US-Iran Relations Acknowledgements I would like to thank my teacher, Ms. Mashal Shabbir. The supervision and support that she gave truly helped me in this project. Her cooperation is thus appreciated. Abstract This report explains the US-Iran relationships, how they changed over the period of time and what the main reasons for that change were. I tried to analyze these reasons according to the International Relations theories as well as my own opinion. The report includes the information mainly from 1940 to date. Discussion In the last days before the culmination of Iranian revolution the electricity workers in Tehran would turn off the lights each evening and then from the rooftops came the chant “God is Great” with another chant, “death to America” however with a much contradicting tone” (Cottom, 1988). These words themselves explain the intensity which lies in the US- Iran relationships since the Iranian revolution. European intrusion in Iran has been a prolonged one with immense prominence. Trade was one of the most significant reasons.
Iran’s geographical position made it the central attention for the European traders, as the land route which joined the western and eastern worlds crossed Iran. Moreover, as Cottom explains in his book that the only presence of the Europeans in Iran was “a matter of national prestige”. That is this prestige not only advanced Europeans economically but politically too. US initially was viewed as a caring western country, who was not only sincere but also advocated human rights of freedom, moreover encouraged courage, independence as well as dignity for the people of Iran.
Before 1940’s it had no economic interest in Iran plus only a minute aid was granted to Iran during the event of Soviet invasion in Iran, however this minute interest which US had in Iran was not long lived. Iran, blessed with one of the most precious reserves of oil attracted the western world immensely. With increasing industrialization especially in Britain as well as America oil was becoming one of the main ingredients of their success. The British government purchased a large amount of Anglo-Persian Oil Company’s (APOC) stock during the First World War.
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This oil company was a predecessor of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC). By the time of Iranian oil crisis almost half of APOC’s stock was in the hands of Britain. Iranians on the other hand were kept away from the high ranking positions in the oil company. Moreover neither did the royalty payments satisfied the Iranian government nor did the high levels of confidentiality which prevailed in the major decision making contended them, giving birth to a situation which benefited neither of the two parties. Thus during 1951-1953 Iran strived to gain power over its oil industry which gave hype to the sense of nationalism in Iranians.
The leaders in Iran provided the stance that out of the ? 250 million of profits which AIOC made in the late 1940’s their royalty payments only counted for one third of the total amount that is ? 90 million (Mary Ann Heiss). On the part of British Empire “oil” had become an evil necessity not only economically but also to sustain its political position as “a great power” in the World. Thus this nationalization not only threatened its position in the Middle East but also could have blown its largest investment abroad. Iranians on the contrary were keen to achieve independence nationally and politically.
Although they were well aware of the fact that this may lead to serious economic adversity in Iran, they wanted the British dominance abolished to be treated as a sovereign nation. Therefore Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq stressed upon full control over Iran’s internal and financial affairs. The increasing tension between Britain and Iran and the wavering issues led the United States (US) jump in the situation. For US however the main goal was not the interests of either party that is Iran or Britain but it had its own underlying concern.
Thus this can be said that this was the first time that US was seriously involved in the internal affairs of Iran, marking the beginning of their relationship. The nationalism which the Iranian governments were emphasizing upon was very closely related to communism, in a sense that it could have given rise to autocracy, which at that time was not at all acceptable to US. As this movement by the Iranians could have led to open paths for the Soviet Union to the oil fields of Middle East, America did not want to jeopardize its position along with its power. Moreover this oss of oil industry would have led to serious economic setbacks in US. In her paper, “The United States and Great Britain Navigate the Anglo-Iranian Oil crisis” the author Mary Ann Hiess explains the US-Iran relations in three phases during the oil crisis. The first phase named “benevolent neutrality” lasted almost from 1950 till the mid of 1951. The US officials acted as responsible negotiators and reconciled with the idea of nationalization as well as also recognized the rights of the contract of AIOC. Escorting to the second phase which is known as’ “Era of Anglo-American Partnership”.
This phase propagated accelerating ideological and policy empathy mainly between Washington and London. The third phase however was that of US interest, that is US was somewhat getting successful in its goals, termed as the era of US domination this phase highlights Eisenhower ‘s (president of US 1953) negotiations which led to the formation of international association that replaced AIOC with the nation’s own oil industry in 1954. Now that the US domination prevailed in Iran, the American officials along with the British bureaucrats decided to overthrow Mossadeq for harming Iran’s stability.
