Historical Sequence of Iranian Foreign Policy

Iran’s foreign policy towards America greatly changed after the 1979 Islamic revolution. Prior to this the country enjoyed cordial relations with the United States partially out of the outcomes of the world war two. In the World War II period, Soviet troops had occupied part of the northern Iran so as “to receive war Supplies from the United States” (Teaching Resource Center [TRC] 2). Immediately after the war however, the soviet troops did not leave Iran’s territory until the UN had intervened, an act that was partially orchestrated by the United States (TRC 2). This was evidenced by US’ military aid to Iran one year after the soviet troops had left (TRC 2). Such cordial relationship was sustained but the 1953 nationalization of Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. by Mohammad Mossadegh who was an elected parliamentarian and Iran’s prime minister caused some strain with the United States. To counter such perceived rise in communism in Iran, the United States orchestrated demonstrations in favor of the shah, the Iranian leader at the time, and helped him to overthrow Mossadegh (TRC 2). This lead to the continued cooperation between the United States and the shah’s government with the former increasing its military aid to the latter for protection against both internal and external threats (TRC 2). The following years marked a strengthening of the shah government ties with different United States governments that came into governance (TRC 3).

The internal threats to the shah government however came to fruition with the Islamic revolution in 1979. Though some Iranians – mostly the security forces, wealthy peasants and technocrats – regarded the shah government and its economic stimulation policies highly; many Iranians – such as the low middle class, poor and landless peasantry, and unskilled urban workers – consented to shah’s reign only out of lack of alternatives (TRC 4). But such alternatives were increasingly being availed through movements organized by “the secular liberal intelligentsia, Muslim and Marxists student activists, the ulama, and the merchants from the bazaar” (TRC 4). With an increasing resentment of the shah by those who viewed him as a British and US protégé; Ayatollah Khomeini – a famed Shi’ite imam – was able to succeed in his quest to overthrow the shah and replace the government with an Islamic one (TRC 5). This followed his direction of revolutionary activities that culminated in his triumphant return to Iran on February 1, 1979 after the shah had fled from Iran out of increasing protests (TRC 6). The holding of the US embassy personnel in Tehran as hostages later in the year on November 4, 1979 by militant students activists demanding the return of the shah; dealt the last blow for the resumption of cordial relationships between Iran and the US and has shaped the two countries’ relationship many decades later (TRC 7). Khomeini’s rule was thus characterized mainly by a confrontational foreign policy towards the US and Western allies that resulted in the Isolation of Iran from the international community within a few years (Rasmussen 2).

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