In the third week of September, the relationship between Iran and the United States has reached the headlines again. It began on September 14th, when President Trump tweeted about an alleged assasination attempt plotted by Iran. He went on to explain that any attack from Iran will be met with strong retaliation from the United States.
The timing of President Trump’s remarks is intriguing to many as well. He tweeted this on the same day the peace agreement between Israel and the UAE was established. Many reporters questioned how this agreement would impact Iran due to tensions between Iran and the nations in the agreement (the United States and Israel) prior to the agreement being made. An agreement that brings those three nations (the United States, Israel, and the UAE) together will give them more leverage when addressing Iran, and Trump may have taken this into consideration when making his tweet.
Numerous countries have acknowledged the difficult position that Iran faces, with many criticizing America’s role for placing Iran in conflicting situations, including initiating sanctions against Iran, flying a drone over Iranian territory, and assassinating Qassem Soleimani.
For the most part, conflict that many expected to happen between the United States and Iran has been avoided. The killing of Qassem Soleimani in January of this year, for instance, led many to believe that a war was imminent with numerous media outlets, such as the Washington Post, reporting on tensions with Iran rising and how the U.S. should try to avoid major conflict. However, this has not stopped President Trump and other politicians from referencing Iran in national affairs. A topic that was discussed in one of the presidential debates was Iran interfering in America’s elections. Iran had not been a country of concern with interference in U.S. elections until this year, and it is apparent that this concern came about after President Trump ordered the killing of Soleimani. The current president-elect, Joe Biden, said in the final presidential debate that Iran would “pay a price” for interfering with America’s elections.
On September 26, the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, expressed his frustration at Iran’s current situation with the United States. He accused America of “savagery” in response to the increasing sanctions on Iran. These sanctions primarily harm the less fortunate citizens of Iran, often seen through restricted access to medicine and care.
While major conflicts have been avoided thus far, the idea of the U.S. going to war with Iran has been a topic of discussion for almost three decades, and there have been points in time where the idea almost became a reality. Some examples of when tensions became this high are the Iran Hostage Crisis in 1979-1981, the wars with Iraq and Afghanistan in the last two decades (with Iran being in the middle of the two countries and George W. Bush saying Iran was a part of an “axis of evil”), and most recently after the killing of Soleimani. Considering the fragility of current Iran-U.S. relations, Trump’s tweets carry a huge impact. These verbal exchanges between government officials in the United States and Iran can at any point create grounds for conflict that would incur losses for both sides. Under the Obama administration, the idea of peace between the United States and Iran seemed like a strong possibility. The Iran Nuclear Deal had the potential to denuclearize Iran, and create peace between Washington and Tehran. However, the Trump administration took a different approach and withdrew from the nuclear deal in May 2018, worsening relations between the two countries.
While it may seem difficult to reach a point where the United States and Iran have a positive relationship, it is possible. Top Iranian government officials, such as Hassan Rouhani, have stated in the past that they do not want unnecessary conflict with the United States, but that they will defend themselves when necessary. Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, has even stated that Iran’s conflict is not with the people of the United States, but rather with U.S. government officials promoting harm on Iran. This makes it apparent that Iran does not have an extensive hatred against the United States like many believe they do. While it would be a long and gradual process, it is a goal that can be achieved in the long-term if both nations actively express interest in bilateral relations.