Therefore mainly Britain decided to pursue an operation commonly known as the Coup. However the Coup ultimately turned to operation AJAX which was organized and financed by US. According to International relations theories America in this particular situation acted quite like the classical realists. As it is obvious that the development of US interest in the whole situation is due to the fact that it was being flawed, selfish, competitive and ambitious due to its own goals, rather to solve the dispute for the betterment of Iran and Britain.
The coup which occurred in august 19th 1953, basically aimed at overthrowing the government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq to remove the dictatorship from Iran and pursue democracy. Mark J. Gasiorowski in his article, “The 1953 Coup D’etat in Iran” gives the account of the takeover. While US and the British officials were already considering overthrowing mossadeq from power, the situation in Iran was not a favourable as well. Many opponents of mossadeq had already started to take actions against him. Anti-mossadeq mobs were arranged to kill him.
Iran already was facing huge economic turmoil now had to face political unrest as well. Looking at the situation the new American government of Eisenhower also began to consider the operation and finally decided to organise and aid the coup along with Britain. Mossadeq already was facing hostility from the citizens of Iran therefore it made even easier for US to propagate masses against him. With the help of BEDAMN-a political action- uprising was arranged along with continued disputes. Government offices, buildings of pro-mossadeq newspapers were attacked.
Air force general along with the forces attacked mossadeq’s house killing around three hundred people. The very next day mossadeq surrendered to Zahedi, marking the end of the coup. This revolution undoubtedly had a long and deep affect on the US-Iran relationships. The question which arises here is that, was America’s interest in Iran’s internal affairs genuine? Well America as I discussed above is a realist approach led country which ranks its own personal interest on the top. Then being sincere towards Iran itself becomes a futile question.
Most of the studies highlight that the main aim US had out of this coup was to get significant share in the oil industry. Moreover this can be proven accurate to some extent by if we notice the fact that immediately after coming into power Zahedi government granted almost 40% of the total oil industry’s share to American oil companies (Gasiorowski, 1987). However a contradicting fact that most of the American oil producing countries were not interested in the share basically due to nimiety of oil in the world market- mainly in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait- proves that this might not be the sole or the most imperative reason.
Another perspective of the situation is the American fear of communist takeover. At the time of coup Cold war between Soviet Union and US was at its peak and of course America being governing in nature would not allow soviet’s expansion to become a threat to US dominance, power and sovereignty. Although this coup proved beneficial for Iran, as it gave birth to democracy but the fact that this triumph was not experienced solely on the basis of internal struggle. In reality Iran was made a subject of constant US intervention, thus somewhat abusing its decision making ability.
After the coup Mohammad Raza Pahlavi was reinstated as the Shah of Iran. Many authors state Pahlavi was long supported by the US government, although they were aware of the malpractices and the corruption which prevailed in his regime. The shah was forced to flee out of Iran when widespread unrest originated on the part of civilians and a new, more religious leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was granted the power. However this offense motivated the Iranian students to take revenge from the US. On November 4th 979, the Iranian students drizzled into the US embassy situated in Tehran and took almost 52 American officials as hostages on the demand that the shah who fled away should come back to Iran for trial of the crimes he committed against Iranians. The situation lasted for about 444 days as the US administration driven by Jimmy Carter was doomed by the failed attempts in 1980. However the hostages were released on the day Ronald Reagan was sworn as the new US president on January 20th 1981. This incident however changed the diplomatic, economic and political landscape between Iran and US for the years to come.
By capturing hostages Iranians proved their anger against American’s negligence over Iranians as well as the power which they could use against US to advance their welfare. Another episode of varying US-Iran relations begun in 1986,when Iran secretly asked US for help while it was at war with Iraq. Iran requested US to sell weapons, however Reagan wanted Iran to release seven of the US hostages which Iranian terrorists held. This however did not remain confidential for long, instead soon people discovered this Iran-Contra.
US emphasized that this was an arms for hostages deal as well as tried to stress upon the fact that it will improve US-Iran relations. This improvement in the relationships of the two countries was not long lived as in 1988 the tragic incident of Iran’s airplane shot down shrunken the trust between US and Iran. On the morning of July 3rd 1988, commercial flight operated by Iran Air took off for Tehran-Bandar Abbas-Dubai route however it was its bad luck that it never reached Dubai. At the same time another plane or more generally a Missile cruiser of US navy known as the US Vincennes would pass over this commercial flight.
The US Vincennes was at the Persian Gulf during the Iraq-Iran war. Vincennes saw another airplane flying towards the Persian Gulf however it thought that it identified it as a possible Iranian F-16 issuing various warnings and civil distress frequencies which of course never reaches the Iran Air. Thus after waiting for a bit the commander of Vincennes Captain Rogers ordered to fire two missiles at it. The Airbus was hit and soon it tumbled into flames killing around 290 innocent people in the flight. After the tragic incident the deterioration of the relations deepened as no severe action was taken against Captain Roger’s folly decision.
