The diplomatic relations between the US and the Islamic Republic of Iran keeps getting worse every year, and it is expected to worsen even more in the future. Recently, the conflict escalated so much that at the beginning of January 2020, the internet was flooded with memes and articles about the possibility of a Third World War, which by god’s grace, didn’t take place. A world war right now would mean heavy usage of nuclear weapons, which could wipe out every single living being on this planet. So, how long has all of this been going on? Who is responsible for this mess? Let’s find out.
IRAN: GEOGRAPHY AND OVERALL SCENARIO
Iran is a country located in the middle east, bordering Afghanistan, Armenia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Iraq, Turkey and Oman (by the strait of Hormuz). This country has a very rich cultural heritage. The Persians inhabitated this region after a large-scale diaspora took place a few centuries ago and they speak Farsi. Iranians are not Arabs and they hate it when someone calls them that. So, DO NOT CALL THEM ARABS! Most people living in Iran are Shia Muslims, and they constitute over 90% of their total population. Apart from all the rich cultural heritage, this country is rich in its oil and natural gas reserves. Iran is the second-largest exporter of oil and natural gas in the world, falling slightly short to their bitter foe, Saudi Arabia.
The current situations in Iran, however, aren’t well. Iran is in serious financial trouble due to the heavy economic sanctions imposed on it by the US and other countries like the UK, Germany, etc. The sanctions here are that these countries have stopped buying petroleum and natural gas products from Iran and have urged other countries to do the same. This has a huge impact on its economy. There has been an increase in the inflation rate and the value of the Iranian Riyal has been depreciating constantly in comparison to other currencies. There is an increase in unemployment and illiteracy. According to certain statistics, people who pursue a degree in a university fail to get jobs at all. One might raise the question: what the government is doing about it? Well, it is doing nothing to improve its economy. All it is doing is enriching its Uranium to upset the US and its Allies. The economic sanctions do not seem to have any effect on its policies.
THE HISTORY OF US-IRAN CONFLICT
The conflict between the US and Iran can be traced back to 1908. During this period, the British had captured almost the entire world, including Iran. This was the year when Iran was found to have a lot of oil. The British saw a profitable business opportunity and started the “Anglo-Persian oil company”, in coalition with the Persians. But Iran at the time didn’t have the tools and technology required to transport oil to different places. Seeing that, the British offered to help. That help came in the form of British owning over 50% of the shares in the company and changing its name to “British Petroleum.” Many Iranians resented this because Britain was in charge of all the resources found in their country, which was unfair. After a few small-scale protests, things went back to normal when Reza Pahlavi became the Shah of Iran.
Things went smoothly until Mosaddegh became the prime minister of Iran, overthrowing the Shah. Mosaddegh was a man with strong socialist ideologies. He was of the opinion that the petroleum industry in Iran should be nationalised, thus not letting the British enjoy Iran’s profits. A vote was passed in the parliament to nationalise the petroleum industry. The British got really upset and started imposing economic sanctions and stops export of Iranian oil to different countries. All this didn’t seem to stop Mosaddegh. Mosaddegh believed his country could be self-sufficient and not depend on other nations to drive their economy (Somewhat like the current Russian Federation). Many started identifying him as a communist, although he was not.
Anyway, The British were upset. They decided to stage a coup with the help of their favourite ally, The United States Of America. In 1953, the year CIA was formed. the CIA, in coalition with MI-6 (British intelligence services), orchestrated a coup against the Iranian Prime minister. They did so by lobbying with the supporters of the Shah. The country was divided into two parties: one in favour of the Shah, and the other in favour of Mosaddegh. Large-scale protests from both parties in the country started taking place. Colleges, houses and even private properties were vandalised. Soon, people started surrounding themselves around Mosaddegh’s residence with tanks and weapons. Seeing no other option, Mosaddegh decided to surrender. He was imprisoned for three years and kept under house arrest until his death.
The control was soon transferred back to Shah Md. Raza Pahlavi. He greatly admired the way things went down in the west, especially the US and started adopting capitalist policies. Under his leadership, Iran had seen dramatic changes, called the White Revolution. The literacy rate was at an all-time high. Women were given the right to vote, work, education and express political views. The country started seeing modern infrastructure and a new way of life. Some appreciated these changes, but a large section of the population resented them as they held strong conservative ideologies. They believed that women were given way too many rights and they did not want to live under a leader who lived a lavish life in different palaces. This is the point where another person steps in; Ayatollah Khomeini.
