The Historic US-Iranian Relationship

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Iran was once a powerful ally of the United States. During the Cold War, the United States supported, in some cases "propped up," friendly governments as bulwarks against the Soviet Union. And in some of those cases, the United States found itself supporting very unpopular, repressive regimes. The Shah of Iran falls into this category.

His government was toppled in 1979 and was eventually replaced by another repressive regime, but this time the leadership was deeply anti-American. The Ayatollah Khomeini became the ruler of Iran. And he gave many Americans their first glimpse of radical Islam.

Hostage Crisis

When Iranian revolutionaries took over the American Embassy in Iran, many observers thought it would just be a short protest, a symbolic act lasting for a few hours or a few days at most. By the time the American hostages were freed 444 days later, President Jimmy Carter had been forced from office, Ronald Reagan had begun his eight-year term at the White House, and U.S.-Iranian relations had entered a deep freeze from which there still appears to be no hope of recovery.

USS Vincennes

In 1988 the USS Vincennes shot down an Iranian commercial flight over the Persian Gulf. 290 Iranians were killed, and the fates of the United States and Iran as mortal enemies seemed to be further sealed.

Iran's Nuclear Dreams

Today, Iran is openly developing nuclear power capability. They claim this is for peaceful energy purposes, but many are skeptical. And they have been purposefully provocative on whether or not they might use their nuclear capabilities to create weapons.

In a fall 2005 speech to students, Iran's president called for Israel to be wiped off the map. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, abandoning the less-provocative tactics of former president Mohammad Khatami, set himself on a collision course with leaders around the world.

A 2007 U.S. government report said Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003.

Outpost of Tyranny and Axis of Evil

When Condoleezza Rice appeared at her Senate confirmation hearings to become Secretary of State she said, "To be sure, in our world there remain outposts of tyranny -- and America stands with oppressed people on every continent -- in Cuba, and Burma, and North Korea, and Iran, and Belarus, and Zimbabwe."

Iran, along with North Korea, is one of only two countries to be named both an "Axis of Evil" (in President George Bush's 2002 State of the Union address) AND an "Outpost of Tyranny."