Iran and the United States: A Path to War?
Updated: Jan 13
Protesters in Tehran, Iran, hold up signs in protest after Soleimani's death. (Hosein Charbaghi/Unsplash)
The US and Iran have been foes for a long time and their relationship has gotten more disordered in the past few months. Their crumbling relationship started back in 1979 as a result of the Iranian Revolution.
In the 1950's, Iran and the US were allies. Under the pro-western leader, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi (also known as the Shah), Iran sought inspiration from countries such as the US. The Shah soon launched his “White Revolution” in 1963, which was a government program that included land reform, women’s rights, infrastructure development, and advances in education. Although these efforts were applauded by many Iranians, some saw the Shah’s Westernization of Iran as a threat to their culture. So, many of these advocates began to take action, calling Iranians together to overthrow the Shah.
Determined to keep his throne and his self-proclaimed title as the “Persian King,” the Shah took secret action with the use of brutal police forces to shun the demonstrators. The public’s outrage strengthened, which ultimately led to popular anti-Western ideas spreading throughout the country--more extreme than ever before. In November 1978, two months after the September 8th killing and wounding of thousands of demonstrators, thousands of Iranians took the streets of Tehran with violent riots, destroying signs of Westernization. Support for Ruhollah Khomeini, a vocal anti-Western/anti-Shah activist, grew rapidly. Soon after, Khomeini called for the immediate overthrow of the Shah, recruiting a group of soldiers to attack his security officers.
Where was the US during this time?
Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi’s reign was completely and utterly destroyed. But the story did not end there. In fact, this is when the US got increasingly involved, resulting in a heavily damaging point in their relationship.
After traveling to several other countries, the Shah arrived in the United States in October 1979 for cancer treatment. After hearing this news, Islamic militants were outraged and stormed into the US embassy, taking the staff into hostage. With Khomeini’s approval, the militants forced the return of the Shah to Iran to hold a trial for his war crimes. When the US refused to cooperate and negotiate, 52 American hostages were held by Iran for 444 days. This event, known as the US Hostage Crisis, enraged millions of Americans, permanently straining Iranian relations with the US.
The assassination of Iran’s long time general Quasem Soleimani has aggravated the complex relationship between the US and Iran. From chants of “Death To America '' roaring throughout Iran to threats exchanged between the two countries, the fear of war is on the rise.
Quasem Soleimani was well known for his Anti-Western mindset. Not only had he helped fund, organize, and train Anti-Western militias, but he had even provided militants in Iraq with roadside bomb technologies that had killed hundreds of troops over the past 15 years. Those in support of Trump’s decision claim that the killing of Soleimani needed to happen in order to ensure the future safety of American troops. On the other hand, those who oppose it use the rising tension following the incident as one of the reasons why previous presidents had not targeted him in the past and believe that the president’s actions had put our troops into more danger.
What happened in Iran after Soleimani’s death?
A funeral procession held in Baghdad was attended by thousands, mourning the deaths of both Soleimani and the deputy head of the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
Mourners walked alongside the vehicle that carried Soleimani’s coffin. At the mention of his name, mourners broke down into tears, many of them carrying signs reading “We are all Muhandis and Soleimani.”
On live television, Soleimani’s daughter asked Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, “Who will take revenge for my father?”
“Everyone will take revenge,” he replied.
Since Soleimani’s death, Iran wrote a letter to the United Nations regarding the event. They described the attack as terrorism and a criminal act. Iran’s ambassador to the UN Majid Takht Ravanci noted it as a “tantamount to opening a war.”
A new threat from Iran surfaced on Friday, January 5th, when they announced that they will no longer limit themselves to restrictions laid out in the 2015 nuclear deal, putting the US in danger of nuclear attacks from Iran.
The Iraqi lawmakers have also voted to expel US forces from their country. In response, President Trump has made threats to sanction Iraq if they proceed to remove US troops.
Ultimately, the events following the killing of Soleimani has placed the US and Iran at a very vulnerable position, which could possibly rise to the extremity of war.