Iran–United States relations

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Iranian – American relations
Map indicating locations of Iran and United States

Iran

United States
 
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Iranian – American relations
Map indicating locations of Iran and United States

Iran

United States
Area comparison between the US and Iran

There are currently no formal diplomatic relations between Iran and the United States. Due to poor relations between the two countries, instead of exchanging ambassadors Iran maintains an interests section at the Pakistani embassy in Washington, D.C.,[1] while the United States has maintained an interests section at the Swiss embassy in Tehran.[2]

Relations between the two nations began in the mid-to-late nineteenth century. Initially, while Iran was very wary of British and Russian colonial interests during the Great Game, the United States was seen as a more trustworthy Western power, and the Americans Arthur Millspaugh and Morgan Shuster were even appointed treasurers-general by the Shahs of the time. During World War II, Iran was invaded by the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union, both US allies, but relations continued to be positive after the war until the later years of the government of Mohammad Mossadeq, who was overthrown by a coup organized by MI6 and aided by the Central Intelligence Agency. This was followed by an era of close alliance between Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi's regime and the American government, which was in turn followed by a dramatic reversal and hostility between the two countries after the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

Opinions differ over what has caused the decades of poor relations. Iranian explanations include everything from the natural and unavoidable conflict between the Islamic Revolution on the one hand, and perceived American arrogance[3] and desire for global hegemony on the other.[4] Other explanations include the Iranian government's need for an external bogeyman to furnish a pretext for domestic repression against pro-democratic forces and to bind the government to its loyal constituency.[5]

Since 1995, the United States has had an embargo on trade with Iran.[6]

Contents

Early relations

The Treaty of Commerce and Navigations (signed in 1856) was the first diplomatic interaction the United States and Persia had. The treaty lasted until 1928. Because U.S. had little interest in Persian affairs but the Persians sought advisers from the United States to administer its finances in 1911. The advisers accomplished little, but the reputation of the U.S. as a trustworthy outsider did not suffer. The Persians again sought the U.S. for help in straightening out its finaces after World War I. This mission unlike the last was opposed by powerful vested interests and eventually it was withdrawn with its task uncompleted. Following this there was no special U.S. concern with Iran or any interaction until World War II.[7]

Political relations between Persia and the United States began when the Shah of Persia, Nassereddin Shah Qajar, officially dispatched Persia's first ambassador, Mirza Abolhasan Shirazi, to Washington D.C. in 1856."[8] In 1883, Samuel Benjamin was appointed by the United States as the first official diplomatic envoy to Iran, however; Ambassadorial relations were not established until 1944.[8]

The first Persian Ambassador to the United States of America was Mirza Albohassan Khan Ilchi Kabir. Americans had been traveling to Iran since the early-to-mid 1880s, even before political relations existed between the two. Justin Perkins and Asahel Grant were the first missionaries to be dispatched to Persia in 1834 via the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.

Amir Kabir, Prime Minister under Nasereddin Shah, also initiated direct contacts with the American government in Washington. By the end of the 19th century, negotiations were underway for an American company to establish a railway system from the Persian Gulf to Tehran.

Until World War II, relations between Iran and the United States remained cordial. As a result, many Iranians sympathetic to the Persian Constitutional Revolution came to view the U.S. as a "third force" in their struggle to break free of British and Russian dominance in Persian affairs. American industrial and business leaders were supportive of Persia's drive to modernize its economy and free itself from British and Russian influence.

In 1909, during the Persian Constitutional Revolution, Howard Baskerville, an American, died in Tabriz while trying to help the constitutionalists in a battle against royalist forces. After the Iranian parliament appointed American financial consultant Morgan Shuster as appointed Treasurer General of Persia in 1911, an American was killed in Tehran by henchmen thought to be affiliated with Russian or British interests. Shuster became even more active in supporting the Constitutional revolution of Persia financially.[9] When Iran's government ordered Shu'a al-Saltaneh (شعاع السلطنه), the Shah's brother who was aligned with the goals of Imperial Russia in Persia, to surrender his assets, Shuster moved to execute the seizure. Imperial Russia immediately landed troops in Bandar Anzali, demanding a recourse and apology from the Persian government. Russia's General Liakhoff shelled Iran's parliament in Tehran, and Morgan Shuster was forced to resign under British and Russian pressure. Shuster's book The Strangling of Persia is a recount of the details of these events and is critical of Britain and Imperial Russia.

The American Embassy first reported to the Iran desk at the Foreign Office in London about the popular view of Britain's involvement in the 1921 coup that brought Reza Shah to power.[10][11] A British Embassy report from 1932 admits that the British put Reza Shah "on the throne". At that time, Persia did not view the United States as an ally of Britain.

Morgan Shuster was soon followed by Arthur Millspaugh, who was appointed Treasurer General by Reza Shah, and Arthur Pope, who was a main driving force behind the Persian Empire revivalist policies of Reza Shah. The friendly relations between the United States and Iran lasted until the 1950s.

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi reign

Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi maintained close ties with the United States during most of his reign, which lasted from 1941 until he was overthrown by the Islamic Revolution in 1979. He pursued a Westernizing, modernizing economic policy, and a strongly pro-Western foreign policy; he also made a number of visits to America, where he was regarded as a friend.[citation needed]

Iran's long border with America's Cold War rival, the Soviet Union, and its position as the largest, most powerful country in the oil-rich Persian Gulf, made Iran a "pillar" of US foreign policy in the Middle East.[12] Prior to the Iranian Revolution of 1979, many Iranian students resided in the United States.

Premier Mossadeq and his overthrow

In 1953, Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq was overthrown by a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)-organized coup, in what has been called "a crucial turning point both in Iran's modern history and in U.S. Iran relations." Many Iranians argue that "the 1953 coup and the extensive U.S. support for the shah in subsequent years were largely responsible for the shah's arbitrary rule," which led to the "deeply anti-American character" of the 1979 revolution.[13]

Until the outbreak of World War II, the United States had no active policy toward Iran.[14] When the Cold War began, the United States was alarmed by the attempt by the Soviet Union to set up separatist states in Iranian Azerbaijan and Kurdistan, as well as its demand for military rights to the Dardanelles in 1946. This fear was enhanced by the "loss of China" to communism, the uncovering of Soviet spy rings, and the start of the Korean War.[15]

In 1952 and 1953, the Abadan Crisis took place when Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq began nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC). Established by the British in the early 20th century, the company shared profits (85% for Britain, and 15% for Iran), but the company withheld their financial records from the Iranian government. By 1951, Iranians supported nationalization of the AIOC, and Parliament unanimously agreed to nationalize its holding of, what was at the time, the British Empire’s largest company. The British retaliated with an embargo on Iranian oil, which was supported by international oil companies. Over the following months, negotiations over control and compensation for the oil were deadlocked, and Iran's economy deteriorated.

