Stephen Zunes : Iran
Given the prospects of possible U.S. military action towards Iran, it is important to take a critical look at the major concerns the Bush administration and Congressional leaders of both parties have put forward regarding the Islamic Republic.
The election of the hard-line Teheran mayor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, over former President Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani as the new head of Iran is undeniably a setback for those hoping to advance greater social and political freedom in that country. It should not necessarily be seen as a turn to the right by the Iranian electorate, however. The 70-year old Rafsanjani—a cleric and penultimate wheeler-dealer from the political establishment—was portrayed as the more moderate conservative. The fact that he had become a millionaire while in government was apparently seen as less important than his modest reform agenda. By contrast, the young Teheran mayor focused on the plight of the poor and cleaning up corruption.
The election of the hard-line Teheran mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over former president Hashemi Rafsanjani as the new president of Iran is undeniably a setback to those hoping to advance the cause of greater social and political freedom in that country. It should not necessarily be seen as a turn to the right by the Iranian […]
Having already successfully fooled most of Congress and the American public into believing that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had an active nuclear weapons program, the Bush administration is now claiming that Iran has an active nuclear weapons program.
The perceived growth of radical Islamic movements throughout the Middle East and beyond has not only caused major political upheaval in the countries directly affected but has placed political Islam at the forefront of concerns voiced by U.S. policymakers. One unfortunate aspect of this newfound attention has been the way it has strengthened ugly stereotypes of Muslims already prevalent in the West. This occurs despite the existence of moderate Islamic segments and secular movements that are at least as influential as radicals in the political life of Islamic countries.
Despite recent reforms, the U.S. has been hesitant to forge closer relations with Iran due to lingering hostility to the Islamic government and a fear that supporting moderates would create a backlash against them. The ongoing struggle in Iran between Islamic reformers and Islamic hard-liners, along with struggles within the U.S. foreign policy establishment between hawks and those seeking accommodation, has left U.S.-Iranian relations in a state of flux.
23 January 1997
Iran—with its strategic location, 60 million inhabitants, and control of 10% of the world’s oil reserves—continues to be a major concern to those who formulate U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. government has had contacts in Iran since early in the century, and major U.S. involvement dates back to 1953 when the CIA organized the overthrow of the country’s constitutional government. Over the next 25 years, the U.S. armed and trained the military and secret police of Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, one of the most brutal dictators of his era.