Moreover it was just named a “mistake” by Pentagon. George W. Bush, vice president of US at that time declared a bold remark in Newsweek, “I will never apologize for the United States of America, ever. I don’t care what the facts are. ” Thus this boldness highlights the rigidity that prevailed in American’s attitude. 1990’s a new decade, was begun with another policy implementation by the US. “dual containment” as it was known was a policy set up by Americans to isolate Iran and Iraq both economically and militarily mainly to achieve its own regional ambitions.
US did not want any other countries to be in power and with the increasing influence of both Iran and Iraq; it saw its own position jeopardizing. US banned all trade, financial loans and services with Iran as it thought that the regime in Iran promoted terrorism and assassinations throughout the world. The beginning of a new millennium also marked a beginning of new tensions between the countries. US alleged Iran for expanding its nuclear activities and developing missile-related technology. It was threatening to the survival of US. Thus Iran was termed as the “axis of evil” by George W.
Bush who by then was the president of US as according to them it enhanced terrorism. Ambitious in developing its nuclear base Iran continued to seek help from Russia and China despite US discontent. Throughout early 2000’s UN inspected Iran’s nuclear facilities. The reports said that there was no evidence of Iran producing atomic bomb but US considered it, “impossible to believe”. US kept on forcing Iran to suspend any of its nuclear progressions however Iran acted very firmly as proved by president Katami’s statement that its country will never give up its nuclear project and stressed its peaceful usage.
The relations kept on becoming hostile, although America provided Iran with a humanitarian aid in 2003 because of the earthquake, it emphasized that this does not mark any thaw in their relationships. Throughout 2005 Iran’s nuclear program and uranium dispute remained a problem for US. For Americans it was of immense importance that Iran withdraws it activities as US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice explained , “US faces no greater challenge than Iran’s nuclear program”( BBC NEWS).
However the new, more conservative president of Iran Ahmadinejad clearly stated that Iran has the right for peaceful progression of the nuclear project along with its announcement of successful enrichment of uranium. This prompted US to take strong steps against Iran. As for analysis purposes this can be considered that US and Iran were on a kind of cold war from the beginning of 2000. US major discontent was Iran’s nuclear program after all it was the prime threat to US continued existence. And for this reason US several times along with UN tried to impose sanctions over it. When nothing helped, President Bush accused Iran with Al-Qaeda.
Thus stating that extremism prevailing in Iran could lead to adverse effects if nuclear program is continued. This brought huge military confrontation from Iran. Tensions prevailed as both countries accused one another either for spying or encouraging terrorism. To date the most destructive problem which prevails between the two countries is the Iran’s nuclear program. Several discussions have been held between the new presidents that is Barrack Obama and Ahmadinejad but no intelligent conclusion has been reached. This can be concluded that US interests had been objective in terms of truly helping Iran.
US initially got interested in Iran due to the fact that it did not want Soviet Union to get advantage over the Iranian Oil industries. It wanted to achieve its own regional advantages over the most fertile country in the Middle East. However when Iran began to retaliate against US it posed great threat to their survival. The most significant example of this is the current tensions because of nuclear progression in Iran. Thus it can be concluded that US who undoubtedly follow the realists’ paradigm proved to be quite selfish when it came to their sovereignty.
They made use of the dominance principal on several occasions as it did not want any other country to become a greater power. Iran on the other hand acted differently. It was basically on the leaders of Iran which determined its behavior towards America. Those who were pro American acted exactly as America wanted them too for example Zahedi, Pahlavi. Others contradicted its policies and behaviour. They acted the way they thought was better for Iran, moreover stood strong in front of America for their rights such as Khomeini, Ahmadinejad.
Thus the relations varied and contoured during different phases of US-Iran history. References about. com. (n. d. ). The Iran-Contra Affair. Retrieved from http://usforeignpolicy. about. com: http://usforeignpolicy. about. com/gi/o. htm? zi=1/XJ&zTi=1&sdn=usforeignpolicy&cdn=newsissues&tm=7117&f=11&tt=2&bt=1&bts=1&zu=http%3A//www. pbs. org/wgbh/amex/reagan/peopleevents/pande08. html Anthony Cordesman, S. F. (n. d. ). DUAL CONTAINMENT: SLOGAN OR POLICY? Bernard Gwertzman, C. E. (2012, March 6). Crisis-Managing
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