters in Iraq with a little help from Iranian militias attacked the US embassy in Baghdad, then kaboom no more Iranian General.
    The blowback is taking place on the streets of Iran as chants of ‘death to America’ turn to ‘death to the liars’ and ‘death to the Mullahs.’
    Nasty game of tit for tat is looking bad for clerical fascism.

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