Breaking Point: The 1979 Iranian Revolution

Breaking Point

Press TV (2019)

Film Review

Since Google (which owns Youtube) has banned Press TV’s YouTube channel, Iran’s national broadcaster has started their own documentary channel.

I’ve just watched an excellent two-hour documentary on the Iranian Revolution. Up to this point, my only exposure to the 1979 revolution overthrowing Shah Reza Pahlavi came from a handful of CIA-scripted Hollywood films and a book by former Israeli agent Ronen Bergman.

The documentary begins with the 1953 US/UK coup against democratically elected Mohammad Mosaddegh, following his nationalization of Iran’s oil industry. Four years after the CIA  reinstated Pahlavi as Shah, they worked with Israel to help him create the Savak, a massive intelligence/police force that was even more intrusive and brutal than the East German Stasi.

In 1963, fearful of growing popular discontent, the US pressured the Shah to undertake a series of reforms, including land reform, forest nationalization, electoral reform (including voting rights for women), and and a scheme granting company shares to factory workers. His error was putting corrupt family members and military officers in charge, who pocketing most of the funding allocations for their personal use.

As of 1975, 60% of Iranians still lived in rural villages, where only 1% had access to electricity or clean drinking water. In fact, extreme rural poverty led to the steady migration of landless farmworkers to Iran’s cities, where they became peddlers, beggars, and prostitutes.

The Shah’s decision not to participate in the 1973 oil embargo* led to a massive increase in Iran’s oil export income – from $4 billion to $20 billion. The Shah would use a substantial portion of these funds to industrialize Iran and create an educated Iranian middle class. However he squandered most of it on a network of nuclear power plants and advanced military hardware that even European NATO members couldn’t afford.

Ayatollah Khomeini, the so-called Gandhi of the Iranian Revolution, first came to prominence in June 1963, when he was arrested for a speech publicly denouncing the Shah, the US, and Israel. The mass uprising following his arrest was quashed after the Shah declared martial law. Fearful of further unrest, the Shah, who originally intended to execute Khomeini, merely exiled him (first to Turkey, then Iraq).

For years, tapes of Khomeini’s speeches were smuggled into Iran, where they became extremely popular among students. In 1969, Khomeini (from Iraq) called for the Shah’s overthrow and establishment of an Islamic Republic. By the mid-1970s, nearly all Iranian opposition groups had united behind Khomeini,** including many ex-communists and the secular National Front (founded by Mosaddegh supporters).

When Carter became president in 1977, he again pressured Iran to undertake political and social reforms. The filmmakers believe the reforms (including greater press freedoms, release of political prisoners, and withdrawal of troops from the universities) merely emboldened the resistance movement, resulting in a wave of mass protests and general strikes. By late December, a prolonged general strike brought the economy to a standstill, with Iranian troops refusing orders to fire on strikers or protestors.

In January 1979, the Shah fled the country, and on February 1, three million Iranians turned out to hail Khomeini’s triumphant return from Paris (he was expelled from Iraq in October 1978).


*The embargo instituted by the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries was aimed at nations supporting Israel is the 1973 Yum Kippur War.

**Unlike Sunni Islam, the Shi’a religion has a long history of rebellion against authority.

Although the video can’t be embedded, it can be view free at Breaking Point or at Press TV’s Facebook page (for now): https://www.facebook.com/PressTVdocumentaries

 

The Cover-Up: BP Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill

The Big Fix: BP Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill Cover-up

Directed by Josh Tickell (2012)

Film Review

The Big Fix is about the extreme corruption in the Louisiana State capitol and Washington DC which resulted in a massive cover-up of the disastrous environmental and health consequences of the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The documentary begins by exploring the ugly history of the Anglo-Iranian oil company, later renamed BP. It describes the efforts by the Iranian people to reclaim control of their oil with the democratic election of Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1951. Determined to retain British control of Iran’ oil, Winston Churchill approached President Eisenhower, who instigated a CIA-sponsored coup to oust Mosaddegh and install the brutal dictator Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

It would take the 1979 Islamic revolution to restore the right of the Iranian people to control their own oil.

The Oil Colony Known as Louisiana

Tickell makes the case that Louisiana is an oil colony in much the same way Iran was. Populist governor Huey Long, virtually the only Louisiana governor to stand up to Big Oil, was assassinated in 1935 – two days after announcing plans to run for president.

The Deep Water Horizon Coverup

The film goes on to expose important aspects of the Deep Water Horizon disaster that the corporate media neglect to report on – with special emphasis on BP cost cutting measures that violated safety regulations, including the manual disabling of warning alarms to enable faster drilling.

The role the Obama administration played in lying about the aftermath of the spill is even more shocking. When he opened contaminated areas to fishing, despite the continuing presence of large concentrations of oil, he also participated in a slick PR video him and his daughters swimming in a protected area (St Andrews Bay) unaffected by the spill.

Obama also lied about the health dangers of Corexit, a toxic chemical (banned in Britain since 2002) used to disperse surface oil slicks, as well as claiming BP discontinued aerial Corexit spraying in July 2010.*

The True Extent of Environmental and Human Health Consequences

A highlight of the film is the numerous poignant interviews with fishing families who not only lost their livelihoods as a result of the BP disaster but are suffering life threatening health problems from ongoing exposure to Corexit.

Despite the best efforts by BP and the Coast Guard to keep journalists and scientists out of the spill area, by 2012 a number of scientists (including Jean Costeau) had collected strong documentary evidence that the majority of the oil spill was pooled in enormous oil lakes on the sea bed. These oil lakes, in turn, were systematically killing off all sea life.

When oil geologist Matthew Sims attempted to bring this information to media attention, he mysteriously drowned in his hot tub.


*Numerous investigators have documented that Corexit spraying continued for at least two years after the spill.