To understand why negotiations with Iran represent a historic opportunity, it is instructive to recall events that defined U.S.-Iranian relations since the 1950s.
In 1953, the American CIA and British MI6 intelligence forces instigated the overthrow of Mohammed Mosaddegh, Iran’s first duly elected Prime Minister. Mosaddegh’s policy goals were the establishment of a constitutional democracy and the nationalization of Iran’s oil resources. Nationalization of the oil industry was the singular event that angered American and British interests in the region and inspired the coup against Mosaddegh.
In effect, Mosaddegh’s removal ended Iran’s first – and last - fully democratic government and gave unprecedented power to the Pahlavi monarchy, which ruled Iran in oppression and brutality through a secret police network known as Savak.
The U.S. role in Mosaddegh’s overthrow was kept secret for many years. In retrospect, it is now widely regarded as “paranoid, colonial, illegal, and immoral” and the leading cause of national resentments culminating in the Iranian Revolution of 1979 led by Ayatollah Khomeini.
In essence, it was a seriously misguided policy decision that created generations of Iranian enmity towards the U.S. We overthrew their government. We did this to them. We brought this anger and resentment upon ourselves. And you can better understand Iranian attitudes against this backdrop of history.
Most importantly, current negotiations give us an opportunity to right a historic wrong and work towards normalizing U.S.-Iranian relations.
Since the 1950s, Iranian demographics have changed dramatically. The current population is young, Internet savvy, and Western-oriented in terms of aspirations. More to the point, younger generations do not carry the historical baggage and resentments of their forbearers. In time, this generation will take over Iran and alter the future course and direction of the country. That is why it is vitally important to pursue a peaceful resolution to Iran’s nuclear program. Any military option would seal the enmity of the Iranian people through the end of time.
Netanyahu is a neo-conservative and a militarist whose views of history are simply counter-productive. Perhaps Shimon Perez said it best: “The people of Iran are not Israel’s enemies, and the people of Israel are not Iran’s enemies.” This time, I hope the voices of reason prevail.