Essay on the future of Iran and US relations.

halfling By halfling, 13th Sep 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
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This essay is a brief review of the past and present of Iran and US relations, as well as my speculation on what the future may hold for these two countries and their relationship with each other.

Essay on the future of Iran and US relations.

The relationship between Iran and the United States is a long and complicated one. There are many issues and much history that needs to be understood to truly grasp the reality of the current situation and be able to make a fair assessment of what the future may have in store for their relationship. To truly analyze the many aspects of this interesting relationship I will briefly investigate the past, present and potential future of this dynamic political relationship.

Since we can not truly know where we are until we know where we have been, any investigation into the complex relationship between Iran and the Unites States must begin in the past. The history of Iran, or rather Persia, extends far into history and thus in the limited scope of this paper we will not go into antiquity as the United States can not compare in length of history. Though to truly understand the dynamics between these two countries we must first look at the relationship between Britain and Iran. Throughout the history of Persia and then Iran we see a reoccurring event in the occupation or political interference from outside powers. For much of history these influences were largely from the USSR and Britain. Such a dynamic led to a strained relationship with both countries, though the disbanding of the USSR did much to change the nature of Iran’s relations to the North of its borders. Iran had managed its borders and population in a manner far differently then the west had, and this difference was more than evident when it came to making treaties with Britain. Iran’s early dealing with the USSR and Britain led to the “notion – which became even more prevalent in the next century – that foreign hands pulled all the strings in Iran, that foreign conspiracies determined the course of events, and that behind every national crisis lay the foreign powers” (Abrahamian 36-7). Eventually this led to difficulties between the countries that in time carried over to the United States, as its political maneuverings were certainly no better then those of Britain had been to date. After World War II Britain was ready to try again with Iran, “When Sir Denis Wright was sent to reestablish relations in 1954, he remarked that Iran and Britain were like estranged lovers for which reconciliation had to be carefully navigated. In the case of Iran and the United States, emotions ran deeper and were more complex. This was not an estrangement but a particularly bitter divorce” (Ansari 91). This is such as apt description of the chasm that has come to be between the two countries.

Of all the tension and political missteps that have taken place the two most prominent in recent history would have to be the coup in Iran, led by the United States, in 1953 and the hostage crisis in Iran in 1979-81. These two events weigh heavy, even today, with the general population and thus influence political maneuvering. After the coup and the return of Mohammad Reza Shah and his heavy handed politics the people of Iran were thrust into a government far different then the democratically elected one that the United States overthrew. This period of time also represented a huge change to the people of Iran, as they were thrust into the modern world rather abruptly which also helped to shape their opinions; “Perhaps the Iranians could have coped better if the engine of modernization chosen by Muhammad Reza Shah had not been the American superpower. Feeling themselves held under the foot of a giant, opponents of the shah became suspicious of everything attached to the United States” (Mackey 253). It is not hard to see where the tight rein of the government under Reza Shah sent the people looking for refuge, “The only place dissidents could find shelter was in mosques, which gave the developing opposition movement a religious tinge that would later push Iran toward fundamentalist rule” (Kinzer). While the United States was working to protect its interest in the oil in Iran with the coup that the CIA instigated, it would seem there was some lack of long term planning around the political implications such international government meddling could cause. Years later in history is the other major influencing factor in the current relationship between the United States and Iran, the hostage crisis of 1979-81. While the coup of 1953 did much to turn the general Iran public away from the United States, the hostage crisis of 1979 worked to turn the US population against Iran. For much of the Iranian population the hostage taking allowed the score to be settled for the US led coup of 1953, however in the United States this was viewed as a new blow to their relationship and worked to shape the current view of Iran. As Ansari explains about the hostage crisis from the Iranian perspective “It was justified by decades of oppression and underpinned by the mythology of 1953, and it served a particular political function. The emotive content that may have motivated the action was soon dissipated, and many Iranians simply could not relate to the profound anger the hostage crisis had caused in the United States” (Ansari 94). Here it was Iran’s turn to be surprised by the affect their actions would have upon their relationship with the Western world and in particular the United States. This perception was further influenced by the amount of international mass media coverage of the events; this allowed far more people to be influenced by the hostage crisis as compared to the coup of 1953 that lacked the international press coverage.

Moving forward to current time we can see that the actions of the past have truly worked into the present level of mistrust and misunderstanding that exists between these two countries. While history has certainly worked to shape the current situation, there are also inherent differences between them that only add to the problem. In particular the manner of communication is a major difference; “The United States largely assumes egalitarian communication structures within communities, and hierarchical structures between two communities. The Iranian model was precisely the opposite. They assume hierarchical structures within their own community and egalitarian structures between the two communities” (Beeman 43). Such a difference has worked against the two countries and any attempts they have made in communication with each other. Due to the history between these countries they are no longer on direct speaking terms with each other and rather lie on information to be disseminated through third parties and mass media coverage. Mackey explains the way in which the US interacts with the Persian Gulf countries; “Rather than viewing the Gulf as a region, the United States concentrates on caging Iraq in a punishing embargo and maintaining politically uncertain Saudi Arabia as the anchor of the Gulf’s defense. Meanwhile, two hundred miles across the Persian Gulf from Dhahran, the major U.S. weapons depot in Saudi Arabia, the Islamic Republic of Iran lives as the pariah of American policy, isolated by anger, fear and perception” (Mackey 382). In return Iran has long worked to paint the United States as “The Great Satan” using this imagery to persist a view in the population of the United States government as an enemy to the Iranian people.