Ayatollah Khomeini is an extreme Islamist conservative. He objected the reforms that the Shah had brought and wanted to have an authoritarian government, like most Arab countries. Khomeini gained popularity in Iran through his underground operations. He received support from people who were against the Shah’s western reforms. To suppress him, the Shah sent him on an exile of 14 years. During his exile, he recorded tapes of his sermons and speeches to his followers in Iran in the 70s that were crucial to the spread of his innovative ideology of having an Islamic government.
Fourteen years later, he came back to Iran and was successful in staging a coup against the Shah. He and his people blamed the shah for starting a fire in a movie theatre, killing 400. Suddenly, there was an uprising. The result: the Shah was forced to flee Iran in 1979 and Khomeini assumes the power of Iran.
Things started getting messy here onwards. In 1980, The Iran-Iraq war took place. The twist: US supported Iraq instead of Iran. The US were funding Saddam Hussein. This decision was solely made by the newly appointed President, Ronald Reagan. Following an 8-year long war, things were going normally until US had shot down an Iranian Airbus flight in 1988, killing around 300 people. US claimed that this act was purely a mistake made by the navy. Nobody knows whether it was really an accident or not. To make things worse, president Bill Clinton imposed heavy economic sanctions to end all ties with Iran. Since then, things have continued to deteriorate.
Iran still wanted to cooperate with the US, but the US started imposing new sanctions every time. Iran was not allowed to enrich Uranium (Which they had agreed to initially. To convince Iran, President Obama is rumoured to have provided Iran with a huge sum of 1.5 billion$. Iran was also not allowed to export weapons and they also had to obey certain banking restrictions. This resulted in fall of the Iranian Riyal’s value compared to other currencies.
RECENT ESCALATIONS BETWEEN THE US & IRAN:
The recent escalations are more serious than the past. Things started getting worse when Donald Trump became the president of the United States. Donald Trump declared the Iranian military and the government as a religious extremist terrorist group; spreading violence and involving in matters that do not matter to the country at all. This was taken very seriously by Iran and they started doing the exact opposite thing that the US wanted them to do. The moment the US pulled out of the nuclear deal signed in 2015, Iran started enriching thrice the amount of Uranium to increase its nuclear arsenal. The countries who were a part of this deal started imposing sanctions on Iran; so did the US. Trump started feeling that Iran could be a big threat to the US’s policies. This enraged Iran.
To make matters worse, The US, according to Iranian officials, has been sending drones in Iranian airspace, some of which were shot down immediately. Iran thought that the US is trying to breach into its airspace to gather intelligence. However, the US claims that the drone was following the route of the international airspace. The US also held Iran responsible for causing damage at the Aramco oilfield in Saudi Arabia in 2019. Iranians deny the allegations. The Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility, which made it apparent to everyone that Iran was behind all of this, as they support the Houthis.
As time passed, Iran kept enriching its Uranium, breaking the 2015 deal. The US, unhappy with how things were going on, gathered more intelligence and crossed a line when they killed Qassem Soleimani, a general in the Iranian Army. He was killed in Baghdad, Iraq back in January 2020 when the US bombed an area close to the Baghdad airport. The US claimed total responsibility for this event. This is the point where the two countries were rumoured to go to war against each other, triggering the Third World War. A war against these two would mean the inclusion of the following countries in the following sides:
|Countries backing the US||Countries backing Iran|
|Saudi Arabia||Lebanon (Hezbollah)|
|Japan||North Korea (DPRK)|
|South Korea (ROK)||Yemen (Houthi Rebels)|
The tensions eventually cooled down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which shut the entire world down. Now that Joe Biden has become the president of the United States, things might take a different course. The First thing Biden did when he assumed office was to join the climate and the nuclear deal. He also requested Iran to become a part of this deal once again, which Iran bluntly refused to. This decision might result in an attack on Iran by the United States and Israel, but things look quite distant now.
The tensions between the U.S. and Iran don’t seem to calm down anytime soon. How these two countries are reacting to even the smallest of events, a war could erupt very soon. A war right now is not a sane choice, because it will involve the usage of nuclear weapons. We’ve already seen the amount of damage a small piece of Plutonium can cause (Hiroshima and Nagasaki). Let’s hope these two countries reach an agreement and eliminate the threat of another world war.