U.S. policy undermines its allies in Iran

By Ridgely Fuller | Jan 11, 2020

In February and March of 2019 I was fortunate enough to join a group of ordinary American citizens on a delegation to Iran to explore the causes and effects of the U.S. demonizing Iran as our “enemy.” Our delegation traveled in peace to speak to any and all Iranians who would meet with us despite President Trump's having unilaterally pulled the U.S. out of the internationally negotiated nuclear agreement with Iran and reimposed even more crippling economic sanctions that affect all parts of life for ordinary Iranians.

Over the course of three weeks, we visited schools, universities, cultural sites, a nuclear reactor, parliament and even had a private one-and-a-half-hour meeting with Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who began by noting fondly that all his diplomas, from high school to Ph.D., were earned while living in the United States. In flawless English, he described his lifelong pursuit of Iran’s peaceful engagement with the west — despite often being outnumbered by Iranians who, due to historical experience, believe isolationism rather than engagement to be in their national interest.

Working steadfastly for years, he and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry achieved the internationally acclaimed nuclear agreement, which for Mr. Zarif felt like proof of the value of cooperative, respectful engagement with the United States. Subsequent to Trump’s election, the nuclear agreement was scrapped and Foreign Minister Zarif was declared a persona non grata in the U.S.

The Iran that emerged during our visit was very different from that promoted in the U.S. The proud 6,000-year history and culture of Iran is a critical context for understanding its historical place in the world. The history of U.S. relations with Iran is also crucial to understanding its complex perception of the United States and the western world. It is a history that is carefully silenced in our schools, press and governing circles.

How many of us Americans have learned, for example, that in 1954 our own government overthrew the democratically elected prime minister of Iran and imposed a brutal regime that continued to suppress and exploit the Iranian people and resources until the Iranian Revolution in 1979? How many of us Americans know of the economic sanctions that our country has imposed on Iran since 1979 specifically designed to grind its economy to a halt? How many of us ever learned that our government backed Iraq in its invasion of Iran in the 1980s, or that in the following eight years of war between Iraq and Iran our government supplied Iraq with weapons, especially massive chemical weapons used on Iranian civilians, many of whom still suffer from those horrendous attacks to this day?

How many of us know that the in1988 U.S. military shot down an Iranian civilian airliner, killing 290 civilians, and has yet to even apologize? How many of us know that Iran is surrounded by dozens of U.S. military bases in a way the United States would never tolerate? Never mind that Iran allied with the U.S. in its wars with the Taliban in Afghanistan and ISIS in Iraq. Iranians see our joint history as full of betrayal, interference and failure to respect the sovereignty of an independent nation. Is it any wonder that the Iranian leadership might have difficulty trusting the U.S.? And yet, due to the perseverance of peace-minded Iranians, Americans and internationals, a nuclear agreement was reached and deemed a success by all monitors.

By pulling out of the nuclear agreement, escalating military action, intensifying economic sanctions, and, most recently, assassinating a top Iranian general, our government is discrediting the very Iranians who had been the most persuasive voices for peace and engagement with the United States. The U.S. leadership, including both the executive and legislative branches, apparently remains determined to continue and intensify its useless and merciless path toward endless war. Is there no one in Washington who will look at the world and our policies from any point of view other than that which promotes continued global destruction?

Each day I become more convinced that our only hope for planetary survival is through ordinary Americans persistently, loudly but lovingly demanding an end to militarization and endless war. The question is whether we are up to this task.

Ridgely Fuller has lived in and traveled to Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. A retired social worker, she holds master's degrees in social work from Boston College and international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. She lives in Belfast.

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