USF lecture reminds audience that future diplomacy with Iran should involve understanding history of U.S. role in Mosaddegh coup

05/22/12 Liz McKibbon
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Today Iran agreed in principle to allow U.N. inspectors to restart probes into a military site suspected of harboring tests related to atomic weapons. The tentative accord — announced as envoys headed to the Iraqi capital for negotiations — is likely to be used by Iran as added leverage to seek concessions from the West on sanctions. It follows on the heels of yesterday’s vote by the U.S. Senate to approve tough new penalties on the Tehran regime.

Last night at the University of South Florida in Tampa, researchers suggest learning from the past to improve talks between the US and Iran in the future.

USF has created a new Center for Strategic and Diplomatic Studies to focus on international relations and geopolitical issues, such as the US relationship with Iran. The Center is led by Mohsen Milani, who has more than two decades of experience studying and teaching about Middle Eastern countries.

“The ultimate goal is to turn the Center into a small think tank. Bringing the expertise of the private sector, the academia, and the government together, so that we can produce first rate reports and make enlightened policy proposals.”

More than 50 people attended this first event organized by the new Center. Christopher De Bellaigue is a journalist and author of Patriot of Persia, which recounts the life and work of Mohammed Mosaddegh, who was elected Prime Minister of Iran in 1951.

“Someone said to me that Mosaddegh is a footnote in the history of the decline of the British Empire. It’s also a footnote in the history of the rise of American power and the way that American power is projected.”

Mosaddegh was eventually forced out of power by a U.S. and British-led coup, which De Bellaigue says fundamentally, changed Iran’s opinion of the States.

“Americans have forgotten who Mohammed Mosaddegh was and the British have forgotten who he was. But what happened in 1953, was that by overthrowing a man who had dared to nationalize his oil industry—the Iranian oil industry—we were opening the way for a dictatorship under the Shah, that gathered pace and became more and more brutal. Until the 1979 revolution and we all know what happened after that.”

During the Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini led the opposition that eventually overthrew the Shah. The country became an Islamic Republic and the Ayatollah became the Supreme Spiritual Leader. Hundreds of Shah supporters were executed. Later that year, Iranian Islamic Students stormed the US embassy, taking 66 people as hostages and most were held for months. De Bellaigue says US and Iran relations cannot continue on the path of the past.

“I suppose I think that if you re-read history and you get the right conclusions, you draw the right lessons from it, then you’re in a better position to move on. And now is a perfect time. Now there are talks between America and Europe and Iran about to start, and these have to—we have to hope they succeed and that an agreement is reached. Because the world cannot live in this state of extreme tension.”

De Bellaigue says that historically, influential people in Great Britain both privately and publicly spoke contemptuously about Iran and its people, which directly affects policy.

“Over the past few years, as we’ve had these nuclear negotiations, there’s been a lot of talk about carrots and sticks. We’re gonna give the Iranians a carrot, and then we’re gonna hold a stick. And what are we gonna do? We’re gonna change their behavior. The Iranians are rather perplexed and rather upset about that. They say, we are not donkeys. It’s a question of formulating—of treating your opposite—even if you have ideological problems with them, it’s about treating them with respect.”

Ana Hernandez is political science major at USF. She is an immigrant to the United States and is interested in the progress of the US discussions with Iran.

“I think that things are very tense right now. But at some point, we’ve got to come to a resolution. Hopefully it’s not a resolution that involves a war.”

Nuclear talks between world powers and Iran are planned for Wednesday in Bagdad.

VIDEO: Ayatollah Khomeini funeral

US Senate Passes New Iran Sanctions Bill - The Wall Street Journal

information from the AP was used in this report

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Great book

I learned a lot from de Bellaigue's fine book and also this website has a ton of information,