A top Iranian military commander is the latest official to speak out against U.S. chatter of pursuing a policy of regime change against the government in Tehran, something Washington has successfully done once before.
Brigadier General Massoud Jazayeri, deputy chief of staff for the Iranian military, attacked remarks made recently by high-ranking U.S. officials such as Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggesting they may seek to topple the Iranian government, which they accuse of sponsoring terrorism and political oppression. The military leader's words echoed long-held suspicions by Iran that the U.S. is plotting to forcefully oust the nation's political and religious leaders in favor of ones more sympathetic to the West, as it did by sponsoring a coup in 1953. More than half a century later, Jazayeri said Iran was unphased by such comments from the administration of President Donald Trump, but vowed to respond with action.
"The ridiculous dreams of the Americans about the overthrow of the Islamic Republic of Iran is nothing more than disturbed delusions and we are not worried that they have preoccupied themselves in such a way," Jazayeri said, according to Press TV, an English-language affiliate of the semi-official Islamic Republic Broadcasting Agency.
"We will respond to the nonsensical talks of the American authorities in the theaters of action," he added.
Prior to 1953, Iran's government was headed by a democratically elected prime minister named Mohammad Mosaddegh whose popularity ultimately allowed him to supersede the authority of the country's monarch, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, known as the Shah. Mosaddegh nationalized Iran's oil industry in 1951, infuriating the U.K., which heavily invested in Iranian oil. The U.K. ultimately appealed to the CIA to sponsor a coup d'etat against Mosaddegh, which U.S. intelligence did in 1953, arresting Mosaddegh and replacing him with Iranian General Fazlollah Zahedi. The Shah regained his former authority and implemented an authoritarian rule backed by the West for over 25 years until he himself was deposed in the Islamic Revolution of 1979 that saw Shiite Muslim cleric Ayatollah Khomeini take power and pursue anti-West policies that persist to this day.
The U.S. only publicly admitted its role in the 1953 coup in 2013, and last month the CIA released a trove of previously top-secret documents publicly revealing new details of the affair, known as Operation AJAX. Relations between the U.S. and Iran somewhat warmed during the administration of President Barack Obama, who signed a deal that lifted U.S. sanctions on Iran in exchange for Tehran limiting its nuclear program. Trump, however, has taken a more hardline stance toward the majority-Shiite Muslim power and some of his most senior officials have suggested that a second regime change may be in order.
"Until the Iranian people can get rid of this theocracy, these guys who think they can tell the people even which candidates they get a choice of. It’s going to be very, very difficult," Mattis said Monday in an interview he granted to a high school journalism student, according to the Middle East Institute. Mattis went on to target the Iranian government, linking it to groups abroad considered by the U.S. to be terrorist organizations, such as Lebanon's Hezbollah and Yemen's Ansar Allah, commonly referred to as the Houthi movement.
Comments by Mattis, who has long advocated for tougher U.S. action against Iran, followed Tillerson's response to the House Foreign Affairs Committee last month in which the statesman explained U.S. policy toward Iran as being "to push back on [its regional] hegemony, contain their ability to develop, obviously, nuclear weapons and to work towards support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government."
Jazayeri is not the first Iranian official to respond to the Trump administration's comments. Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan told reporters Wednesday that, before the U.S. goes after Iran's internal political affairs, it should address its own scandals and potential shortcomings.
"Whenever the Americans have intended to make any type action against us or hire proxies to this end, our nation has proved that it makes them regret their deeds," Dehghan said, according to Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency.
"The U.S. secretary of defense and the ruling system had better think of resolving their internal issues and study the root causes that will most possibly cause the current U.S. administration to collapse in a not so far future and will make the country's political system face a lot of serious challenges," he added.