« Color revolutions » are to revolutions what Canada Dry is to beer. They look like the real thing, but they lack the flavor. They are regime changes which appear to be revolutions because they mobilize huge segments of the population but are more akin to takeovers, because they do not aim at changing social structures. Instead they aspire to replace an elite with another, in order to carry out pro-American economic and foreign policies. The « green revolution » in Tehran is the latest example of this trend.

Origin of the concept

This concept appeared in the 90s, but its roots lie in the American public debate of the 70s-80s. After a string of revelations about CIA instigated coups around the world, as well as the dramatic disclosures of the Church and Rockefeller Senate Committees [1], admiral Stansfield Turner was given the task by President Carter to clean up the agency and to stop supporting « local dictatorships ». Furious, the American Social Democrats (SD/USA) left the Democratic party and sided with Ronald Regan. They were brilliant Trotskyist intellectuals [2], often linked to Commentary magazine. After Regan was elected, he charged them with pursuing the American interference policy, this time using different methods. This is how the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) was created in 1982 [3] and the United States Institute for Peace (USIP) in 1984. Both of these institutions are organically intertwined: NED administrators sit on the USIP board of directors and vice versa.

Legally the NED is a not-for-profit organization under US law, financed by an annual grant voted by Congress as part of the State Department budget. In order to operate, this organization is co-financed by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which is part of the State Department. This legal structure is used jointly as a cover by the American CIA, the British MI6 and the Australian ASIS (and occasionally by Canadian and New Zealand secret services).

The NED presents itself as an agency promoting democracy. It intervenes either directly or using one of its four tentacles: one designed to subvert unions, the second responsible for corrupting management organizations, the third for left-wing parties and the fourth for right-wing parties. It also intervenes through friendly foundations, such as the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (UK), the International Center for Human Rights and Democratic Development (Canada), the Fondation Jean-Jaurès and the Fondation Robert-Schuman (France), the International Liberal Center (Sweden), the Alfred Mozer Foundation (Netherlands), the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, the Friedrich Naunmann Stiftung, the Hans Seidal Stiftung and the Heinrich Boell Stiftung (Germany). The NED thus claims to have corrupted over 6000 organizations throughout the world over roughly 30 years. All of this, of course, under the disguise of training and assistance programs.

As for the USIP, it is an American national institution. It is financed annually by Congress as part of the Defense Department budget. Contrary to the NED which serves as a cover for the three allied states, the USIP is exclusively American. Under the guise of political science research, it can pay salaries to foreign politicians.

As soon as it commanded resources, the USIP financed a new and discrete structure, the Albert Einstein Institution [4]. This small association for the promotion of nonviolent action was initially charged with designing a form of civil defense for the populations of Western Europe in case of an invasion by the Warsaw Pact. It quickly became autonomous and designed a model following which a state, whatever its nature, can lose its authority and collapse.

First attempts

The first attempted « color revolution » failed in 1989. The goal was to overthrow Deng Xiaoping by using one of his close collaborators, the Chinese Communist Party secretary-general Zhao Ziyang, in order to open Chinese markets to American investors and to bring China into the US orbit. Young supporters of Zhao invaded Tiananmen square [5]. They were presented in the Western media as unpoliticized students fighting for freedom against the party’s Conservative wing, when in fact this was infighting within the Deng entourage between pro-American and nationalist factions. After having ignored provocations for a long time Deng decided to use force. Depending on sources, the repression ended with 300 to 1000 dead. 20 years later, the Western version of this failed coup has not changed. Western media which recently covered the anniversary of that event presented it as a « popular uprising » and expressed surprise that people in Beijing do not remember the event. This is because there was nothing « popular » about this struggle for power within the Party. This was not a concern for people.

