Revisiting U.S.-Iran Relations

Article excerpt

All the speakers at the Dec. 17 conference on "Revisiting US-Iran Relations" sponsored by the American-Iranian Council in New York agreed on one thing: the United States and Iran are not presently on good terms. As Sen. Arlen Specter said, "There is a good bit of baggage in the background of the relationship."

Former Ambassador Thomas Pickering, now a senior vice president for international relations at Boeing, identified some of that baggage. Iran's grievances toward the U.S. include CIA involvement in the 1953 overthrow of Iran's democratically elected government; U.S. active support for Iraq in the first Gulf war; the 1988 shooting down of an Iranian civilian airliner by the USS Vincennes that killed more than 300 people; failure to appreciate Iran's neutrality during the second Gulf war; U.S. opposition to an oil line through Iran for Caspian oil; and Washington's allocation of funds for the overthrow of the current government in Tehran.

U.S. resentments are the 1980 hostage crisis; Iranian support for Hezbollah in Lebanon, including the suicide bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks; suspected involvement in the bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia; flag-burning and anti-U.S. slogans by crowds of demonstrators; covert efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction; human rights violations against ethnic minorities, women, and critics of the regime; and opposition to the Oslo peace process, along with support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Conference participants differed, however, on approaches for improving the relationship. Hadi Nejad Hoseinian, Iran's ambassador to the U.N., called the U.S. labeling of Iran as a supporter of terrorism unjust. Iran has its own security problems emanating from Israel, Iraq, and Afghanistan, he pointed out. Because terrorism is a global menace, the ambassador said, the U.N. should have a central role in developing a strategy to deal with it. Nations have the human responsibility, he argued, to rise above self-interest and address the roots of terrorism: poverty, injustices, double standards, and the uneven distribution of the benefits and costs of globalization. …

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