The Iranian-U.S. Relationship

Article excerpt

The Iranian-U.S. Relationship

Dr. Ebrahim Yazdi, foreign minister of the provisional government of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979 and current advocate of the freedom movement, lectured Dec. 11 at the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC to shed light on the inevitable shift in U.S.-Iranian relations in the aftermath of Sept. 11.

Until 1979, he noted, Iran was an important ally of the U.S. The two nations had a stake in the oil industry, sought to prevent Soviet communist expansion, and were bound by common national interests. With the overthrow of Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, and subsequent capture of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, when Iranian students held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days, U.S.-Iranian relations rapidly deteriorated, Dr. Yazdi said. Iran, once an ally, became an enemy of the U.S..

Today, he said, the American media continue to portray Iran as an enemy. The country appears on the U.S. list of states sponsoring terrorism, is considered a producer of weapons of mass destruction, and is critical of Israel and sympathetic to the Palestinians. The events of Sept. 11, however, have altered international politics, resulting in new and unexpected allegiances, Yazdi said.

Sept. 11, he explained, marked the end of America's era of isolationism with regard to foreign policy. Noting that "the war against terrorism requires the cooperation of many nations and powers," Yazdi argued that in order to gain this cooperation, U.S. policies and attitudes must change. He pointed to two elements of U.S. foreign policy that will influence willingness of the international community, including Iran, to cooperate with the U.S.-led initiative to combat terrorism--namely, the U.S. attitude toward the Muslim world at large, and Washington's position toward the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Yazdi saw a clear American double standard on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "I don't think any government will reject taking part in an anti-terrorism coalition," he said. "But how do we define terrorism?"

On Dec. 7, 1987, he continued, the United Nations voted on a definition of terrorism (Res. 42/159). The vote, however, was not unanimous: 153 nations voted in favor of the resolution, 1 abstained, and the U.S. and Israel rejected the resolution because of one clause which condemned foreign occupation as denying the right to self-determination and creating tensions between peoples that could breed violence. …

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