The origins of the US / Iran conflict

The origins of the US / Iran conflict

Questions have been raised as to why Mohammad Javad Zarif, the foreign minister of Islamic Republic of Iran, claimed that the formation of the “Iran Action Group” is an action aimed at the overthrow the Iranian Government, promising to defeat any such attempt in turn.

Others question why Iranians don’t accept president Trump’s proposal for new negotiations between Iran and the US. Some are beginning to look for the origins of these debates, wondering how the potential outcomes became so manichean.

Before World War II, Iranians and Americans had no significant rivalry. Due to the long distance between the two countries, contact between Iranian and American officials was very low in general.

At this point, Iran was mainly under the influence of the USSR from the North and Britain from the West.

The UK at that time played a large role in Iranian politics and economics.

Most Iranian resources, especially the oil in the South, were under the control of the British: even the Iranian king could hardly be called sovereign.

Many Iranian intellectuals and political leaders have shown a tendency to imitate western styles of life: even Reza Shah (the father of Mohammad Reza Shah, the last king of Iran) thought he would be wise to follow the example of the Ataturk in Turkey, or even establish an Iranian Republic as Napoleon Bonaparte had in France… others were influenced by Socialist and Marxist Ideologies.

After the end of World War II, more than one third of Iranians died of starvation as a result of the British monopoly over Iranian crops which lead to mass famine in the country. Reza Shah was then forced out of power by an Anglo-Soviet invasion. The coup d’état was planned by the British in order to replace him with his weak son who was loyal to them (1941).

As opposed to his father, the new king, Mohammad Reza, had no power on the ground and knew almost nothing about the Iranian people’s wants or needs, being as he had spent most of his life in Europe.

After the end of World War II, most politicians in the world believed that they needed the support of either US or USSR, and joined one side of the block or the other; Iran was no exception.

Most Iranian intellectuals were western educated and government positions were easy to achieve due to the Iranian king’s loyalty to the west. Many of these figures began to think that the country should improve its relationship with US in order to cast off British control over Iranian resources, relying on the new super power.

During the Iranian Constitutional Revolution in 1905-1911 the king (Mozaffar Ad-Din Shah) agreed to transfer his executional power to a parliament and Prime Minister (mirroring the political system in UK) and establish a decentralized government: but this arrangement was reneged during the reign of Reza Shah, and the dictatorship was put back into place.

Due to the weakness of Iranian king, some politicians felt that they could exploit the situation to force a return to the constitution, and they were counting on the United States to help them do it.

The US Ambassador to Tehran played a big role in convincing Iranian politicians, especially Mossadegh, that the US was actually ready to support them in getting their demands met.

When the secular democratic prime minister of Iran Mohammad Mosaddegh came to office in 1952 through an ostensibly democratic election, he believed that the US would support his efforts for the nationalization of the Iranian oil industry, and help return to country to constitutional democracy.

President Truman’s administration made a lot of promises to support Mossadegh’s efforts, but when President Eisenhower can into power, he reneged on the promises Truman made, taking the UK’s side in the debate.

Eisenhower then ordered the CIA to prepare a coup at the request of British intelligence service MI6. In 1953, General Fazlollah Zahedi succeeded in overthrowing the sovereign government, returning the Shah to power and destroying all efforts at establishing democracy.

The Americans crafted the coup in order to take control of Iranian resources for themselves: after the coup, Mohammad Reza Shah was forced to swear loyalty to the Americans instead of the British.

From then on the Iranian people found themselves with a new enemy.

By 1979, the majority of groups that participated in the Revolution against the Shah had a common enemy in US imperialist Ideology. At that time, socialists, social-Islamists and Leftists were the strongest groups fighting against the Shah and managed together to overthrow the U.S. backed dictatorship and take power.

One of the reasons the young revolutionaries attacked the US Embassy in Tehran was the spread of rumors that Americans were planning a new coup to bring back the Shah, or put his son into power. Due to America’s horrible reputation in the country, it was easy for people to believe such rumors.

It has been over 40 years after the Islamic Revolution, and since its victory the American government has never stopped trying to weaken and overthrow the Islamic Government in Iran. At times they expressed this goal overtly, while at others they acted clandestinely– but their end game of regime change has been absolutely consistent.

Though many American officials claim the US and its allies are not attempting to overthrow or attack the Iranian government, their actions indicate otherwise.

US officials claim that the reason they have implemented sanctions against Iran is to force this country to change its behavior in the region, as well as to push the Iranian people to make a move against their government… Is this not an effort at regime change in itself?

France hosts a yearly summit of Iran’s opposition group, Mujahidin Khalgh Organization (MKO) in Paris, issuing visas for for members who are often not even Iranian citizens so they can participate in the summit. At the summit, participants chant slogans against the Iranian government and plot its overthrow: this year, the summit will occur at the exact same time the Iranian foreign minister is in Paris to discuss saving the JCPOA.

The UK & US host and sponsor dozens of satellite broadcasted Media sources which push anti-Iranian propaganda. The US & their allies sponsor opposition meetings and propaganda summits against Iran all over the world.

Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State of US, participates in a US sponsored meeting for Iranian opposition, and promises that US will support their efforts for regime change.

Despite all of these obvious indications, the Americans still somehow claim that they don’t intend to force regime change in Iran.

Iran considers its defensive power, especially its ballistic missiles and regional allies, a guarantee of their national security against military attack. The US uses these defense measures as a pretense for justifying their own actions against the country, creating a vicious circle.

Perhaps if the US would had actually implemented the commitments they made in the JCPOA, those in favor of diplomacy with Iran would have had a chance to come to the negotiating table… however, given current situation and current steps US and its allies are taking, even those in favor of talks, like Mr. Zarif, should realize further discussions are useless. The United States goal is regime change, seemingly nothing the government of Iran does can alter this trajectory.

Being as the United States has a long and protracted record of overthrowing governments around the world, it should not be surprising that Iranians are unwilling to trust Washington.

There is no reason for us to expect or demand that Iranian leadership alter their opinions regarding the United States, given the history of their relationship. It is instead the United States which needs to alter its path and regime-change goals if it wants to facilitate sincere dialogue with Iran.


Emad Abshenass
Journalist, writer and Political Science professor (Iran)

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July 2021