The first successful « color revolution » succeeded in 1990. As the Soviet Union was disintegrating, state secretary James Baker went to Bulgaria to participate in the electoral campaign of the pro-American party, heavily financed by the NED [6]. However, despite pressure from the UK, the Bulgarians – afraid of the social consequences induced by the transformation from soviet union to market economy – made the unforgivable mistake to elect in Parliament a post communist majority. While European community observers testified to the legality of the voting process, the pro-American opposition screamed that electoral fraud had occurred and took to the streets. They set up camp in the center of Sofia and threw the country into chaos for the following six months, until pro-American Zhelyu Zhelev was elected president by the parliament.

« Democracy » : selling your country to foreign interests behind the people’s back

Since then, Washington has kept instigating regime changes everywhere in the world, using street unrest rather than military juntas. It is important here to understand what is at stake. Behind the soothing rhetoric of « the promotion of democracy », Washington’s actions aim to impose regimes that are opening their markets to the US without conditions and which are aligning themselves to their foreign policy. However, while these goals are known by the leaders of the « color revolutions », they are never discussed and accepted by the mobilized demonstrators. In the event when these takeovers succeed, citizens soon rebel against the new policies imposed on them, even if it is too late to turn back. Besides, how can opposition groups who sold their country to foreign interests behind their populations’ backs be considered « democratic »?

In 2005, the Kyrgyz opposition contested the legislative elections and brought to Bishkek demonstrators from the south of the country. They toppled President Askar Akayev. This was the « Tulip Revolution ». The national assembly elected Kurmanbek Bakiyev as president. Unable to control his supporters who were looting the capital, he announced having chased the dictator and pretended that he intended to create a national union government. He pulled General Felix Kulov (former Bishkek Mayor) out of prison and named him prime minister. After the situation was back under control, Bakiyev got rid of Kulov and sold the country’s few resources to US companies with no invitation to tender but with significant backhanders. He set up a US military base in Manas. The population’s standard of living had never been lower. Felix Kulov offered to get the country back on its feet by federating it to Russia as it used to be. He was quickly sent back to jail.

A blessing in disguise?

It is sometimes objected that for states which were subjected to repressive regimes, even if these « color revolutions » only bring the appearance of democracy, they nonetheless constitute an improvement for their populations. Experience shows however that this is far from certain. The new regimes can turn out to be far more repressive than the old ones.

In 2003, Washington, London and Paris [7] organized the « Rose Revolution » in Georgia [8]. According to a classic scheme, the opposition blew the whistle about electoral fraud during legislative elections and took to the streets. The demonstrators forced president Eduard Shevardnadze to flee and they seized power. His successor, Mikheil Saakashvili, opened the country to US economic interests and broke off from his Russian neighbor. The economic aid that Washington promised to replace Russian aid never came. The already weakened economy collapsed. In order to continue to please his backers, Saakashvili needed to impose a dictatorship [9]. He shut down the media and filled up the prisons, which did not prevent Western media from continuing to describe him as a « democrat ». Continuing on his collision course, Saakashvili decided to bolster his popularity by engaging in a military adventure. With the help of the Bush administration and of Israel to which he rented air bases, he ordered the bombing of the population of South Ossetia, killing 1600 people, most of whom also held Russian citizenship. Moscow stroke back. American and Israeli advisers fled [10]. Georgia was left devastated.


The main mechanism of the « color revolutions » consists in focusing popular anger on the desired target. This is an aspect of the psychology of the masses which destroys everything in its path and against which no reasonable argument can be opposed. The scapegoat is accused of all the evils plaguing the country for at least one generation. The more he resists, the angrier the mob gets. After he gives in or slips away, the normal division between his opponents and his supporters reappears.