American President Truman pressed Britain to moderate its position in the negotiations and to not invade Iran. American policies created a feeling in Iran that the United States was on Mosaddeq's side and optimism that the oil dispute would soon be settled with "a series of innovative proposals to settle" the dispute, giving Iran "significant amounts of economic aid". Mosaddeq visited Washington, and the American government made "frequent statements expressing support for him." [16]

At the same time, the United States honored the British embargo and, without Truman's knowledge, the CIA station in Tehran had been "carrying out covert activities" against Mosaddeq and the National Front "at least since the summer of 1952".[17]

1953 Iranian coup d'état

As the Cold War intensified, oil negotiations stalled, and the Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower replaced Democratic President Harry S. Truman, the United States helped destabilize Mosaddeq on the theory that "rising internal tensions and continued deterioration ... might lead to a breakdown of government authority and open the way for at least a gradual assumption of control" by Iran's well organized Tudeh communist party.[18] In spring and summer 1953, the United States and Britain, through a covert operation of the CIA called Operation Ajax, conducted from the American Embassy in Tehran, helped organize a coup d'état to overthrow the Mossadeq government. The operation initially failed, and the Shah fled to Italy, but a second attempt succeeded, and Mosaddeq was imprisoned.

According to a study of the coup headed by Mark J. Gasiorowski and Malcolm Byrne, intended "to resolve" the "controversy" over who and what were responsible, "it was geostrategic considerations, rather than a desire to destroy Mosaddeq's movement, to establish a dictatorship in Iran or to gain control over Iran's oil, that persuaded U.S. officials to undertake the coup."[19]

Post-coup

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President Lyndon Johnson welcoming the Shah at the White House while Iranians protest, 1967

Following the coup, the United States helped build up the Shah's regime. In the first three weeks, the American government gave Iran $68 million in emergency aid, and an additional $1.2 billion over the next decade.[20]

During his reign, the Shah received significant American support, frequently making state visits to the White House and earning praise from numerous American presidents. The Shah's close ties to Washington and his Westernization policies soon angered some Iranians, especially the hardline Islamic conservatives.

In America, the coup was originally considered a triumph of covert action but is now considered by many to have left "a haunting and terrible legacy."[21] In 2000, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, called it a "setback for democratic government" in Iran.[22] Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei condemned the admission as "deceitful", complaining that it "did not even include an apology".[23]

Cultural relations

Relations in the cultural sphere remained cordial. Pahlavi University, Sharif University of Technology, and Isfahan University of Technology, three of Iran's top academic universities were all directly modeled on American institutions, such as the University of Chicago, MIT, and the University of Pennsylvania.[24][25][25] The Shah was generous in awarding American universities with financial gifts. For example, the University of Southern California received an endowed chair of petroleum engineering, and a million dollar donation was given to the George Washington University to create an Iranian Studies program.[24]

Growth of oil revenues

In the 1960s and 1970s, Iran's oil revenues grew considerably. Starting in the mid-1960s, this "weakened U.S. influence in Iranian politics" while strengthening the power of the Iranian state vis-a-vis the Iranian public. According to scholar Homa Katouzian, this put the United States "in the contradictory position of being regarded" by the Iranian public because of the 1953 coup "as the chief architect and instructor of the regime," while "its real influence" in domestic Iranian politics and policies "declined considerably".[26]

1977–1979: Carter administration

The Iranian Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi meeting with Alfred Atherton, William H. Sullivan, Cyrus Vance, President Jimmy Carter, and Zbigniew Brzezinski, 1977
Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, Shah of Iran, shakes hands with a US Air Force general officer prior to his departure from the United States

In the late 1970s, American President Jimmy Carter emphasized human rights in his foreign policy, including the Shah's regime, which by 1977 had garnered unfavorable publicity in the West for its human rights record.[27] That year, the Shah responded to Carter's "polite reminder" by granting amnesty to some prisoners and allowing the Red Cross to visit prisons. Through 1977, liberal opposition formed organizations and issued open letters denouncing the Shah's regime.[28] [29]

At the same time, Carter angered anti-Shah Iranians with a New Years Eve 1978 toast to the Shah in which he said:

Under the Shah’s brilliant leadership Iran is an island of stability in one of the most troublesome regions of the world. There is no other state figure whom I could appreciate and like more.[30]

Observers disagree over the nature of United States policy toward Iran under Carter as the Shah's regime crumbled. According to historian Nikki Keddie, the Carter administration followed "no clear policy" on Iran.[8] The American ambassador to Iran, William H. Sullivan, recalled that the U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski "repeatedly assured Pahlavi that the U.S. backed him fully". On November 4, 1978, Brzezinski called the Shah to tell him that the United States would "back him to the hilt." At the same time, high-level officials in the State Department believed the revolution was unstoppable.[31] After visiting the Shah in summer of 1978, Secretary of the Treasury W. Michael Blumenthal complained of the Shah's emotional collapse, reporting, "You've got a zombie out there."[32] Brzezinski and Energy Secretary James Schlesinger were adamant in their assurances that the Shah would receive military support.

Another scholar, sociologist Charles Kurzman, argues that, rather than being indecisive or sympathetic to the revolution, the Carter administration was consistently supportive of the Shah and urged the Iranian military to stage a "last-resort coup d'etat" even after the regime's cause was hopeless.[33]

[34]

The 1979 revolution

The 1979 Iranian Revolution, which ousted the pro-American Shah and replaced him with the anti-American Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, surprised the United States government, its State Department and intelligence services, which "consistently underestimated the magnitude and long-term implications of this unrest".[35] Six months before the revolution culminated, the CIA had produced a report, stating that "Persia is not in a revolutionary or even a "prerevolutionary" situation"[36]

Khomeini, who called America the "Great Satan",[37] instantly got rid of the Shah’s prime minister and replaced him with a moderate politician called Mehdi Bazargan. Until this point, the Carter Administration was still hoping to renormalize its relationship with Iran, sending its National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, whilst not recognizing the new regime. Unfortunately, this idea was unconceivable towards the ordinary Iranians, resulting in massive anti-American and anti-Bazargan demonstrations and forcing him to resign.

