The bitter relationship between the United States and Iran has been agonizing to watch and live through, especially if you are suffering under economic sanctions due to this mutual animosity. During the better part of 35 years, with no official diplomatic relations, the Iranian and American governments have miraculously worked around the idea of a possibility of rekindled relations, at least in the near future.
The outrage against American foreign policy arguably began in the midst of revolutionary fervour in 1979, when a group of Iranian hardline students stormed the US embassy, and took Americans hostage. Ever since, during annual commemorations marking the takeover of the US embassy in Tehran (Nov. 4th 1979) groups of supporters of the regime, chant symbolic slogans such as “Death to America”. The United States for its part always responded with geopolitical manoeuvre along with political and economic sanctions in order to pressure the Iranian regime.
However, the story only became interesting when a grieving and fiery United States of America, led by George W. Bush, gave Iran a taste of its own medicine, by calling it part of an “Axis of Evil”. The Iranian regime took offence, apparently since they believed that “Death to America” clearly doesn’t mean anything, since countries cannot die, and are not living things and do not have parents. But, labeling a country at once part of an “Axis of Evil”, after years and years of “Death to America” were deemed uncalled for, unjustified, and unforgivable.
So, Iran decided to ramp up it’s nuclear program, with more tenacity and research in order to protect itself from a possibility of an imminent strike by the United States. It was not a time to feel secure in Iran, because if there was one President who could by chance mistake an ‘N’ for a ‘Q’ due to a lack of ‘IQ’, not knowing the difference between Iran and Iraq, it would have been ‘W’. But, of course, in all seriousness, there were well trained, men and women with expertise, who could well advise the President, which country is Iraq on a map, which country has a nuclear weapons program, etc. And, of course, they did a great job.
The Iranian nuclear program evidently went under the radar, quite literally, after 2003. Seeing the result of Saddam Hussein’s fate, Iran slowed down its ambitions and proclaimed even more strenuously that its nuclear program was merely for ‘peaceful purposes’. The Iranian government has played an almost purposely ambiguous role in trying to extend ‘talks’ and meanwhile use this latest ‘argument’ (like a divorced couple) to settle some issues, and maybe see their mutual interests and quite faintly but possibly rekindle a relationship.
The US government for its part, does not mind ‘negotiating’ to settle past disputes with Iran, so long as the Iranian government does not say one thing and do another. Now, you see why it looks like marriage counselling? Iran’s government wants financial security, and stability, while the US wants Iran to stop talking behind its back and acting all tough. They also have relatives, called senators and congressmen (USA), and Members of Parliament (Iran), who are still bitter about every little thing the other party has ever done! So, even if the relationship is rekindled, it would be rocky and at best spiteful.
Then, what is Iran doing in the meantime? The Iranian leaders are trying to figure out a way to sell a novel idea to their most hardline supporters, which is, to cooperate with the USA in some matters of foreign policy and other issues in a conservative and pragmatic manner, may not be a bad thing. It is difficult to do that, hence the reason why there has been ‘no deal’ struck, and it is yet again postponed to July 2015.
It is quite clear what the dilemma is for Iran: The government is well aware that it thrives on political tension and economic disarray in order to survive since the people would constantly live in fear and need. But that is not the problem. Iran’s regime has implemented and maintained this status, and managed quite magnificently since its inception. The issue is that Iran now wants to alter this strategy, and wants to become a more economically friendly and politically cooperative country with especially Western states. These relations may certainly not occur immediately with the United States for example, but Iran has shown interest in ameliorating its relations with Western countries. Iranian President Hassan Rowhani actually met with British Prime Minister David Cameron in September 2014, the first of any official meetings between the two countries after 1979.
Thus, Iran is buying time, not necessarily to build a nuclear bomb as is the propagated rhetoric these days, but to warm up the hearts of those hardline elements within the Iranian regime that are still cold and bitter about anything and everything. It is the current Rowhani administration’s mission to ease the tensions by continuously extending the talks, in order to prove that cooperation and peaceful dialogue is possible. But, Rowhani also needs President Barack Obama’s help. This would lead to more necessary cooperation.
With the terror of ISIS in Iraqi and Syrian land, Iran is showing its power and military might be joining in airstrikes against ISIS targets. This, in effect, has helped Iran show its ‘stance to fight against extremism’ and to cooperate, however unofficial and isolated it may be, along with other Western states who have joined in the same fight. This display of Iranian military power has allowed Iran to present itself once again as a force, but a force that fights ‘evil’. It cannot thus, be part of any axis of evil, but part of a coalition that fights extremism, opts for dialogue and cooperation, with all countries.
At least, that’s the image Iran wants to sell. We just have to see who’s buying it…