The United States and Iran have had a tenuous relationship dating as far back as the 1970s and the Iranian Revolution. Mohammed Reza Pahlevi, the Iranian Shah at the time, was backed by Washington; however, he was overthrown and forced to flee from the country. The revolution ended with a referendum that called for the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, thus officially transforming Iran into a theocratic regime. The divide between Iran and America was solidified when President Bush included Iran within his “axis of evil” rhetoric in 2002 (“US-Iran Relations: A Brief History”).
Since then, American officials have accused the Iranian government of supporting terrorism, as well as accumulating nuclear weapons. The allegations manifested themselves in the United States’ placement of economic sanctions on dealings with Iran and its trade partners. In 2015, President Obama negotiated a nuclear deal in which Iran agreed to limit its nuclear activities and allow international inspections in return for the lifting of the economic sanctions. Recently however, President Trump dropped the nuclear deal under claims that it was “horribly one-sided” and the sanctions have been reinstalled (Pike). The economic ramifications for Iran have been severe and these adverse effects are now being used to explain recent attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities. As tensions rise and war becomes increasingly likely, the United States is threatening stability within the Middle East, again.
On September 14, 2019, missiles and drones struck the Abqaiq oil facility and the Khurais oil field in Saudi Arabia (“Iran Warns Foreign Forces to Stay Out of Gulf, amid New US Deployment”). The attacks have already produced effects on the global oil industry that are equally as detrimental as the results of 9/11. In fact, according to an article posted by The Sun, the twenty-percent increase on oil prices is the most drastic jump since the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait (Pike). Despite the fact that a Yemeni group of rebels, known as the Houthis, have already taken credit for the strikes, Saudi Arabia’s government and executives in Washington have placed blame on Iran. The United States has held that there is no evidence to suggest that the attacks came from Yemen, while Saudi Arabia has claimed that the debris from the drones and missiles signify Iranian craftsmanship.
Following the strikes, the involved countries have issued statements that only fan the flames for a possible war. More specifically, Iran and the United States, have taken combative stances and are engaging in dialogue that is cloaked in angry rhetoric. On the American end, President Trump responded by saying that the U.S. was “locked and loaded” and prepared to do “dastardly things” to Iran (Pike). This had the entire region anticipating an American retaliatory strike. Nonetheless, Washington showed restraint because of the Saudis wishes to prevent an international war from breaking out on their borders. Instead of the “dastardly” attack on Iran that Trump promised, the United States elected to send a small detachment of military technicians to bolster Saudi Arabia’s inadequate air and missile defenses.
The stationing of technicians was supposed to be a defensive tactic on the part of the United States; but, this gesture was not received by the Iranian government the way the Americans had intended it. Frank Gardner, a security correspondent for the BBC News Network, explains this when he says, “The move is defensive, and may not even be enough to prevent another ‘swarm’ attack of drones. Yet Iran’s hardline Revolutionary Guards are interpreting it as an aggressive, almost invasive, act” (“Iran Warns Foreign Forces to Stay Out of Gulf, amid New US Deployment”). To this point, Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, has asserted that he will not tolerate any form of American intervention within the Gulf of Persia. Rouhani and his military leaders responded to the stationing of American military technicians by threatening to attack American bases in the region. The Iranians stated that they are prepared for “full-fledged war” and have advised foreigners to stay away from their borders. Rouhani can even be quoted saying that foreign involvement is what causes fear and tension within the region. The article on BBC’s website cites his exact words on the matter, “Foreign forces can cause problems and insecurity for our people and for our region. If they’re sincere, then they should not make our region the site of an arms race… The farther you keep yourselves from our region and our nations, the more security there will be” (“Iran Warns Foreign Forces to Stay Out of Gulf, amid New US Deployment”).
This back and forth between President Trump and Mr. Rouhani demonstrate the damaging effects that the United States has had on the Middle East through their behavior as an international police-force. It is clear that countries like Iran want nothing more than for the United States to keep their military far away from their borders. Nonetheless, the United States, as the “leaders of the free world,” have felt the need to make their preferences known in a region that they do not understand. In addition, American intervention in the Middle East only seems to occur when it is convenient. The U.S. militarized Afghanistan to detain the spread of communism; occupied Iraq with the purpose of gaining access to oil resources; and are now stationing troops on Iran’s borders to defend an economic partner. It is no coincidence that this entire region has begun to push back so strongly against American involvement. Time and time again, the United States has ignored other countries’ wishes to retain internal sovereignty and it has led to the destabilization of many Middle Eastern countries. The Iranian President’s words are representative of this fear Middle Eastern countries have of American intervention. Ultimately, the United States would be wise to learn from their past mistakes and take a more diplomatic approach to handling tensions within the Middle East.
“Iran Warns Foreign Forces to Stay out of Gulf, amid New US Deployment.” BBC News, BBC, 22 Sept. 2019, www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-49785413.
Pike, Molly Rose. “US-Iran Tensions: Why Does the US Have Sanctions on Iran, How Did It Start and What’s the Latest?” The Sun, The Sun, 20 Sept. 2019, www.thesun.co.uk/news/9091478/why-iran-nuclear-tensions-sanctions-allies-drone/.
“US-Iran Relations: A Brief History.” BBC News, BBC, 21 June 2019, www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-24316661.