The United States has had many antagonists during its eventful history â€“ Russia, Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq â€“ even the mother country, Britain, was once considered an aggressor. One sordid assailant is often overlooked and possibly even misunderstood â€“ Iran. Many in the U.S. already recognize that Iran has a strong loathing for the United States. What may not be as obvious is that their hatred of the U.S. is so strong, it creates a powder keg situation in the middle east.
Iran, an Islamist country that in 2006, was curiously located between two U.S. occupied countries â€“ Afghanistan and Iraq â€“ has a 25-year old ritual that Americans find very bizarre and disturbing. Every Friday, after their mandatory prayer gathering, Iranians throughout the country gather in rallies bearing signs, flags, and effigies. They chant the all too familiar â€œdown with Americaâ€ slogans, burn American flags, and conduct mock torture on U.S. effigies. A typical rally includes a mock Statue of Liberty built with a skull for the head and holding an American flag with a large red â€œXâ€ painted through it. Rally participants whip themselves into a frenzy.
Why the strong hatred towards the United States? When did this hatred begin? Is Iran a danger to middle eastern stability and world peace? The reason for the hatred is quite simple â€“ Iran longs for the days when they were the worldâ€™s leader and today, feel that the United States has restricted their growth and that the U.S. is firmly responsible for placing them in the downtrodden position that they are currently in. To truly understand the deep-seated answers to these questions though, we must delve into the gloomy history of Iran, back to the days when Iran itself was the worldâ€™s superpower.
Thousands of years ago, Iran, the Persian empire, was a superpower in the middle east. Beginning in 500 BC, the Acheamenid Empire was the forbearer of the Iranian nation. After Alexander the Great completed his conquest of the Acheamenid Empire in 330 BC, Iran adopted Greek cultural traits â€“ influences that lead Iran to friendly relations with the Roman Empire in 65 BC. When those affable relations eventually broke down, major battles between Roman leagues and Iranian military served the Romans with brutal defeats that lead to an newfound respect for Iran as a superpower. By the 19th century, the Iranian dominance began to wane.
In the early 1800â€™s, Iran was invaded by the British from the south and Russia from the north. A rivalry developed between the two invading countries which victimized Iran and drained their economic resources. Furthermore, wasteful Iranian Shahs squandered the countryâ€™s money pushing the county further into recessions and introducing economic crises across the county.
In 1908, British prospectors discovered oil deep in Iranian territory. The wasteful Shah sold the rights to Britain for a mere 1000 pounds and a very small share of the profits. At this point, Iranâ€™s economic status was so poor, the country was in danger of disappearing off the map, and western countries took advantage of this situation.
In concert with the western economic invasion, a cultural invasion occurred too. In the early 1900â€™s, during the reign of Reza Shah Pahlavi, educational and juridical reforms were put into place which lessened the influence of the religious classes and laid the basis of a modern state. Women were freed from the veil.
Regardless of the strengthening modernization, the thirst for power directed Iran to make a critical mistake during World War II. Believing that Hitler would win the war and partner with Iran to gain control of the Middle East, Reza Pahlavi lent support Hitler and his conquest and allowed Hitler to freely operate in Iran. In response, in August 1941, Allied forces stormed the country in an effort to secure a critical supply line to Russia. Reza was overthrown and the Allies allowed his son, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, to supersede him (Iran at this point, came very close to becoming a Russian satellite state). Allies understood that Mohammad was a â€œplayboyâ€, and already very westernized himself, and that allowing him to obtain power was akin to having a mole in control of the country that would provide a strong, westernized influence.
By the mid 1950â€™s, Iran was stuck in the grip of Western oil companies and western corporate influence. A democratic movement spread across the country. Wishing to avoid turmoil in this critical region, the CIA provided support to stop the democratic movement in its tracks. To the United States and Britain, stability in this region was critical and took precedence over the spread of democracy. An alliance between the United States and Iran was struck and in return, the U.S. provided massive amounts of military support during the Kennedy administration. By the 1970â€™s, the Shah was the largest purchaser of U.S. made military equipment (including its first nuclear reactor). As a result, Iran continued to permeate western traits while at the same time, the nation continued to sink into poverty.