The Islamic revolutionaries wished to extradite and execute the ousted Shah, and Carter refused to give him any further support or help return him to power. The Shah, suffering from cancer, requested entry into the United States for treatment. The American embassy in Tehran opposed the request, as they were intent on stabilizing relations between the new interim revolutionary government of Iran and the United States.[29] However, President Carter agreed to let the Shah in, after pressure from Kissinger, Rockefeller and other pro-Shah political figures. Iranians’ suspicion that the Shah was actually trying to conspire against the Iranian Revolution grew; thus, this incident was often used by the Iranian revolutionaries to justify their claims that the former monarch was an American puppet, and this led to the storming of the American embassy by radical students allied with the Khomeini faction.[29]

The 1979 Iran hostage crisis

On November 4, 1979, the revolutionary group Muslim Student Followers of the Imam's Line, angered that the recently deposed Shah had been allowed into the United States, occupied the American embassy in Tehran and took American diplomats hostage. The 52 American diplomats were held hostage for 444 days. In Iran, the incident was seen by many as a blow against American influence in Iran and the liberal-moderate interim government of Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan, who opposed the hostage taking and resigned soon after. The hostage takers felt that their action was connected to the 1953 American-backed coup against the government of Prime Minister Mosaddeq. "You have no right to complain, because you took our whole country hostage in 1953", said one of the hostage takers to Bruce Laingen, chief U.S. diplomat in Iran at the time.[38] Some Iranians were concerned that the United States may have been plotting another coup against their country in 1979 from the American embassy.[38] In the United States, the hostage-taking was seen as a violation of a centuries-old principle of international law that granted diplomats immunity from arrest and diplomatic compounds sovereignty in the territory of the host country they occupy.[39]

Vice President George H. W. Bush and other VIPs wait to welcome the former hostages to Iran home

The United States military attempted a rescue operation, Operation Eagle Claw, on April 24, 1980, which resulted in an aborted mission and the deaths of eight American military men. The crisis ended with the signing of the Algiers Accords in Algeria on January 19, 1981. On January 20, 1981, the date the treaty was signed, the hostages were released. The Iran-United States Claims Tribunal (located in The Hague, Netherlands) was established for the purpose of handling claims of American nationals against Iran and of Iranian nationals against the United States. American contact with Iran through The Hague covers only legal matters. The crisis led to lasting economic and diplomatic damage. On April 7, 1980, the United States broke diplomatic relations with Iran, a break which has yet to be restored. On April 24, 1981, the Swiss Government assumed representation of American interests in Tehran via an interests section. Iranian interests in the United States are represented by the Iranian Interests Section of the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Economic consequences of the Iran hostage crisis

Families wait for the former hostages to disembark the plane.

Before the Revolution, the United States was Iran's foremost economic and military partner. This facilitated the modernization of Iran's infrastructure and industry, with as many as 30,000 American expatriates residing in the country in a technical, consulting, or teaching capacity. Some analysts argue that the transformation may have been too rapid, fueling unrest and discontent among an important part of the population in the country and leading to the Revolution in 1979.

After the 1979 seizure of the American Embassy in Tehran, the United States froze about $12 billion in Iranian assets, including bank deposits, gold and other properties. According to American officials, most of those were released in 1981 as part of the deal to release the hostages. Some assets—Iranian officials say $10 billion, U.S. officials say much less—remain frozen, pending resolution of legal claims arising from the Revolution.

Commercial relations between Iran and the United States are restricted by American sanctions and consist mainly of Iranian purchases of food, spare parts, and medical products as well as American purchases of carpets and food. Sanctions originally imposed in 1995 by President Bill Clinton were renewed by President Bush, who cited the "unusual and extraordinary threat" to American national security posed by Iran. The 1995 executive orders prohibit American companies and their foreign subsidiaries from conducting business with Iran, while banning any "contract for the financing of the development of petroleum resources located in Iran". In addition, the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act of 1996 (ILSA) imposed mandatory and discretionary sanctions on non-American companies investing more than $20 million annually in the Iranian oil and natural gas sectors.

The ILSA was renewed for five more years in 2001. Congressional bills signed in 2006 extended and added provisions to the act; on September 30, 2006, the act was renamed the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA), as it no longer applied to Libya, and extended until December 31, 2011.

1980s: Reagan administration

Iran–Iraq War

American intelligence and logistical support played a crucial role in arming Iraq in the Iraq-Iran war, although Bob Woodward states that the United States gave information to both sides, hoping "to engineer a stalemate".[40] In search for a new set or order in this region, the US government adopted a policy designed to contain both Iran and Iraq economically and militarily in favor of the US’s national interest.[41] Although President Carter declared “strict neutrality in the conflict,” the US government was helping Iraq diplomatically and economically.[citation needed] During the second half of the Iran-Iraq war, the Reagan Administration pursued several sanction bills against Iran; on the other hand, it established full diplomatic relations with Saddam Hussein’s government by removing it from the U.S. list of State Sponsors of Terrorism in 1984.[41] According to the American Senate Banking Committee, the administrations of Presidents Reagan and George H. W. Bush authorized the sale to Iraq of numerous dual use items, including poisonous chemicals and deadly biological viruses, such as anthrax and bubonic plague.[42] The Iran-Iraq War ended with both agreeing to a ceasefire in 1988. In 2000, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright expressed regret for that support.[43]

1983: Hezbollah bombings

The United States contends that Hezbollah has been involved in several anti-American terrorist attacks, including the April 1983 United States Embassy bombing which killed 17 Americans, the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing which killed 241 U.S. peace keepers in Lebanon, and the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing. An American district court judge ruled in 2003 that the April 1983 United States Embassy bombing was carried out with Iranian support.[44]

United States District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth declared that the Islamic Republic of Iran was responsible for the 1983 attack in a 2003 case brought by the victims' families. Lamberth concluded that Hezbollah was formed under the auspices of the Iranian government, was completely reliant on Iran in 1983, and assisted Iranian Ministry of Information and Security agents in carrying out the operation.[45] An American federal court has also found that the Khobar Towers bombing was authorized by Ali Khomeini, then ayatollah of Iran.[46]

Iran-Contra Affair

In 1986, members of the Reagan administration helped sell weapons to Iran, using the profits to fund anti-communist Contras militants in Nicaragua.[47][48] Documents relating to the affair were destroyed or withheld from investigators by Reagan administration officials.[49][50] In November 1986, President Ronald Reagan issued a televised statement that the arms sales did not occur.[51] One week later, Reagan confirmed that weapons had been transferred to Iran. He denied that they were part of an exchange for hostages.[47]