In 2005, in the hours following the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, a rumor spread in Lebanon according to which he was killed by « the Syrians ». The Syrian army, which had been maintaining order since the end of the civil war according to the Taëf agreement, was now booed. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad was personally accused by the US authorities, which was as good as proof for the public opinion. To those who noted that Rafik Hariri, despite stormy episodes, had always been useful to Syria and that’s his death deprived Damas of a central collaborator, it was answered that the « Syrian regime » is so fundamentally evil that it cannot help but killing even its friends. The Lebanese people were calling for the G.I.s to come and get rid of the Syrians. But to everyone’s surprise, Bashar al-Assad, considering that the costly deployment of his army was not welcome in Lebanon any longer, decided to pull it back. Legislative elections were organized in which the « anti-Syrian » coalition triumphed. This was the « Cedar Revolution ». After the situation calmed down everyone realized that even if Syrian generals had looted the country in the past, the departure of the Syrian army did not change anything to the country’s economic situation. Furthermore, the country was now in danger: it was not able to defend itself from the expansionism of the Israeli neighbor. The main « anti-Syrian » leader, general Michel Aoun, thought better of it and joined the opposition. Furious, Washington multiplied assassination plans to get rid of him. Michel Aoun formed an alliance with Hezbollah on a patriotic platform. It was about time: Israel attacked.

In every case, Washington prepared the « democratic » government in advance, which confirms that these are takeovers in disguise. The names composing the new team are kept secret for as long as possible. This is why the pointing out of the scapegoat is always done without suggesting a political alternative.

In Serbia, young pro-US « revolutionaries » chose a logo that belonged to the Communist popular imagination (the raised fist) to hide their subordination to the United States. They used « he is done! » as a slogan, which federated the anger against the personality of Slobodan Milosevic, who was held responsible for the bombing of the country even though it was done by NATO. This model was replicated numerous times, for example by the Pora! group in Ukraine, or by Zubr in Bielorussia.

The deceiving appearance of nonviolence

The PR staff members of the State Department maintain the non-violent image of the « color revolutions ». They all put forward the theories of Gene Sharp, who founded the Albert Einstein Institution. Yet nonviolence is a combat method used to persuade authorities to a political change. In order for a minority to seize power and to exercise it, it must always use violence at some point. All « color revolutions » did.

Srdja Popovic (on the left), Serbian leader of the Otpor movement, Gene Sharp, founder of the Albert Einstein Institution (center) and his assistant colonel Robert Helvey, most senior member of the training academy for embassy military attachés.

In 2000, Slobodan Milosevic called for anticipated elections despite still having a year to run as president. After the first round, neither he nor his principal opponent, Vojislav Koštunica, had secured a majority of the votes. Without waiting for the second round, the opposition claimed voting fraud and took to the streets. Thousands of demonstrators walked on the capital, including the miners from Kolubara. Their daily salaries were paid indirectly by the NED, without them realizing that they were paid by the United States. The pressure from the demonstration was insufficient so the miners started attacking buildings with bulldozers that they had brought, hence the name « bulldozer revolution ».

In cases when the tension is just dragging on, and when counterdemonstrations are being organized, the only solution for Washington is to throw the country into chaos. Inciting agents are then placed in both camps to fire on the crowd. Each party can then observe that the others are shooting while they are peacefully advancing. The confrontation spreads.

In 2002, Caracas’ upper-class took to the streets to protest the social policies of President Hugo Chavez [11]. Using clever manipulation, private TV stations created the impression of a human tidal wave. There were 50,000 people according to observers and 1 million according to the press and the State Department. Then there was the Llaguno Bridge incident. TV stations clearly showed armed pro-Chavez supporters firing on the crowd. In a press conference, the National Guard general and vice minister of domestic security confirmed that the « Chavez militias » fired and killed 19 people. He resigned and called for the dictator to be overthrown. The president was quickly arrested by military rebels. However millions of people descended in the capital’s streets and constitutional order was restored.

A subsequent journalistic investigation went over the details of the massacre of the Llaguno Bridge. It brought to light a deceptive picture manipulation, where chronological order was modified as proved by the protagonists’ watch dials. In reality, the pro-Chavez supporters were under attack and after having fallen back, they were trying to escape by using their weapons. The inciting agents were local policemen trained by a US agency [12].

