The moderates had no solid arguments to justify their re-election, and their popularity collapsed and the US eased their helplessness
The history of shattered US-Iranian relations has been marked by deliberate amnesia and easy-going poses on both sides that ascribe a disproportionately large amount of debt to the Iranian side for driving Iran towards hardline anchorage. The starting point of American fear and narrative is the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and the ensuing US embassy hostage drama that lasted 444 days. In the Iranian conscience (completely ignored in the US) the moor started much earlier with the US-backed coup against the nationalist, reformist and immensely popular Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953.
Mosaddegh was no fanatic, he personified secular democracy – but his efforts to free Iran from the grossly unjust and unjust stranglehold of Western oil companies were its undoing. The proud people of a civilization that began around 550 BC. Founded by Cyrus the Great in BC, it did not accept repeated sleight of hand, manipulation, and clientelism too well, which eventually sparked the insurrection and takeover by the religious bases. In the preliminary years after the Iranian Revolution, the Americans strengthened the hands of the Iranian ayatollahs during the deadly Iran-Iraq war by supporting the Ba’ath regime of Saddam Hussein (who was later also denied). The US knowingly supported Iraq with double-use technology, shared intelligence, training, overlooked excesses, and continued economic support – the decades-long war with an estimated 1-2 million casualties, mostly on the Iranian side, awakened and legitimized the Shiite spirit of martyrdom Theocracy in Iran. Later, from 1989 to 2005, Iran was elected president by moderate pragmatists in Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami – these were also the years of the two Gulf Wars and Islamic extremism, when references were directed directly to the Arab sheikdoms Iran, however, continued to be designated “First State Sponsor of Terrorism”!
Since there was nothing to indicate the Iranian hand in the 9/11 attack, the rise of groups such as Al Qaeda, Taliban and later the Islamic State (IS) continued; the weakening sanctions against Iran continued and played a prominent role in the “Axis of evil”. The Americans were wasting opportunities to thaw ties with Iran, driven in part by pressure from Arab sheikdoms and Israel, who had their own sectarian and domestic considerations, and, due to the American calculation of the resulting cost-benefit analysis, the hypothetical abolition of its bellicose stance. After the upswing, the Iranians soon believed again in the harsh populism and fiery anti-US rhetoric of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – for better or worse, the Americans had missed the opportunity to deal meaningfully with the pragmatists and reformists.
Oddly enough, the confrontational policies of the Iranian hardliners fitted in both Tehran and Washington DC, as either regime was able to justify its intransigence to its native voters and the Arab-Israeli combine was pleased with the break. Only the coincidentally overlapping terms of office of a statesman in Barack Obama and another moderately progressive Iranian, Hassan Rouhani, could initiate and shape the groundbreaking Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or the Iran nuclear deal. In July 2015 the agreement was signed and the crippling sanctions against Iran lifted; For once only, the hands of the moderate political options in Iran have been strengthened. Within a year, however, Donald Trump railed against the “lazy” deal and threatened to “tear up” the deal if elected. Trump was indeed elected and, according to all international expert reports, he broke off an agreement that complied with all of his provisions. Soon humiliating sanctions returned.
Joe Biden had advocated “rejoining” the Iran deal, albeit with political correctness, “if Iran returns to strict adherence to the nuclear deal.” Biden was confirmed on November 7, 2020 and sworn in on January 20, 2021. The Iranian presidential election was scheduled for June 18, almost five months after Biden took office, but Biden, who oversaw the Israeli-Palestinian flare-up, meanwhile made no progress as he promised in re-ratifying the Iranian nuclear deal would have. Even when the sanctions under COVID-related humanitarian aid were lifted, Biden remained inexplicably silent. Beyond the controlled levers of the Iranian Election Observation Agency (EMA), which is administered by the Clerical Guardian Council and has only allowed a handful of candidates to run for office – popular circumstances and frustrations over the moderates’ continued failure to hold power to curb society – economic conditions or the The revival of the Iranian nuclear deal successfully led to revisionist sentiments and the return of the well-known hardliners with Ebrahim Raisi. The moderates had no solid arguments to justify their re-election and their popularity had collapsed and the US had eased their helplessness.
The familiar saber rattle has returned when Raisi refused to pursue Iranian militarist schemes, support friendly militias, or meet Biden. New Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett opened his bill by calling the Iranian “regime of brutal executioners” while the US muttered, semi-convincingly, “Iranians have been denied the right to choose their own leaders in free and fair elections process”. History repeats itself when the US abuses its “monopoly on truth”.
(The author, a military veteran, is a former lieutenant governor of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Puducherry. Views expressed are personal.)