United States attack of 1988

In 1988, the United States launched Operation Praying Mantis against Iran, claiming that it was retaliation for the Iranian mining of areas of the Persian Gulf as part of the Iran-Iraq war. The American attack was the largest American naval combat operation since World War II.[52] American action began with coordinated strikes by two surface groups that neutralized the Sassan oil platform and the Sirri oil platform of Iran. Iran lost one major warship and a smaller gunboat. Damage to the oil platforms was eventually repaired.[53] Iran sued for reparations at the International Court of Justice, stating that the United States breached the 1955 Treaty of Amity. The court dismissed the claim but noted that "the actions of the United States of America against Iranian oil platforms on October 19, 1987 (Operation Nimble Archer) and April 18, 1988 (Operation Praying Mantis) cannot be justified as measures necessary to protect the essential security interests of the United States of America."[54] The American attack helped pressure Iran to agree to a ceasefire with Iraq later that summer.[55]

1988: Iran Air Flight 655

On July 3, 1988, near the end of the Iran–Iraq War, the U.S. Navy guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes shot down Iranian Airbus A300B2, which was on a scheduled commercial flight in Iranian airspace over the Strait of Hormuz. The attack killed 290 civilians from six nations, including 66 children. USS Vincennes was in the Persian Gulf as part of Operation Earnest Will. The United States initially contended that flight 655 was a warplane and then said that it was outside the civilian air corridor and did not respond to radio calls. Both statements were untrue, and the radio calls were made on military frequencies to which the airliner did not have access.[56] According to the Iranian government, the attack was an intentional and unlawful act. Iran refused to accept the idea of mistaken identification, arguing that this constituted gross negligence and recklessness amounting to an international crime, because the aircraft was not on a trajectory that threatened the Vincennes and had not aimed radar at it.[57] The United States has expressed regret for the loss of innocent life but has not apologized to the Iranian government.[58]

1990s: Clinton administration

In April 1995, a total embargo on dealings with Iran by American companies was imposed by Bill Clinton. This ended trade, which had been growing following the end of the Iran–Iraq War.[59] The next year, the American Congress passed the Iran-Libya Sanctions act, designed to prevent other countries from making large investments in Iranian energy. The act was denounced by the European Union as invalid,[citation needed] but it blocked some investment for Iran.

Khatami and Iranian reformers

In January 1998, newly elected Iranian President Mohammad Khatami called for a "dialogue of civilizations" with the United States in a CNN interview. In the interview, Khatami invoked Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America to explain the similarities between American and Iranian quests for freedom. American Secretary of State Madeleine Albright responded positively, and the countries exchanged of wrestling teams. This also brought freer travel between the countries as well as an end to the American embargo of Iranian carpets and pistachios. Relations then stalled due to opposition from Iranian conservatives and American preconditions for discussions, including changes in Iranian policy on Israel, nuclear energy, and support for terrorism.[60]

Inter-Parliamentary (Congress-to-Majlis) informal talks

On August 31, 2000, four United States Congress members, Senator Arlen Specter, Representative Bob Ney, Representative Gary Ackerman, and Representative Eliot L. Engel held informal talks in New York City with several Iranian leaders. The Iranians included Mehdi Karroubi, speaker of the Majlis of Iran (Iranian Parliament); Maurice Motamed, a Jewish member of the Majlis; and three other Iranian parliamentarians.[61]

2001–2004

Concerns of Iranian and American governments

Anti US mural, Tehran

In 2003, Jahangir Amuzegar, Finance Minister and Economic Ambassador in Iran's pre-1979 government, identified several obstacles to "resumption of relations" between the two countries from the American perspective:[62]

He noted that "in recent years, the last two issues seem to have lost some of their potency and are now only infrequently raised. On the other hand, a new accusation of Iran's harboring of al Qaeda operatives has recently been added to the list".

Iran's original post-revolutionary list of demands required the United States to :

Amuzegar noted subsequent demands by Iran:[citation needed]

Bush administration, first term

9/11

The U.S. indictment of bin Laden filed in 1998 stated that al-Qaeda "forged alliances . . . with the government of Iran and its associated terrorist group Hezbollah for the purpose of working together against their perceived common enemies."[67] On May 31, 2001, Steven Emerson and Daniel Pipes wrote in The Wall Street Journal that "Officials of the Iranian government helped arrange advanced weapons and explosives training for Al-Qaeda personnel in Lebanon where they learned, for example, how to destroy large buildings."[68] The 9/11 Commission Report stated that 8 to 10 of the hijackers on 9/11 passed through Iran and their travel was facilitated by Iranian border guards.[67][69] The report also noted that "a senior operative of Hezbollah" (Imad Mughniyah) was on the flights that convoyed the future hijackers from Saudi Arabia to Tehran, along with associates that Kenneth Timmerman describes as "Iranian agents".[69][70] Judge George B. Daniels ruled in a federal district court in Manhattan that Iran bears legal responsibility for providing "material support" to the 9/11 plotters and hijackers in Havlish, et al. v. Osama bin Laden, Iran, et al.[71][72] Included in Judge Daniels' findings were claims that Iran "used front companies to obtain a Boeing 757-767-777 flight simulator for training the terrorists", Ramzi bin al-Shibh traveled to Iran in January 2001, and an Iranian government memorandum from May 14, 2001 demonstrates Iranian culpability in planning the attacks.[71] Defectors from Iran’s intelligence service testified that Iranian officials had "foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks."[73] The extent of Iranian involvement has been questioned due to major differences between the religious ideologies of Iran and al Qaeda;[73] according to the 9/11 Commission report, Mughniyah's presence on flights carrying the hijackers to Iran may have been a "remarkable coincidence."[69] After the commission called for "further investigation" into a possible Iranian role in the attacks, President George W. Bush reiterated his view that "There was no direct connection between Iran and the attacks of September 11."[70]

"Axis of evil" speech

On January 29, 2002, American President Bush gave his "Axis of evil" speech, describing Iran, along with North Korea and Iraq, as an axis of evil and warning that the proliferation of long-range missiles developed by these countries constituted terrorism and threatened the United States. The speech caused outrage in Iran and was condemned by reformists and conservatives.[74]

Since 2003, the United States has been flying unmanned aerial vehicles, launched from Iraq, over Iran to obtain intelligence on Iran's nuclear program, reportedly providing little new information.[75] The Iranian government has described the surveillance as illegal.[76] In January 2006, James Risen, a New York Times reporter, stated in his book State of War that the CIA carried out a Clinton-approved operation in 2000 (Operation Merlin) intended to delay Iran's nuclear energy program. According to Risen, the United States fed Iran flawed blueprints missing key components, but the plan backfired and may have aided Iran, as the flaw was likely corrected by the former Soviet nuclear scientist who headed the delivery operation.