In 2006, the NED reorganized the opposition to Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki. It funded the creation of the Orange party of Raila Odinga. He received the support of Senator Barack Obama, who was accompanied by destabilization experts (Mark Lippert, current chief of staff for the national security adviser, and general Jonathan S. Gration, current US special envoy to Sudan). During a meeting with Odinga, the Illinois Senator invented a vague family relationship with the pro-US candidate. However Odinga was defeated during the 2007 legislative elections. Supported by Senator John McCain as president of the IRI (the NED’s Republican pseudopod), he disputed the validity of the vote and called for his supporters to take to the streets. This is when anonymous text messages were sent en masse to ethnic Luo voters. « Dear Kenyans, the Kikuyu have stolen the future of our children… we must treat them in the only way that they understand… with violence ». The country, despite being one of the most stable in Africa, suddenly erupted in violence.

After days of rioting, president Kibaki was forced to accept the mediation of Madeleine Albright as president of the NDI (the NED’s Democrat pseudopod). A prime minister position was created and offered to Odinga. Since the hate text messages had not been sent from the Kenyan installations, one can wonder which foreign power was behind them.

Mobilizing the international public opinion

During the last few years, Washington had the opportunity to instigate « color revolutions » with the understanding that they would fail to seize power but that they would help manipulate public opinion and international institutions.

In 2007, many Burmans were up in arms because of the domestic fuel price increase. Demonstrations spread as Buddhist monks took a leading role in the protest. This was the « Saffron Revolution » [13]. Washington could not care less about the Rangoon regime; however they were interested in orchestrating the people of Burma in order to exercise pressure on China which holds strategic interests in Burma (pipelines and military bases for electronic intelligence gathering). It was therefore crucial to distort people’s perception of reality. Pictures and films shot on mobile phones started to appear on YouTube. They were anonymous, impossible to verify and without context. It was precisely their lack of reliability that gave them authority, and allowed the White House to fit them with their interpretation of the situation.

More recently, a 2008 student demonstration brought Greece to a grinding halt following the murder of a 15 year old young man by a policeman. Hoodlums were soon seen rioting. They had been recruited in neighboring Kosovo and brought in by bus. The city centers were devastated. Washington was trying to scare foreign investors away in order to secure a monopoly on the investments in the gas terminals that were being built. The weak Karamanlis government was portrayed as being iron fisted. Facebook and Twitter were used to mobilize the Greek Diaspora. Demonstrations spread to Istanbul, Nicosia, Dublin, London, Amsterdam, The Hague, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Paris, Rome, Madrid, Barcelona, etc.

The Green Revolution

The operation conducted in 2009 in Iran belongs to the long list of pseudo revolutions. First, a 400 million dollar budget was voted in 2007 by Congress to orchestrate a « regime change » in Iran. This was in addition to the ad hoc budgets of the NED, the USAID, the CIA & Co. How this money is being used is unclear, but the three main recipients are the following: the Rafsanjani family, the Pahlavi family and the People’s Mujahedin of Iran.

The Bush Administration decided to instigate a « color revolution » in Iran after confirming a decision by the Joint Chiefs of Staff not to conduct a military attack of that country. This choice was then approved by the Obama Administration. The plans for a « color revolution » which had been drawn up by the American Enterprise Institute in 2002 with Israel were then reopened. I had published an article at that time regarding this plan [14]. In it, one can identify the current protagonists: that plan has not changed much since then. A Lebanese chapter was added which predicted an uprising in Beirut in case of a victory of the patriotic coalition (Hezbollah, Aoun), but it was later cancelled.

The script included huge support for the candidate chosen by Ayatollah Rafsanjani, the disputing of the presidential election results, widespread bombings, the toppling of president Ahmadinejad and of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, setting up a transition government headed by Mousavi, restoring the Monarchy and creating a government headed by Sohrab Sobhani.

According to the 2002 plans, the operation was overseen by Morris Amitay et Michael Ledeen. It mobilized in Iran the Irangate network. Here is a necessary quick historical background: the Irangate (Iran–Contra affair) was an illegal arms deal. The White House wished to supply weapons to the rebels in Nicaragua (to fight against Sandinistas) and to Iranians (in order to drag the Iran-Iraq war for as long as possible), but was prevented from doing so by Congress. Israelis then offered to act as subcontractors for both operations. Ledeen, who has both US and Israeli citizenships, served as a link in Washington, while Mahmoud Rafsanjani (the brother of the Ayatollah) was his counterpart in Tehran. This took place over a background of widespread corruption. When the scandal broke out in the United States, an independent inquiry committee was headed by Senator Tower and General Brent Scowcroft (Robert Gates’ mentor) to investigate.

