US and Iran Relations

USand Iran Relations

Iranis one of the most populated Islamic nations in the Middle Easthaving over seventy million people. Also, Iran has many naturalresources particularly hydrocarbon deposits it is ranks the secondin deposits of oil reserves and natural gas behind Saudi Arabia andRussia in that order. It is also strategically located between theCentral Asia and Middle East. These three factors make Iran aregional power which is impossible to neglect. On the other hand, theUnited States is the world’s most powerful nation with globalstrategic and economic interest. The history of the relations betweenthe Iran and United States is a series of conflicts with thepotential of turning into serious conflicts with global effects(Robin, 2). This paper looks at the intriguing relations between theUnited States and Iran over the years.

Inthe 19thcentury, the colonial interests of the British and the Russians werea major threat to the independence of Iran. The United States wastherefore considered a friendly ally among the western powers.Although Iran was invaded by the American allies, Russia and Britishduring the Second World War, the relationship between the twocountries remain cordial. However, political activities in Iranbelieved to have been sponsored by the United States changed thisrelationship. In the year 1953, the US played a major role inplanning a coup which removed from power premier Mohammed Mossadeqwho had been elected democratically, and help Shah Mohammad RezaPahlavi get into power. Mossadeq wanted the oil industrynationalized, and this would allow only the Iranian’s and not theGreat Britain to benefit from the profits realized from their naturalresources. On the other hand, Shah sought to endorse a privatizedsystem. Consequently, the United States was urged by the British toassist in the planning of coup which would install Shah in power toprotect their interests. President Eisenhower of US agreed to theidea of plotting a coup and thus instructed the Central IntelligenceAgency (CIA) to get on operation Ajax which destabilized Mossadeq’sgovernment through placing of reports which were false in newspapers,giving bribes to influential people and encouraging street violence.This plan worked and Mossadeq was removed from power in August 1953.The United States benefited greatly from this change in Iran’spolitical governance by acquiring the control of the Iranian oil andthe production shares which initially belonged to the British wasredistributed to the United States companies. Iranians did not getany profit from its oil neither did it benefit in any way from thechange in governance (Donette, 3).

The1953 coup was followed by more than twenty years of Shah Dictatorshipin Iran because he depended mainly on US arms, economic and militaryassistance. As they grew tired of corruption and oppression, theIranian people believed strongly that that problem that they werefacing was caused by the US. Consequently, they turned to AyatollahKhomeini for leadership and guidance as they opposed Shah andregarded him as illegitimate and corrupt leader. On January of theyear 1979, Shah left Iran upon being requested by the prime ministerand on February the same year, Khomeini took over the Iranleadership. The diplomatic relations between United States, theworld’s superpower and Iran, a regional power became even worsewhen the Iranian students took over the United States Embassy inNovember of the year 1979 in Tehran and held hostage the Americandiplomats who were in the embassy. This was the main these of thefilm Agro (2012), produced and directed by Ben Affleck. This was aresponse to the coup plotted by the US in 1953. Following theseincidences, especially the storming of the American embassy, therelations between the two countries has been characterized byhostility and distrust. This confrontation which has lasted for halfa century is aggravated by three major accusations against the Iranby the United States which include hindering the process of makingpeace between Arab and Israel, promoting nuclear proliferation andsponsoring terrorism. Another charge that has been added lately isthe role that is being played by the Tehran’s weakening Iraq(Donette, 38).

TheUnited States reacted to the invasion of its embassy resulted intoboth diplomatic and economic pressures. It stopped trading andimporting oil from Iran, and all the assets belonging to Iranian inUS banks were frozen excepts the humanitarian goods. The diplomaticand economic pressures however did not make the Iranians to releasethe Americans who were being held hostage back in Iran. United Statesdecided to take military action which failed resulting to deaths ofeight United States citizens. Four hundred and forty four days afterthe American diplomats were held hostage in Iran, they were releasedand taken back to US. This was a day after Reagan took oath of officefor presidency. During the reign of Reagan, there was no improvementin the relations between US and Iran. Terrorist attacks that wereanti-American were conducted by Hezbollah in 1983 (Donette, 38). Inthe year 2003, the supreme court of US ruled that these attacks weresponsored by Iran. Hostility between the US and Iran increased aftera commercial flight belonging to Iran was shot by the USS Vincennesin the year 1988 where 290 Iranian citizens died. Although Iran wascompensated with US 61.8 million dollars, the lost airplane was notpaid and US did not offer Iran an official apology. In 1997 theelection of Mohammad Khatami, a reformist who had expressed his wishduring election campaigns and post-election period to improve theUS-Iran relations brought some level of optimism for the two nations(Donette, 38).

Inthe post 9/11 attack and the resultant global war on internationalterrorism, the relationship between the United States and Iran hasworsened. The United States has accused the Iranian government forsupporting and working together with terrorist groups such asal-Qaeda and Hezbollah. Official report on the September 11 attackhas linked the Iranian government to the attack by facilitating theacquisition of advanced weapons, training and travel. The Iraniannuclear program has been one of the most important issues that haveshaped its relations with the western powers, led by the UnitedStates. While Iran is determined to retain is nuclear program, theUnited States and other western powers have argued strongly against a‘nuclear armed Iran’. Despite the fact that the United States hasbeen pushing for economic sanctions and military action against theIranian nuclear program, it has initiated humanitarian activities bysupporting NGOs in Iran through the Iran Freedom and Support Act of2006. On the other hand, the Iranian government has stronglycondemned the consulate general raid by the United States armedforces in 2007 (Robin,77).


Donette,Murray. USForeign Policy and Iran: American-Iranian Relations since the IslamicRevolution,New York, NY. Routledge, (2009).

Robin,B Wright.The Iran primer: power, politics, and U.S. policy, Washington, D.C. : United States Institute of Peace, (2012)