"Grand Bargain" proposal

A tractor-trailer from Virginia's Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue Team loaded aboard a C-5 Galaxy heading for Bam, Iran

In 2003, prior to the Iraq War, the Bush administration reportedly received overtures from the Iranian government. With help from the American Iranian Council, Iran purportedly proposed a "grand bargain", which would have resolved outstanding issues between the United States and Iran, including Iran's nuclear program and support for Hamas and Hezbollah.[77] Bush administration officials, including Richard Armitage, thought the Khatami government and the Swiss ambassador in Tehran were "promising more than it could deliver". Others, such as Vali Nasr and Gary Sick consider the lack of an American response to be a missed opportunity.[77][78] According to Trita Parsi, author of Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the United States,[79] Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's chief of staff, said that "it was Cheney and Rumsfeld who made sure that Washington dismissed Iran's May 2003 offer to open up its nuclear program, rein in Hezbollah and cooperate against al-Qaeda".[80]

2003: Border incursions begin

Several claims have been made that the US has violated Iranian territorial sovereignty since 2003, including drones,[66][81][82] soldiers,[83] and provocations and bombings by former or current members of the MEK[84] and the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PEJAK).[85] An American RQ-7 Shadow and a Hermes UAV have crashed in Iran.[81] In June 2005, Scott Ritter stated that American attacks on Iran had already begun through the use of drones.[82] Seymour Hersh stated that the United States has also been penetrating eastern Iran from Afghanistan in a hunt for underground installations developing nuclear weapons.[83]

Divide between public opinion and state policy

An American Reuters/Zogby opinion poll published on September 28, 2006, found 70 percent of respondents opposed to any attack on Iran, 9 percent in favor of "air strikes on selected military targets", and 26 percent supportive of the use of ground forces. In a separate poll, 47 percent were opposed to Israeli intervention.[86] An opinion poll in 2003 asking Iranians if they supported resuming government dialogue with the United States found 75% in favor. The pollsters were jailed,[87] and at least one spent several years in prison.[88]

Although anti-American billboards can be found in Iran and the slogan "death to America" is heard in Friday prayers, some have noted that Iran "just might" have the "least anti-American populace in the Muslim world".[89] Following the September 11 attacks, Iranians gathered in the Maidan-e-Mohseni shopping area in northern Tehran in a candlelit vigil for the victims of the attack. These vigils were violently broken up by Ansar-e-Hezbollah hardliners.[90]

2005–2009: Bush administration, second term

American journalist Seymour Hersh stated in January 2005 that U.S. Central Command had been asked to revise the military's war plan, providing for a maximum ground and air invasion of Iran. He said that the "hawks" in the American government wished to act if EU3 negotiations did not succeed. He stated that a former intelligence official told him, "It's not if we're going to do anything against Iran. They're doing it."[83]

Scott Ritter, former UN weapons of mass destruction inspector in Iraq, stated in June 2005 that The Pentagon was told to be ready to launch an aerial attack to destroy the Iranian nuclear program. He added that the American military was preparing a "massive military presence" in Azerbaijan that would foretell a major land-based campaign designed to capture Tehran. He also claimed that the American attack on Iran had "already begun".[91]

In August 2005, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became Iran's president, giving Iran a religious and conservative president. The following month, the U.S. State Department was accused of refusing to issue visas for Iran’s parliamentary speaker, Mousa Qorbani, and a group of senior Iranian officials to participate in a meeting held by the United Nations (UN). According to UN rules, the United States must grant visas to senior officials from any UN member states to take part in UN meetings, irrespective of their political views.[citation needed]

In 2006, the Pentagon created the Iranian Directorate to handle intelligence regarding Iran.[92]

In March 2006, Joseph Cirincione, director for non-proliferation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote that "some senior officials have already made up their minds: They want to hit Iran" and that there "may be a coordinated campaign to prepare for a military strike on Iran."[93] Stephen Zunes, Professor at the University of San Francisco and Middle East editor for the Foreign Policy in Focus Project, also believes that a military attack on Iran is being planned.[94]

On 8 May 2006, Ahmadinejad sent a personal letter to President Bush to propose "new ways" to end Iran's nuclear dispute.[95] U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley both dismissed it as a negotiating ploy and publicity stunt that did not address American concerns about Iran's nuclear program.[96] Ahmadinejad later said that "the letter was an invitation to monotheism and justice, which are common to all divine prophets".[97]

Bush insisted in August 2006 that "there must be consequences" for Iran's continued enrichment of uranium. He said that "the world now faces a grave threat from the radical regime in Iran."[98] Ahmadinejad invited Bush to a debate at the UN General Assembly, which was to take place on September 18, 2006. The debate was to be about Iran's right to enrich uranium. The invitation was promptly rejected by White House spokesman Tony Snow, who said "There's not going to be a steel-cage grudge match between the President and Ahmadinejad".[99]

Columbia University students protesting against the university's decision to invite Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the university campus

In November 2006, Ahmadinejad wrote an open letter to the American people,[100] stating that dialogue was urgently needed because of American activities in the Middle East and that the United States was concealing the truth about relations.[101]

In April 2007, Michael T. Klare stated that President Bush had already taken the decision to attack Iran. He said that Bush's references to Iran in major televised speeches on January 10, January 23 and February 14, 2007, established that he "has already decided an attack is his only option and the rest is a charade he must go through to satisfy his European allies". Klare said that Bush had developed a casus belli in order to prepare public opinion for an attack, focused on claims that Iran supports attacks on American troops in Iraq, claims that Iran has a nuclear weapons program, and claims that Iran could become a dominant power in the region and destabilise pro-American governments in Israel, Jordan, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, thereby endangering oil supplies.[102]

In September 2007, Ahmadinejad addressed the UN General Assembly. Prior to this, he gave a speech at Columbia University, where university president Lee Bollinger used his introduction to portray the Iranian leader as "astonishingly uneducated" and as a "cruel and petty dictator". Ahmadinejad answered a query about the treatment of gays in Iran by saying: "We don't have homosexuals like in your country. We don't have that in our country. We don't have this phenomenon; I don't know who's told you we have it". An aide later stated that he was misrepresented and was actually saying that "compared to American society, we don't have many homosexuals".[103] Ahmadinejad was not permitted to lay a wreath at the World Trade Center site. He stated, "Many innocent people were killed there. Some of those people were American citizens, obviously...We obviously are very much against any terrorist action and any killing. And also we are very much against any plots to sow the seeds of discord among nations. Usually, you go to these sites to pay your respects. And also to perhaps to air your views about the root causes of such incidents." When told that Americans believed that Iran exported terrorism and would be offended by the "photo op", he replied, "Well, I'm amazed. How can you speak for the whole of the American nation?...You are representing a media and you're a reporter. The American nation is made up of 300 million people. There are different points of view over there".[104]

