Skip to main content

Learning from history with Iran

As the extended deadline set for nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 approaches, the P5+1 needs to embrace Iran as a reliable partner, leaving behind the mentality of pressure and coercion.

It is said that fools learn from experience while the wise learn from history. The proverb remains silent on a third category: those who do not learn, even from their very own recent experiences. Ever since the revolution of 1979 that brought to power an Islamic republic in Iran, US administrations have chosen the wrong path. They should have tried to correct the mistakes they made in pre-revolution Iran in support of the Shah and helping him suppress all nationalist and democratic demands in this country, resulting in deep hatred and mistrust in Iranian people toward the United States. Instead, they thought of the new Iran as the most serious threat toward US interests in the region and mobilized everything in their power in order to annihilate this threat. In doing so, they even trespassed the Cold War boundaries and entered into a most bizarre alliance against Iran with a Soviet satellite state: Iraq under the socialist Baath Party. This alliance remains one of the strangest stories of the Cold War era. Until the last days of the Iraq-Iran War, both superpowers of the time — the United States and the USSR — continued flooding the Iraqi army with modern warfare, even though Saddam Hussein was ruling the most "undemocratic," "oppressive" and "brutal" regimes in the world, and even though he used chemical weapons against both Iranian and Iraqi civilians in cold blood.

For this story to advance in an even more unbelievable manner, for the first time since 1945 the "big five" — as they call the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, or P5 — worked together, hand in hand, to draft and table a resolution prescribing a rather unfair cease-fire between Iran and Iraq, i.e., Resolution 598. Furthermore, upon US insistence, the Security Council would have adopted an agreed-upon draft resolution imposing sanctions against Iran, had Iran not accepted Resolution 598 with certain diplomatic and political maneuvers.

By then, the world powers thought of Iran as the source of insecurity in the region and tried to weaken Iran to the maximum level possible. The events that came afterward proved them to be deadly wrong. They were so obsessed with their miscalculated approach toward Iran that they were caught by surprise by the very demon they had unleashed themselves. Millions of lives were destroyed and cities ruined to redress this huge mistake and neutralize Saddam.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.