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Iran-US Relations - Background

Considering the power vacuum arising from the British withdrawal from east of the Suez Canal and US involvement in the Vietnam War, Iran and Saudi Arabia were tasked with protecting Washingtons interests in this oil-rich region; thus they were equipped with the needed military hardware. The Islamic Revolution not only deprived the United States of a strategic ally in the Middle East, but also turned Iran into a serious threat to Washingtons interests in the region.

Although the shah had been unpopular among the rulers of the six states on the Arab side of the Persian Gulf, the Revolution in Iran, nevertheless, was a shock to them. Iran under the shah had been the main guarantor of political stability in the region. Under the Republic, Iran was promising to be the primary promoter of revolution. All six countries--Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)--were ruled by hereditary monarchs who naturally feared the new rhetoric from Tehran. Indeed, during the first year following the Revolution, throughout the Gulf region numerous acts of political sabotage and violence occurred, claiming inspiration from the Iranian example. The most sensational of these was the assault by Muslim dissidents on the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Other clashes occurred between groups of local Shias and security forces in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain.

Since the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, the United States has sought to contain Iran's aggressive behavior, including its military buildup, development of weapons of mass destruction, and its support for international terrorism and groups opposed to the Arab-Israeli peace process. In May 1993 the Clinton Administration articulated a policy of "dual containment" of Iran and Iraq. The Administration sought to increase the effectiveness of US sanctions on both regimes by trying persuade US allies and other countries to deny Iran credits, aid, and arms and technology exports.

For the follwoing years years the US policy had been one of containment, which probably meant in part preventing Iran from gaining undue influence if not outright control of the other states of the Shiite Umma - namely Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Bahrain. As for Bahrain, the GCC has made it pretty clear that Bahrain will not be allowed to fall to Iran due to the "irresponsibility of its own people" [in Henry's words]

However, by 2015 civil war had reduced Syria and Iraq to little more that client states, with Yemen not far behind, and Lebanon on that road. Brigadier General Baqir Zada said 26 January 2015 in a press conference: Irans Borders dont reach only the Shalamja region the border area between Al-Ahwaz and Iraq but to the Yemeni capital Sanaa.... The Houthis victory in Yemen was not an easy victory. This is not a normal routine event in the region, but this is a historic victory for the Iranian Islamic revolution.

That is, Iran has achieved what 35 years of US policy was designed to prevent, so the US has no policy. This must be evident from the ease with which some clever fellows suggest the US align with Iran again Daash, failing to understand that Daash is simply a side effect of Iranian sectarianism.

Iran's foreign policy was dramatically reversed following the Revolution. After World War II, Iranian leaders considered their country to be part of the Western alliance system. They actively cultivated relations with the United States, both as a means of protecting their country from perceived political pressures emanating from the Soviet Union and as a matter of genuine ideological conviction.

The Revolution, which was laden with anti-American rhetoric, brought new leaders to power who disapproved of Iran's relationship with the United States. The new leaders were convinced that Washington had tried to maintain the shah in power, despite the mass demonstrations calling for his downfall, and were deeply suspicious of American intentions toward their Revolution. These leaders believed that the United States was plotting to restore the shah to power and were unresponsive to persistent efforts by American diplomats to persuade them that the United States had no ill intentions toward the new regime.

The more radical revolutionaries were determined to eradicate all traces of American influence from Iran. Fearing that the provisional government was seeking an accommodation with the United States, some of these radicals precipitated the seizure of the American embassy. On November 4, 1979, Iranian students seized the American Embassy in Tehran, where they held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. Although it has been claimed that Ayatollah Khomeini did not have prior knowledge of the students plans, he gave his full support to them throughout the seizure. The students claimed that they occupied the American Embassy to avert another U.S.-orchestrated coup to restore the Shah to power; suspicions arose after the U.S. admitted the Shah for medical treatment in October 1979.

Subsequently, they exploited the protracted hostage crisis between Tehran and Washington to achieve their objective of terminating normal relations with the United States. The severing of ties with the United States was regarded not only as essential for expunging American influence from the country but also was considered a prerequisite for implementing their revolutionary foreign policy ideology. This new ideology consisted of two concepts: export of revolution and independence from both the East and the West.

On April 7, 1980, the United States broke diplomatic relations with Iran, and on April 24, 1981, the Swiss Government assumed representation of U.S. interests in Tehran. Iranian affairs in the United States were represented by Algeria until 1993, when Algeria broke diplomatic relations with Iran, accusing the Tehran regime of interfering with Algerias internal affairs. Since 1993, Iran has been represented by the Embassy of Pakistan, in the Iranian Interests Section, in Washington, DC. Iran also has a permanent mission to the United Nations in New York City.

By the time the hostage crisis was finally resolved in January 1981, these ideas were embraced by the entire political elite. In accordance with the Algiers declaration of January 20, 1981, the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal (located in The Hague, Netherlands) was established for the purpose of handling claims of U.S. nationals against Iran and of Iranian nationals against the U.S. However, U.S. interaction with Iran at The Hague solely covers legal matters.

The U.S. Government, by executive orders issued by the President as well as by congressional legislation, prohibited nearly all trade and investment with Iran. Sanctions had been imposed on Iran because of its sponsorship of terrorism, its refusal to comply with IAEA regulations regarding its nuclear program, and its human rights violations.

Obstacles to improving relations between the U.S. and Iran remain. The U.S. objects to Irans sponsorship of terrorism and its nuclear weapons ambitions. The U.S. Government also is concerned about Irans crackdown on human rights and detainment of civil society actors. Iran still has not recognized Israels right to exist and has hindered the Middle East peace process by arming militants, including Hamas, Hizballah, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Despite these obstacles, U.S. and Iranian representatives have discussed a number of issues of concern over the years. U.S. and Iranian envoys cooperated during operations against the Taliban in 2001 and during the Bonn Conference in 2002, which established a broad-based government for the Afghan people under President Karzai. In 2007, representatives from the two countries met several times to discuss Iraq.

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Page last modified: 28-05-2018 19:37:46 ZULU