In an April 2008 speech, Ahmadinejad described the September 11 attacks as a "suspect event", saying that all that happened was that "a building collapsed". He stated that the death toll was never published, that the victims' names were never published, and that the attacks were used subsequently as pretext for the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.[105] That October, he expressed happiness about the 2008 global economic crisis and what he called "collapse of liberalism". He said the West has been driven to a dead-end and that Iran was proud "to put an end to liberal economy".[106] The previous month, he had told the UN General Assembly, "The American empire in the world is reaching the end of its road, and its next rulers must limit their interference to their own borders".[107]

Iran's nuclear program

Since 2003, the United States has alleged that Iran has a program to develop nuclear weapons. Iran has maintained that its nuclear program is aimed only at generating electricity. The United States's position is that "a nuclear-armed Iran is not acceptable",[108] but officials have denied that the United States is preparing for an imminent strike. The United Kingdom (UK), France and Germany have also attempted to negotiate a cessation of nuclear enrichment activities by Iran.[109]

In June 2005, Condoleezza Rice said that International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Mohamed ElBaradei should either "toughen his stance on Iran" or not be chosen for a third term as IAEA head.[110] Both the United States and Iran are parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The United States and other countries were alleged during the May 2005 NPT meeting to be in violation of the NPT through Article VI, which requires them to disarm. The IAEA has stated that Iran is in violation of a Safeguards Agreement related to the NPT, due to insufficient reporting of nuclear material, its processing and its use.[111] Under Article IV, the treaty gives non-nuclear states the right to develop civilian nuclear energy programs.[112] From 2003 to early 2006, tensions mounted between the United States and Iran while IAEA inspections of sensitive nuclear industry sites in Iran continued.

On March 8, 2006, American and European representatives noted that Iran has enough unenriched uranium hexafluoride gas to make ten atomic bombs, adding that it was "time for the Security Council to act".[113] The unenriched uranium cannot be used either in the Bushehr reactor, which is a pressurized water reactor, nor in atomic bombs, unless it becomes enriched.

Iran fears of attack by the U.S.

Paul Pillar, the former CIA official who led the preparation of all National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) on Iran from 2000 to 2005, told the InterPress Service that all NIEs on Iran during that period "addressed the Iranian fears of U.S. attack explicitly and related their desire for nuclear weapons to those fears". He added, "Iranian perceptions of threat, especially from the United States and Israel, were not the only factor, but were in our judgment part of what drove whatever effort they were making to build nuclear weapons". Another former CIA official, Ellen Laipson, said that "the Iranian fear of an attack by the United States has long been a standard element in NIEs on Iran".[114] In 2006, the United States passed the Iran Freedom and Support Act, which appropriated millions of dollars for human rights Non-governmental organization (NGOs) working in Iran. Several politicians in both countries have claimed the Act is a "stepping stone to war",[85] although the Act prohibits the use of force against Iran.

In May 2007, Iran's top diplomat Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki stated that Iran is "ready to talk" to the United States.[67] That month, Iran announced willingness, under certain conditions, to improve its relations with the United States despite having passed up the opportunity for direct talks at the Iraq conference in Sharm El-Sheikh on May 3, 2007. The conference had been seen by the Americans as an opportunity to get closer to the Iranians and exchange gestures in a public forum.[115][dead link]

U.S. military operations inside Iran

Scott Ritter has stated that CIA-backed bombings had been undertaken in Iran by the MEK, an opposition group included in the U.S. State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.[82] In April 2006, a blog called The Raw Story cited an unnamed UN source "close to" the UN Security Council, stating that the United States had used former MEK members as proxies in Iran for "roughly a year". The blog said that the proxies were made to "swear an oath to Democracy and resign from the MEK" before being incorporated into American military units and trained for their operations in Iran.[84]

In March 2006, the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PEJAK), an opposition group closely linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) killed 24 members of the Iranian security forces. The PEJAK is linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is listed by the U.S. State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Dennis Kucinich stated in an April 18, 2006, letter to Bush that PEJAK was supported and coordinated by the United States, since it is based in Iraq, which is under the de facto control of American military forces.[85] In November 2006, journalist Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker supported this claim, stating that the American military and the Israelis are giving the group equipment, training, and targeting information in order to create internal pressures in Iran.[116]

Global intelligence company Stratfor stated that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was attacked in early 2007: "this latest attack against IRGC guards was likely carried out by armed Baloch nationalists who have received a boost in support from Western intelligence agencies".[117] On April 3, 2007, the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) stated that the United States had supported Jundullah since 2005.[118] The Washington Times has described Jundullah as a militant Islamic organization based in Waziristan, Pakistan and affiliated with Al-Qaeda that has claimed to kill approximately 400 Iranian soldiers.[119]

The United States has escalated its covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources.[120] They state that Bush sought up to $400,000,000 for these military operations, which were described in a secret Presidential Finding and are designed to destabilize Iran's religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. United States Special Operations Forces have been conducting cross-border operations from southern Iraq, with Presidential authorization, since 2007. The scale and the scope of the operations in Iran, which involve the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), have been significantly expanded in 2008.[120]

The United States claims that Iran is backing Shiite militias in Iraq and supplying them with arms in order to wage a proxy war on America. The United States said that 170 Americans have died in this proxy war, but Iran denies these charges. Iraqi prime minister Nouri Maliki has praised Iran for its providing security and fighting terrorism in Iraq.[121] In May 2008, the Los Angeles Times reported that both American military spokesmen and Iraqi officials backed off from some of the accusations against Iran when American experts examined weapons and munitions recovered from Shiite militias and found that they did not originate in Iran.[122] American and Iranian ambassadors in Iraq have engaged in direct talks,[citation needed] but tensions remain high over this issue.

2006 sanctions against Iranian institutions

Pushing for international sanctions against Iran because of its nuclear program, the United States accused Iran of providing logistical and financial support to Shi'a militias in Iraq. Iran denied this claim.[123] The American government imposed sanctions on an Iranian bank on September 8, 2006, barring it from direct or indirect dealings with American financial institutions. The move against Bank Saderat Iran was announced by the undersecretary for treasury, who accused the bank of transferring funds for terrorist groups, including $50,000,000 to Hezbollah. While Iranian financial institutions are barred from directly accessing the American financial system, they are permitted to do so indirectly through banks in other countries. He said the United States government would also persuade European financial institutions not to deal with Iran.[124]

2007 US raids Iran Consulate General

In 2007, American armed forces raided the Iranian Consulate General located in Erbil, Iraq and arrested five staff members. Sources[who?] said that American forces landed their helicopters around the building, broke through the consulate’s gate, disarmed the guards, confiscated documents, arrested five staff members, and left for an undisclosed location. People living in the neighborhood were told they could not leave their homes. Three people who left their homes were arrested, and a wife of one of these men confirmed her husband's arrest.

Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mikhail Kamynin said that the raid was an unacceptable violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. The Kurdistan Regional Government also expressed their disapproval.

At a hearing on Iraq on January 11, 2007, United States Senator Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Rice that the Bush Administration did not have the authority to send American troops on cross-border raids. Biden said, "I believe the present authorization granted the president to use force in Iraq does not cover that, and he does need congressional authority to do that. I just want to set that marker".[125] Biden sent a follow-up letter to the White House asking for an explanation on the matter.

The same day, Iran's foreign ministry sent a letter to Iraq's foreign ministry, asking Iraq to stop the United States from interfering with Iraq-Iran relations. The official said, "We expect the Iraqi government to take immediate measures to set the aforesaid individuals free and to condemn the US troopers for the measure. Following up on the case and releasing the arrestees is a responsibility of primarily the Iraqi government and then the local government and officials of the Iraqi Kurdistan".[citation needed]

On November 9, American forces released two Iranian diplomats after 305 days,[126] as well as seven other Iranian citizens. The officials were captured in the raid, and the others had been picked up in different parts of the country and held for periods ranging from three months to three years.[127] American officials said, "The release followed a careful review of individual records to determine if they posed a security threat to Iraq, and if their detention was of continued intelligence value".[127] American forces still hold 11 Iranian diplomats and citizens.[citation needed]

IRGC terrorist designation

The United States has opposed the activities of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) based on "the group's growing involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as its support for extremists throughout the Middle East".[128] The United States branded the IRGC a terrorist organization,[129] and Iran responded by declaring the CIA and U.S. Army to be terrorist organizations.[130] The Iranian resolution cited American involvement in dropping nuclear bombs in Japan in World War II, using depleted uranium munitions in the Balkans, bombing and killing Iraqi civilians, and torturing terror suspects in prisons.[131]

President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has argued that Iran is "a helper and a solution" for Afghanistan,[132] and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of Iraq stated that Iran has a "positive and constructive" role in helping the Iraqi government improve security in his wartorn nation.[133][dead link] When asked if Iran is supplying weapons to the Taliban by Voice of America, a U.S.-funded outlet, Ahmadinejad said the United States does not want Iran to be friends with Afghanistan: "What is the reason they are saying such things?"[134]

Joseph Cirincione, a nuclear proliferation expert at the Center for American Progress, said that "the only way you could get a nuclear deal is as part of a grand bargain, which at this point is completely out of reach".[135] Michael Rubin, a senior research fellow with the American Enterprise Institute, said he feared the IRGC designation "might exculpate the rest of the regime when, in reality, the IRGC's activities cannot be separated from the state leadership of Supreme Leader Khamenei or President Ahmadinejad".[136] The Iranian newspaper Kayhan quoted the commander of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards as threatening to deal heavier blows against the United States in response to the designation.[137] Mohammad Khatami, former Reforms Front Iranian President hoped to "remind those in the U.S. Congress or elsewhere working for the benefit of the American nation to stand against these measures or the wall between the two countries grow taller and thicker".[138]

This is the first time that official armed units of sovereign states are included in a list of banned terrorist groups.[139] Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, a former consultant to the UN's program of Dialogue Among Civilizations,[140] stated in Asia Times Online that the move has possible legal implications: "Under international law, it could be challenged as illegal, and untenable, by isolating a branch of the Iranian government for selective targeting. This is contrary to the 1981 Algiers Accord's pledge of non-interference in Iran's internal affairs by the US government".[141] News leaks about the prospective designation worried European governments and private sector firms, which could face prosecution in American courts for working with the IRGC.[142]

2008 Naval dispute

The American government has stated that naval stand-offs between Iranian speedboats and American warships occurred in the Strait of Hormuz in December 2007 and January 2008. American officials accused Iran of harassing and provoking their naval vessels, but Iran denied the claim. The United States presented audio and video footage of the incident, which included threats made to the Americans. Iranians have told The Washington Post that the accent in the recording does not sound Iranian. Iran has accused the United States of creating a "media fuss" and has released its own abridged video recording of the incident, which does not contain threats.[143][144] There has been significant confusion as to the source of the threatening radio transmissions. According to the newspaper Navy Times, the incident could have been caused by a locally famous heckler known as the "Filipino Monkey".[145][146][147]

Covert action against Iran

In 2008, New Yorker reporter Seymour Hersh detailed American covert action plans against Iran involving the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and Special Forces.[148] He also stated that the United States was supporting several groups that are performing acts of violence inside Iran. He wrote, "The use of Baluchi elements, for example, is problematic, Robert Baer, a former C.I.A. clandestine officer who worked for nearly two decades in South Asia and the Middle East, told me. 'The Baluchis are Sunni fundamentalists who hate the regime in Tehran, but you can also describe them as Al Qaeda,' Baer told me." He also states that the United States was supporting Jundallah, a Sunni and Salafi group; the People's Mujahedin of Iran; and the PJAK.

Journalist David Ignatius of the Washington Post asserted that American covert action "appears to focus on political action and the collection of intelligence rather than on lethal operations".[149] Iranian commentator Ali Eftagh stated that the covert actions are being made public by the American government as a form of psychological warfare.[150]

Other events (2007–2008)

A meeting in Baghdad between Iranian and American diplomats was "the first formal direct contact after decades during which neither country has been willing to talk to the other."[151] Asia Times commentator Kaveh L Afrasiabi noted that success in United States-Iran nuclear negotiations depends on Iranian perception of American respect.[152]

A former Iranian diplomat, Nosratollah Tajik, was arrested in the UK and accused by the United States of smuggling arms. He initially appeared in court on April 19, 2007, fighting extradition to the US.[153] The case is still ongoing.[154]

Congressional Resolution 362[155] calls for a naval blockade of the Strait of Hormuz. As of June 2, 2008, the resolution had 146 co-sponsors.[156] In January 2009, The New York Times reported that the United States had rejected a 2008 appeal from Israel to attack Iran's main nuclear complex.[157]

Panel's message to Obama

A panel of 20 Americans, who include academics and former ambassadors, warned against a military attack on Iran and called for unconditional negotiations, saying that dialogue was the only viable option to break "a cycle of threats and defiance". The panel included former special envoy to Afghanistan James Dobbins, former ambassador to the UN Thomas Pickering, and Middle East scholars from American universities. They called on the United States to replace calls for regime change with a long-term strategy, allow Iran a "place at the table" in shaping the future of Iraq and Afghanistan, offer security assurances in the nuclear talks, and re-energize the Arab-Israeli peace process.[158]

