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Diplomatically Mending a Strained Relationship: U.S. and Iran

(Posted December 5, 2013)

Jim Skelly, professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at Juniata Photography by Kelly Russo, '14

The relationship between the United States government and the Iranian government has been tense for some time. But the issue is more complex than most Americans believe. The blame cannot be placed upon one side because each side is at fault. The solution to the strained relationship is amorphous at best, but it must inevitably involve diplomacy. In Tehran, demonstrators burn U.S. flags outside the former U.S. embassy. On Capitol Hill, Congressmen and women denounce Iran and request even more strict sanctions. These policies and actions don't work and don't engage the diplomatic process. Peace and Conflict Studies professor, Jim Skelly, comments on the current conflict and explains the history that got us into this predicament.

Q: Can you briefly explain the history of this conflict?

A: To understand the current moment, one has to understand the history of these relations. The most fundamental aspect is oil and the U.S. government's recognition at the end of World War II that oil was central to America and our foreign policy. The U.S was upset with the Iranian government because the policies of the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammad Mosaddegh, were not in concurrence with the interests of the United States. The CIA recently released documents exposing that the U.S. government plotted and organized the overthrow of Iran's democratically elected government in 1952 and installed the Shah, a monarchical leader who accepted U.S. policies.

Q: How did the Iranian people react to the installation of the Shah?

A: The Iranians themselves overthrew the Shah 27 years later led by the Ayatollah, with Muslim fundamentalists. The people of Iran are not sympathetic to the government who overthrew their government for selfish interests. This certainly couldn't happen the other way around. Imagine the Iranian government overthrowing the U.S. president to set up a puppet government that would allow the exploitation of U.S. resources. It would never happen.

Q: How can you explain the current situation and what can be done to remedy it?

A: What has happened is a kind of blowback. The U.S. overthrew the Iranian government, the citizens got upset, and now they have a nasty attitude toward the U.S. All of the current animosities are functions of that history. In some ways, nuclear weapons are a foil for oil. It becomes a preface for intervention. In accordance with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, the United States and Russia should also be rid of nuclear armaments. However, there has been no progress to do so. This disparity exists because people don't know history. To U.S. citizens, Iranians seem like the bad guys, but few people know about the CIA's actions. None of this surprises me. What should be happening is the U.S. government should apologize for overthrowing the Iranian government, pay reparations, and halt their obsession over oil.

-Hannah Jeffery '16, Juniata Online Journalist

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Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.