Michael Ledeen is an old fox involved in many secret operations. He could be found in Rome during the assassination of Aldo Moro. He also appears to have been linked to the fake Bulgarian connection after the assassination attempt on John Paul II, or more recently to the fake claims of Nigerian uranium supply to Saddam Hussein. He currently works for the American Enterprise Institute [15] (with Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz) and for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies [16].

Morris Amitay is a former director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). He is today the vice president of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) and the director of a consulting company for the weapon industry.

On April 27, Morris et Ledeen held a seminar on Iran with Senator Joseph Lieberman at the American Enterprise Institute, regarding the Iranian elections. On May 15, a new seminar was held. The public part of the event consisted of a round table discussion headed by Senator John Bolton about the « haggling » over Iran: would Moscow agree to end its support of Tehran in exchange for Washington renouncing its missile shield project in Central Europe? French expert Bernard Hourcade took part in the debates. At the same time, the Institute launched a website, intended for the press, about the coming crisis: IranTracker.org. The website includes a section on the Lebanese elections.

In Iran, the responsibility for overthrowing old rival Ayatollah Khamenei rested on Ayatollah Rafsanjani. Born in a family of farmers, Hashemi Rafsanjani built his fortune on real estate speculation during the time of the Shah. He became the main pistachio dealer in Iran, and increased his wealth during the Irangate. His assets are estimated to several billion dollars. After he became the wealthiest man in Iran, he became successively president of the parliament, president of the Republic, and now chairman of the Assembly of Experts (an arbitration body for the parliament and the Guardian Council of the Constitution). He defends the interests of Tehran’s merchant class. During the electoral campaign, Rafsanjani required Mir-Hossein Mousavi, his former adversary who became his protégé, to promise he would privatize the oil sector.

With no connection to Rafsanjani, the People’s Mujahedin of Iran have been used by Washington [17]. This organization, protected by the Pentagon, is considered a terrorist organization by the State Department and has been considered as such by the European Union. Indeed, it is responsible for dreadful operations in the 80s, including a huge bombing which killed Ayatollah Beheshti, four department heads, six department head assistants and one fourth of the parliamentary group of the Islamic Republic party. The People’s Mujahedin of Iran is headed by Massoud Rajavi, who first married the daughter of former President Abol-hassan Banisadr and then the cruel Maryam. Its headquarters are located outside of Paris and its military bases in Iraq, first under the orders of Saddam Hussein, are now under the Defense Department. The People’s Mujahedin provided the logistics for the bombing attacks which took place during the electoral campaign [18]. They were responsible for instigating clashes – which they probably did – between Pro Ahmadinejad supporters and their opponents.

Should chaos have followed, the Supreme Leader could have been overthrown. A transition government, headed by Mir-Hossein Mousavi, would have privatized the oil sector and brought back the Monarchy. The son of the former Shah, Reza Cyrus Pahlavi, would have ascended to the throne and would have nominated Sohrab Sobhani as prime minister. With this in mind, Reza Pahlavi published in February a number of interviews with French journalist Michel Taubmann, the director of Arte’s information office in Paris, and who presides the Cercle de l’Observatoire, the club for French neo conservatives. It is useful to remember that Washington had made similar plans for the restoration of the Monarchy in Afghanistan. Mohammed Zahir Shah was supposed to ascend to the throne again and Hamid Karzai would have become prime minister. Unfortunately, at age 88, the pretender had become senile. Karzai thus became president. Both Sobhani and Karzai hold United States citizenships. Both were involved in the Caspian sea’s oil sector.