Obama Administration

Two days after Barack Obama was elected president in November 2008, Ahmadinejad issued the first congratulatory message to a newly elected American president since 1979: "Iran welcomes basic and fair changes in U.S. policies and conducts. I hope you will prefer real public interests and justice to the never-ending demands of a selfish minority and seize the opportunity to serve people so that you will be remembered with high esteem".[159]

In his inaugural speech, President Obama said:

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

Ahmadinejad issued a list of grievances, including the 1953 coup, support for Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war, and the Iran Air Flight 655 incident.[160] In March 2009, an official delegation of Hollywood actors and filmmakers met with their Iranian counterparts in Tehran as a symbol of United States-Iran relations, but Javad Shamghadri, the Arts Adviser to Ahmadinejad, rejected it and said, "Representatives of Iran’s film industry should only have an official meeting with representatives of the academy and Hollywood if they apologize for the insults and accusations against the Iranian nation during the past 30 years".[161]

On March 19, 2009, the beginning of the festival of Nowruz, Obama spoke directly to the Iranian people in a video saying, "The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations. You have that right—but it comes with real responsibilities".[162]

Roxana Saberi and detained diplomats

In April 2009, Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi was sentenced to eight years in prison after being convicting of spying for the United States. She was accused of possessing a classified document but denied the charge. After spending four months in prison, she was released in May, and the charge was dropped.[163][164]

On July 9, 2009, the United States released five Iranian diplomats (Mohsen Bagheri, Mahmoud Farhadi, Majid Ghaemi, Majid Dagheri and Abbas Jami), who had been held since January 2007.[165] Some analysts[who?] believe this was a part of hostage exchange deal between the countries.[166] The U.S. State Department said the release was not part of a deal with Iran but was necessary under an American-Iraqi security pact.[167]

Iranian presidential elections 2009

On June 12, 2009, Obama said of the Iranian presidential election: "We are excited to see what appears to be a robust debate taking place in Iran".[168] Ahmadinejad's landslide win, which led to fraud allegations and widespread protests, received little comment from the United States. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs stated, "Like the rest of the world, we were impressed by the vigorous debate and enthusiasm that this election generated, particularly among young Iranians. We continue to monitor the entire situation closely, including reports of irregularities".[169] Vice President Joe Biden said, "It sure looks like the way they're suppressing speech, the way they're suppressing crowds, the way in which people are being treated, that there's some real doubt".[170] On June 15, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly declared that the US was "deeply troubled by the reports of violent arrests and possible voting irregularities".[171]

Detention of U.S. hikers over Kurdish border

Three American hikers were arrested on July 31, 2009, in Iran after they crossed into Iranian territory. Reports say the hikers accidentally crossed into Iran while hiking between Halabja and Ahmad Awa in the Kurdish Region of Iraq.[172]

Al-Qaeda prisoners

Since the beginning of the War in Afghanistan, the United States believes that Al-Qaeda operatives have snuck into Iran. The United States has expressed concern about Iran possibly letting these prisoners leave the country, in violation of a UN treaty.[173]

Nuclear conflict

Nuclear program in Iran is still one of the main issues between the US-Iran relations in the current Obama Administration. Whilst the US government acknowledged Iran's right to nuclear power, it has been persistently trying to stop the program’s advancement using the carrot (offering nuclear and other economic and technological cooperation with Iran if it suspends uranium enrichment) and stick (sanctions to isolate the Iranian economy by stopping monetary flow) approach. Nevertheless, Iran continued its program and in 2010, the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that Iran was now a "nuclear state," producing uranium enriched to up to 20%.[174]

Since fall 2012, American and Iranian officials have hinted the possibility of negotiations occurring on this matter. The Iranians will not confirm negotiations until the election is passed.[175]

Strict enforcement of currency embargo

In the case of United States v. Banki, on June 5, 2010, a U.S. citizen was convicted of violating the Iran Trade Embargo by failing to request Iranian currency transfer licenses in advance from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

Disappearance of Shahram Amiri

Iranian nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri disappeared in May 2009, and Iran accused the United States of abducting him. On the July 13, 2010, the BBC reported that Amiri had taken refuge in the Iranian interests section of Pakistani Embassy in Washington, D.C. and sought help to reach Iran.[176]

Threats to close Persian Gulf

On Jan 3, 2012 Iran's army chief Ataollah Salehi warned "We recommend to the American warship that passed through the Strait of Hormuz and went to Gulf of Oman not to return to the Persian Gulf". However, this was laterly denied by the Defense Minister of Iran.[177] The warship is believed to be the American aircraft carrier the USS John C. Stennis which recently vacated the area as Iran conducted a 10-day naval exercise near the Strait of Hormuz. Salehi was also quoted as saying "We have no plan to begin any irrational act but we are ready against any threat."[178] The US Navy responded that it will continue with its regularly scheduled deployments, in accordance with international maritime conventions.[179]

In 2012, the United States Navy was warned that Iran was preparing suicide attack boats and was building up its naval forces in the Gulf region. At a briefing in Bahrain, Vice Admiral Mark Fox told reporters the US Navy's Fifth Fleet could prevent Iran from blocking the Strait of Hormuz.[180]

Economic relations

Trade between Iran and the United States reached $623 million in 2008. According to the United States Census Bureau, American exports to Iran reached $93 million in 2007 and $537 million in 2008. American imports from Iran decreased from $148 million in 2007 to $86 million in 2008.[181][182] This data does not include trade conducted through third countries to circumvent the trade embargo. It has been reported that the United States Treasury Department has granted nearly 10,000 special licenses to American companies over the past decade to conduct business with Iran.[183]

American exports to Iran include cigarettes ($73 million), corn ($68 million); chemical wood pulp, soda or sulfate ($64 million); soybeans ($43 million); medical equipment ($27 million); vitamins ($18 million); and vegetable seeds ($12 million).[182] In 2010, American exports to Iran dropped by 50% to $281.8 million.[181]

See also

References

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  4. ^ Reading Khamenei: The World View of Iran's Most Powerful Leader, by Karim Sadjadpour March 2008 p.20

    It is natural that our Islamic system should be viewed as an enemy and an intolerable rival by such an oppressive power as the United States, which is trying to establish a global dictatorship and further its own interests by dominating other nations and trampling on their rights. It is also clear that the conflict and confrontation between the two is something natural and unavoidable. [Address by Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, to students at Shahid Beheshti University, May 12, 2003]

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Bibliography

External links