With extensive unwanted influence from the United States, the Iranian people reacted in 1970 and the Iran that we know today, began to take root. The terrible conditions in Iran lead the people to violent demonstrations (the Iran Revolution). The Shah himself was forced to flee to the United States. In response, the Ayatollah Khomeini seized control and began a spirited campaign against the United States. The Ayatollah, a radical Islamist who believed non-Muslims and westerners were infidels, began to refer to the U.S. as â€œthe great Satanâ€. Stirring a radical hatred of the United States, Ayatollahâ€™s campaign triggered a November 1979 storming of the U.S. Embassy led by Iranian students. The embassy captives were held for 18 months and Khomeini severed all ties with the United States. Without U.S. support, many of the Iranian military personnel began deserting and were promptly executed by Khomeini. Within 1 year, the Iranian military was in shambles.
During this turmoil, Iraqâ€™s Saddam Hussein, took advantage of Iranâ€™s instable state. Desiring to capture Iranâ€™s biggest asset, their oil fields, Saddam moved his army towards Iran in September of 1980. Expecting to overrun Iran with a surprise attack, Hussein began attacks against military bases near Tehran. They quickly moved across the border while Iran struggled to produce a viable resistance to the attack. With very little U.S. military equipment remaining, the world looked on as Iraq began its certain conquest of the Iranian country. On the 5th week of the invasion, Saddam, an inexperience military leader, mysteriously called off the invasion. This critical Iraqi mistake gave Iran much needed time to reorganize.
For the next 16 months, the two untested armies battled each other â€“ thousands died in the fighting. Continuing Khomeiniâ€™s religious fervor, Iran began organizing special military forces called Besiege. Religious leaders held feverous spiritual ceremonies in the name of Allah. Iranian youth were recruited, kissing the Koran before they shipped off and wearing red bandanas bearing the phrase â€œwe are ready for deathâ€, they began picking up discarded weapons in the battlefields to use against the infidels. The youth were ordered to attack in waves of thousands and death of Iranâ€™s youth became a routine occurrence. The doomed soldiers, wearing plastic keys around their necks that Khomeini passed to them as the â€œkeys to heavenâ€, died bearing the stigma of martyrs. The Besiege succeeded in driving Iraq out of Iran. Hussein offered a cease fire but the Khomeini refused. The new militaristic Iran had become a new threat to the entire region.
Making a complete 180 degree turn, the United States began supplying Iraq with weapons needed to keep Iran in line. President Regan conceded millions of dollars to Hussein who promptly uses it to purchase chemical weapons. The United States support was intended to allow Iraq the means to defeat Iran but not to the extent of making Iraq a dominant force in the region. Iraq launched a major attack on Iranâ€™s port (they only have a single port with which to export their oil), and utilized missiles and chemical weapons to bring Iran to their knees. When vital tankers begin to fall in the way of missiles, the United States stepped in to protect the critical shipping lanes. In April of 1988, an Iranian mine struck a United States frigate. The United States promptly replied with deadly force â€“ in one afternoon, the U.S. sank half of Iranians surface fleet.
With the United States providing Iraq with hi-tech satellite imagery, Iraq continued to pound Iran. By the end of 1988, the Iranian economy is in shambles and over 1,000,000 people have died. Tehran was virtually destroyed and the once powerful Persian Empire, blamed the United States for their embarrassing defeat.
In modern days, Iranâ€™s hatred of western powers has lead to their support of terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and Al Qaeda. In February 2005, the United States announced that Iran may be five years away from producing a nuclear weapon. In November 2005, the newly elected Iranian president called for Israel to be wiped off the face of the map.
In 2006, the United States had Iran surrounded on both sides with occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq. With three times the population of Iraq and four times the land mass, a military excursion into Iran would be costly. But with military bases in surrounding countries, the United States now faces the touchy predicament of having to apply pressure on Iran without infuriating the Iranian people.