As far as propaganda was concerned, the initial plan had been given to Benador Associates, a public relations firm. But it evolved with the influence of Goli Ameri, the United States Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs. This American Iranian woman is John Bolton’s former colleague. As a new media specialist, she implemented infrastructure and Internet training programs for Rafsanjani’s friends. She also developed radio and television programs in Farsi for the State Department propaganda, in conjunction with the BBC.

Iran’s destabilization failed because the main drive behind the « color revolutions » was not appropriately initiated. Mir-Hossein Mousavi did not manage to make Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the focus of popular anger. The Iranian people did not fall into the trap; they did not hold the outgoing president responsible for the United States’ economic sanctions against the country. Therefore the protests were limited to the northern suburbs of Tehran. The authorities refrained from creating counter demonstrations, and let the plotters expose themselves.

However, it must be noted that the propaganda was successful with the Western media. International public opinions really believed that two million Iranians took to the streets, when the real figure was ten times lower. The fact that foreign correspondents were under house arrest facilitated these exaggerations because they were exempt from having to provide evidence for their allegations.

Having given up war, and having failed at overthrowing the regime, what is Barack Obama’s remaining option?

English version by J.C.

[1The numerous reports and documents published by these committees are available online on the following website: The Assassination Archives and Research Center.

[2« New York Intellectuals and the invention of neo-conservatism », Denis Boneau, Voltaire Network, November 26 2004.

[3« The NED, the networks of democratic interference », Thierry Meyssan, Voltaire Network, January 22 2004.

[4« The Albert Einstein Institution: non-violence according to the CIA », Thierry Meyssan, Voltaire Network, January 4 2005.

[5« Tiananmen, 20 ans après », professor Domenico Losurdo, Réseau Voltaire, June 9 2009.

[6At the time, the NED was relying in Eastern Europe on the Free Congress Foundation (FCF), operated by Republicans. Later on, this organization disappeared and was replaced by the Soros Foundation, operated by Democrats, with the assistance of which the NED would plot new « regime changes ».

[7Concerned with smoothing out relations between France and the US, French president Jacques Chirac tried to establish better relations with the Bush Administration on Georgia’s back, all the more because of French economic interests in Georgia. Salomé Zourabichvili, number 2 in the French secret services, was nominated as ambassador in Tbilisi. She then switched nationalities and became the Foreign Secretary for the « Rose Revolution ».

[8«The Secrets of the Georgian Coup», Paul Labarique, Voltaire Network, January 7 2004.

[9« Géorgie : Saakachvili jette son opposition en prison » (Georgia: Saakachvili jails the opposition) et « Manifestations à Tbilissi contre la dictature des roses » (Protests in Tbilisi against the dictatorship of the roses), Réseau Voltaire, September 12 2006 and September 30 2007.

[10The Bush Administration was hoping that this conflict would act as a smoke screen. Israeli bombers were supposed to take off simultaneously to strike neighboring Iran. But even before attacking Georgian military installations, Russia bombed the airports that had been rented out to Israel, pinning its planes to the ground.

[11« Opération manquée au Venezuela » (Failed operation in Venezuela), Thierry Meyssan, Réseau Voltaire, May 18 2002.

[12Llaguno Bridge. Keys to a Massacre. Documentary by Angel Palacios, Panafilms 2005.

[13« Birmanie : la sollicitude intéressée des États-Unis » (Burma: United States’ selfish concern), Thierry Meyssan, Réseau Voltaire, November 5 2007.

[14« False reasons to intervene in Iran », Thierry Meyssan, Voltaire Network, February 12 2004.

[15« The American Enterprise Institute in the White House », Voltaire Network, June 21 2004.

[16« Les trucages de la Foundation for the Defense of Democracies » (The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies’ tricks), Réseau Voltaire, February 2 2005.

[17« Les Moudjahidin perdus » (The lost Mujahedin), Paul Labarique, Réseau Voltaire, February 17 2004.

[18« Le Jundallah revendique des actions armées aux côtés des Moudjahidines du Peuple » (The Jundallah claims responsibility for actions with the People’s Mujahedin), Réseau Voltaire, June 13 2009.