WASHINGTON, D.C. -- My old friend and Georgetown University Foreign Service School classmate, Sadegh Ghotbzadeh, was executed in Tehran after a failed attempt to overthrow Iran's Islamic Republic in 1982.
I'm thinking about his death because of increasingly strident demands by Republicans and some Democrats for President Barack Obama to wade into Iran's blazing post electoral crisis.
Can these legislators really be unaware the U.S. and Britain have spent hundreds of millions in recent years trying to destabilize Iran and overthrow its elected government? Or that western powers are conducting an unprecedented media and telecom assault on Iran's Islamic government?
Back to Sadegh. Iran's former president, Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, told me that Sadegh begged the Americans not to show any support for his planned coup. "If you do, we are finished." Sadegh subsequently was betrayed to Iran by leading neoconservative of the National Security Council, claims Bani-Sadr, and shot.
Interestingly, Sadegh also insisted senior Republican operatives had implored Tehran not to free the U.S. Embassy hostages it was holding in order to undermine President Jimmy Carter's chances of re-election. The hostages were released just in time for Ronald Reagan's inauguration.
One of the dimmer bulbs in the Republican Party's low-wattage ranks is South Carolina's Sen. Lindsey Graham, a proud advocate of torture and secret prisons. Graham has led calls for U.S. intervention in Iran. But how? Washington has no more troops and must borrow 50 cents for every dollar it spends.
Perhaps the warlike senator intends to dispatch the Goose Creek South Carolina Volunteer Fire Department to smite the wicked "I-ranians."
No doubt Sen. Graham will show those malevolent Iranian vote riggers how good, all-American honest elections are run in Iraq and Afghanistan: Opposition groups who oppose U.S. occupation are barred from running in the "democratic elections." Or Lebanon, where Washington just spent millions buying votes for the pro-American coalition.
There is very little Washington can or should do in Iran. Iran's election, in spite of significant but not decisive voting irregularities, appears to have been a clear victory for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. American meddling will only help the Islamic government.
Besides, the U.S. is hardly without sin. Remember Florida's "hanging chads," Ohio's rigged voting machines and Chicago, where mayor Richard Daley helped win the presidency for the sainted Jack Kennedy by getting the dead to vote.
Iran at least lets its people vote. America's Arab allies hold only sham elections.
Iran has been under siege by the U.S., Britain, France and its Arab neighbours since the 1979 Islamic revolution. The often-tragic history of Iran is marked by Britain's 1941 invasion, the Anglo-American 1953 coup that overthrew the democratic Mohammed Mossadegh government, and the U.S.-British engineered war with Iraq that inflicted one million Iranian casualties.
The best thing the West can do is stay out of Iran's internal affairs. The more it intervenes, the more it gives hard line elements an excuse to brand their opponents traitors and western stooges. Iran must solve its own problems. We've seen enough "nation building" in Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq. How can Washington berate Iran for repression after engineering the Pakistani army's attack on Swat, which has created 2.5 million refugees?
Americans must not let wishful thinking and dislike of Ahmadinejad warp their judgment and get them stuck in yet another giant mess in the Muslim world.
Americans are fortunate to have the cautious Barack Obama at the helm rather than those shoot-from-the-hip Republicans, John McCain and Graham. The United States can't afford more conflicts as it faces a dangerous crisis with North Korea.
Obama is under tremendous political pressure to grandstand over Iran and is sharpening his verbal attacks. But he should resist and stop the CIA from stirring the pot in Iran and organizing armed opposition.
Iran continues to be a curse for America. Protests in Iran may be diminishing, but Israel may seize on Iran's troubles to launch an attack. Extreme caution is advised.