Milestones of Mistrust: Unpacking 3 decades of the Iranian-US deepfreeze

Published October 20th, 2013 - 13:16 GMT

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Mohammed Mossadegh
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Image 1 of 15:  The 1953 Coup: The Ground Zero of US-Iranian relations. Democratically elected Iranian PM, Mohammed Mossadegh is overthrown in a coup backed by the CIA. Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, is appointed as the Shah and rules as an authoritarian monarch. What's that - you want the dictator of your country ousted by the US? Go get some oil Zimbabwe

The Shah with Carter
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Image 1 of 15: 1979: The Shah is overthrown. After years of repressive rule, the Shah is overthrown and flees to Egypt. President Carter hopes the good relations between Iran and the West will continue. Wishful thinking. People take to the streets to chant support for Ayatollah Khomeini.

Khomeini
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Image 1 of 15: 1979: Khomeini returns to Iran. You’ve heard of actions speaking louder than words? There are also examples of words speaking louder than actions. Khomeini says: "I beg God to cut off the hands of all evil foreigners and their helpers." Relations have been better.

Iranian hostage crisis students
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Image 1 of 15: 1979: Storming of the American Embassy. Iranian students take U.S. Embassy officials hostage. They demand that the Shah be sent back to Iran for trial. Khomeini says the kidnappers have his support. Like your average serial killer, the Ayatollah goes from being a relative unknown to highly unpopular in America.

President Reagan
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Image 1 of 15: 1980: Iran hostage crisis continued --Operation Desert One. President Carter launches an operation to rescue the American hostages. It fails spectacularly and eight American soldiers are killed. The botched operation contributes to Carter losing the White House. President Reagan comes to power and the right reigns supreme across both camps.

American hostages released
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Image 1 of 15: 1981: American hostages released. After 444 days in captivity, the hostages are freed. The U.S. agrees to unfreeze Iranian assets and not to interfere in Iran’s political and military affairs. Like in any relationship, some of the promises made will be broken.

weapons
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Image 1 of 15: 1986: Iran Contra Scheme. Revelations emerge that Reagan has secretly shipped arms to Iran to encourage by proxy the release of hostages in Lebanon. These Persian ear-marked weapons end up diverted to help Nicaraguan rebels called contras. Needless to say, the sordid affair leaves a bitter taste in America when it comes to Iran.

iran iraq war
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Image 1 of 15: 1987: U.S. steps into the Iran-Iraq war. In an effort to protect shipping routes in the Arabian Gulf, the U.S. enters the Iran Iraq war and nearly destroys all of the Iranian navy. Before this attack,it had been held that the Iranian public opinion of America has hit the absolute low point. After this incident, it sinks even lower.

Iranian airplane
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Image 1 of 15: 1988: U.S. shoots down Iranian airplane. In a tragic incident, America shoots down an Iranian passenger airplane making its way for Dubai. 290 civilians are killed. America pays a cash settlement, but refuses to apologize for its actions. Public anger spills over in Iran.

iran sanctions
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Image 1 of 15: 1996 - Present Day. Sanctions, sanctions and more sanctions. Over the next fifteen years, America and the international community issue a series of sanctions on Iran, which punish companies doing business with Iran, and ban the import and export of materials used for the enrichment of uranium. This big squeeze cripples the Iranian economy.

Secret Iranian nuclear facilities
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Image 1 of 15: 2002: Secret Iranian nuclear facilities discovered. These installations include a large uranium enrichment plant at Natanz and a heavy water plant at Arak. Twitter hadn’t taken off at the time, but if it had, the American Internet would have been flooded with OMGs.

president bush axis of evil
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Image 1 of 15: 2002. Axis of Evil: President Bush names Iran as being part of an Axis of Evil in his State of the Union speech. The phrase is as memorable as the chant "Marg bar Amrika" or “Death to America”. It sticks in the public imagination. Iranians are not thrilled.

President Ahmadinejad
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Image 1 of 15: 2005: President Ahmadinejad elected. With right wing leanings,1979 hostages recall him as one of their embassy captors.Stagnating relations, the President denies the Holocaust and claims that the US is destroying Iran's rain clouds. US-Iranian relations crumble throughout his two terms in office. It still rains in Iran.

Iranian nuclear plant
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Image 1 of 15: 2007: Iranian nuclear plant attacked: In an operation codenamed “Olympic Games”, American and Israeli hackers break into the Natanz plant. Centrifuges crash faster than Mel Gibson’s popularity. Obama continues the program which brings down over 1,000 centrifuges. Like a broken heart, the Natanz plant recovers with the passage of time.

american hikers in iran
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Image 1 of 15: 2009: Iran captures three US hikers. Iran arrests three U.S. hikers and accusing them of espionage, sends them to the infamous Evin prison. The hikers are released after more than a year. The incident marks a new low (in a relationship that has no shortage of lows) in the relations between the two countries.

A very famous man once memorably said, “We didn’t start the fire.”. Maybe it was Billy Joel. Or maybe it was Ayatollah Khomeini, when asked about the relations between his country and America.

However, to quote the words of another famous man, “the times, they are a-changing.”

Iran has just come off a round of meetings with the European Union chaired P5 + 1 Group, which is comprised of the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany.

The meetings mark the latest in a series of diplomatic engagements between Iran and the wider world since the election of the moderate Presidential candidate Hasan Rouhani.  

More recently, Rouhani tweeted “Happy Rosh Hashanah” - a marked shift from his predecessor Mr. Ahmadinejad, who didn’t know the meaning of “Rosh Hashanah” or for that matter “happy”. Mr. Rouhani also held a fifteen minute long phone conversation with U.S. President Barack Obama.

At its meeting with the P5+1 Group in Geneva, Iran made a presentation called “"An End to the Unnecessary Crisis and a Beginning for Fresh Horizons.” The European Union said that the presentation was “very useful.” The Obama administration officials indicated that they were weighing a partial easing of sanctions if Tehran takes convincing steps toward addressing international concerns about its controversial nuclear program.

However, all is not rosy and rather still relatively frosty when it all boils down. It must be recalled, that only recently President Obama told the U.N. General Assembly in New York that “while signs of a diplomatic thaw between the United States and Iran are encouraging, (expectations) must be tempered by a decades-old mutual distrust.”

But what are the incidents that have led to “decades of mistrust’” between America and Iran? Why are the relations between two countries worse than those between an Arab mother-in-law and a (foreign) daughter-in-law (and things don’t get much worse than that).

In this glacial gallery, we unravel the thick iceberg between the camps to pick out the most significant incidents that have created an almost irreparable mistrust between America and Iran.

 

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