On Wednesday, September 25, 2013, Democracy Now! aired a very important segment about the potential for the United States and Iran to overcome longstanding mutual distrust. There is some reason for optimism that acknowledging past actions that are the roots of the current situation may lead to constructive engagement that will benefit Iran, the United States and the rest of the world.
AMY GOODMAN: During his address to the U.N. General Assembly, President Obama talked about the roots of the distrust between the United States and Iran.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: The United States and Iran have been isolated from one another since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. This mistrust has deep roots. Iranians have long complained of a history of U.S. interference in their affairs, and of America’s role in overthrowing an Iranian government during the Cold War. On the other hand, Americans see an Iranian government that has declared the United States an enemy, and directly – or through proxies – taken Americans hostage, killed U.S. troops and civilians, and threatened our ally Israel with destruction.
AMY GOODMAN: That was president Obama in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly. Can you talk about the significance of President Obama referring to the U.S.-backed coup against Mosaddeq in 1953?
NARGES BAJOGHLI: It is huge that he did that. One of the main points of the nuclear issue for Iranians, and especially for the Iranian political elite is that, because of the experience of the 1953 coup that the United States and the United Kingdom backed a coup that brought — reinstated the shah against the popularly elected Mohammad Mosaddegh who nationalized Iran’s oil, is that the Iranians — both the general population and the political elite — believe that the United States and foreign powers do not want Iran to have access to its energy and not have control over energy. So, because of that, the nuclear issue is a national issue in Iran.
So, having Obama talk that way about the 1953 coup in the United Nations yesterday, I think, was very significant because he is trying to come out and say that, at least the rhetoric, is that we want to engage with Iran and understand the mutual respect between the two countries and understand the history of adverse involvement in the country. So, I think he is coming out and saying that we understand what we have done and we don’t want to do that now. Whether Iranians will take it that way, I don’t know, but, it was significant to have him say that.
It would be good for the world’s economy to enable Iran to freely participate; that ancient country has a lot to offer with its well-educated, hard-working population of 70 million people and its rich endowment of natural resources. There might, of course, be some entities who would be disadvantaged by having additional competition, but the overall economy always benefits when there are more competing suppliers and more well fed brains coming up with creative ideas.
As a career military professional who has seen far too many friends and relatives risk their lives to enforce American access to other people’s oil and gas, I dream of a future where there is far less need to enforce anything with military might. Freely exchanging value for value (money for oil, or technical expertise for money, or commercial nuclear fuel for natural gas) is a much better way of ensuring a growing level of prosperity for everyone, not just those whose interests are backed by the world’s largest military industrial complex.
It’s time for America and Iran to stop feuding. It might finally be possible for Americans to stop carrying a 34 year old grudge for an action that had more justification than we understood at the time. Few of us knew anything about the 1953 coup, but the Iranians who revolted against the man we installed, the Shah, certainly knew the history. The 1979 hostage crisis might have been a big embarrassment for us, but all of the hostages were eventually released. Many worse things have been done and forgiven. Heck, Germany, Italy and Japan were classified as reliable allies within a decade or so after the end of World War II!
Don’t be surprised, however, if Israel and Saudi Arabia object to any effort to reduce tensions with Iran and accept its inherent rights to develop peaceful nuclear energy technology. Both of those American allies have competitive reasons for preferring to restrict Iran’s domestic nuclear energy program and to keep as much of Iran’s oil and natural gas as possible out of the world’s energy market. That additional supply would lower the prices paid for their own commodity exports.
New York Times (September 27, 2013) U.S. and Iran Agree to Speed Talks to Defuse Nuclear Issue