The differences between the current regime in Iran and the United States in terms of the base political structure are so different so as to make a large chasm to cross to reach each other. Also the political unrest in Iran has influenced their position in the world wide economic structure; “Internal political conditions in Iran seem so unstable to the outside world that no reasonable business concern wants to commit itself to long-term arrangements” (Beeman 81). Over time there has grown a certain sense of self in Iran that makes it hard to cross the barrier over to the Western World which they have learned not to trust. As Kinzer explains “This chasm of perception reflects the enormous gap in the way Americans and Iranians viewed—and continue to view—one another. It will be hard for them to reconcile their differences unless they begin seeing the world through each other's eyes” (Kinzer). This chasm only seems to continue to grow with the current political unrest due to the recent elections in Iran and the United States persistence in wanting to block Nuclear Technology in Iran.

Another current consideration that will affect the future relations between these two countries is the current Green Movement and political unrest in Iran due to the recent elections. There is some discussion in the United States as to what, if anything, the government reaction should be. While some feel that this is the time for the US to step in and institute a regime change in Iran, I can not see how this would be of an advantage to the United States considering how well that worked the last time. Also there is the idea in the US that the government and people of Iran view the world the same way as they do, which we have discussed is not the case. As Beeman explains; “The bottom line is that although governmental change in Iran will inevitably result in the removal of Khamene’i from power, the opposite is not true. Directly removing Khamene’i from power will not bring about Iranian regime change; indeed, it will strengthen the religious hard-liners” (Beeman 195). We can see how with the difference in Iran’s views on government it would not benefit us, as directly as it may seem to the Western view, to instigate a regime change in Iran. Clearly there is much at stake while this situation is navigated, especially if there is to be any hope to a future reconciliation between the two countries.

The other critical issue between the countries is the nuclear program in Iran, for years the United States has been against this program. They fear that should Iran develop nuclear weapons it will change the political dynamics of the gulf region and move the power towards the one country that they do not have open relations with. As Beeman explains, the true problem that the United States has with nuclear technology in Iran is the fear that should Iran develop Nuclear weapons at some point, which goes against the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Iran has signed, it might infringe on the United States nuclear superiority (Beeman 156). While there is certainly some justification for concern over the development of Nuclear weapons in any country, there has yet to be any confirmation that Iran is working on this technology outside of the realm of generating power. We must also remember that it was the United States itself that provided Iran with the initial information on this technology. To the Iranians this is likely to be viewed as another example of the Western politics that it has come to distrust.

Now that we have discussed the past which led to the present state of mistrust and animosity between the United States and Iran we can consider what the future may hold. It is apparent that the process of undoing the long and twisted history between these countries will take years and more likely decades to be accomplished, if it can be accomplished at all. While the ideal solution would involve the opening of political channels without the need for violence or coups this may not be possible. As Ansari explains the “depth of mistrust that characterized Iran-U.S. relations, and the pervasive sense that open conflict, however undesirable, was probably inevitable” (Ansari 246), is very much a strong opinion by many people. There are those that see a way to end the political stalemate without violence, but to do so would involve one country being willing to step away from the current practices and perceptions to try something new. To me this seems unlikely as each country has such a strong sense of self, and such a feeling of justification in their actions and opinions about the other that it will be most difficult for either country to swallow its pride enough to admit their mistakes. To that end the only hope I see for a positive resolution is merely time, as the older generations move and the younger generations that have not lived through the coup and the hostage crisis come of age there may come with them a sense of hope for the future relationship between these countries that moves past the mythology and posturing of the past. Beeman summarizes the roadblock that must be overcome; “For the United States, the goal of accommodation is for Iran to recognize American superiority. For Iran, the goal of resistance is to force the United States to recognize Iran’s right to be treated as an equal member of the international community” (Beeman 190). Of course the actual future is an unknown and all we can do is guess, one thing is for sure, it is likely to be as complicated going forward as it has been to date.

When analyzing the relationship between Iran and the United States we must look at the whole picture of past and present issues to truly understand where they are in regards to each other as well as where their interactions are likely to lead. As we have seen Iran has a troubled past filled with political turmoil with the West which has only served to drive the wedge between these powers even deeper. The more recent past of the US led coup and the Iran hostage crisis only served to separate the countries and their populations even further apart, leaving us with images of “The Great Satan” and the “Mad Mullahs”. We can only hope that these two countries can finally find a way to bridge the gap of politics, culture, and religion to find some common ground upon which they can stand. Ideally they will be able to do so without the need for violence. Truly Iran and the United States have a complicated, intriguing relationship that is neither easy to navigate or understand, but one that must be overcome if they are to improve relations.

Abrahamian, Ervand. A History of Modern Iran. United States: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Print.


Ansari, Ali M., Confronting Iran New York, Basic Books, 2006, Print

Beeman, William O., The “Great Stan” vs. the “Mad Mullahs” Chicago and London, The University of Chicago Press, 2008 Print

Kinzer, Stephen “Inside Iran’s Fury” http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/iran-fury.html#ixzz0hwAXO3q, October 2008, Smithsonian Magazine Online

Mackey, Sandra The Iranians United States, Plume Book, 1998, Print

Tags

Future, International Relations, Iran, Politics, United State

Meet the author

author avatar halfling
I am a busy mother of two school aged children. I have a great husband and work full time. I am an Excel and Internet addict, I also play RPGs, sew costuming and work in my yard.

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author avatar James R. Coffey
13th Sep 2010 (#)

Quite informative.

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author avatar halfling
13th Sep 2010 (#)

Thank you James.

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author avatar James R. Coffey
13th Sep 2010 (#)

I hope you don't mind, but I seeded a link on Newsvine with this article. I think it deserves broader attention.

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author avatar halfling
13th Sep 2010 (#)

I don't mind at all James, thank you.

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