The latest sensationalised headline flashed across my timeline last week, “Iran’s Supreme Leader thinks America created Isis” and so the never ending media battle over Iran’s image in the west wages on.
The relationship between Iran and the West has been one of long-standing contention. It started way before the 1979 Islamic Revolution which resulted in the famous American hostage crisis. The troubles between the two started with the 1953 CIA-MI6 coup of the democratically elected Iranian President Mossadeq. For what possible purpose would the freedom fighters of the West wish to depose a democratic president you ask? Obviously the most typically Western grievance, Mossadeq wished to nationalise Iran’s oil and share its wealth with the country, rather than it all being funnelled to the UK and US.
Over 50 years on, with Iran still the only theocracy in the world and under the ultimate control of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, Western relations have barely progressed. There was a possibility of easing of tensions in the aftermath of 9/11, when Iran showed compassion and sympathy for America with candlelit vigils in the streets of Tehran, promising to provide search and rescue missions for American pilots, and were key in the formation of the new Afghan government. Though these positive steps were soon completely obliterated when President Bush included them in his axis of evil State of the Union speech in 2002.
In recent months the media scaremongering over Iran’s nuclear programme is once again a topic of controversy. Talks in Geneva have become difficult and unmovable, but rightly so. The media tells us Iran is a stubborn aggressor who demands nuclear weapons. However in reality, under the 1968 Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which many Western states are party to, Iran is well within their right to enrich uranium to a certain level. They have stated time and again they do not wish to produce nuclear weapons, as it is against their Islamic code, they simply want to enrich uranium for civilian purposes.
It would be appropriate to point out here that under the NPT the countries which had existing nuclear arsenals at the time of signing were under instruction to disarm their weapons over time. Yet 40 years on and America still has 7,315 nuclear warheads with no sign of completely disarming any time soon. So this violation is ignored, yet Iran’s right to enrich uranium is viewed as a threat to the world and must be quashed.
A few weeks ago it was reported that a US plane landed in Iran carrying at least 100 American passengers. Immediately the Twittersphere erupted into pandemonium and news sources ignited with exaggeration over false reports about the plane being ‘forced to land’ by Iranian fighter jets. With comments such as “glad I’m not on that plane”, “let’s hope it doesn’t last for 444 days this time” and “American hostages” bandied around. In reality, there was just an issue with the flight plan and after providing the American passengers with food and drinks the issue was cleared up and the flight was on its way to Dubai.
Once again, the media feels the need to create this mass hysteria and unfounded controversy surrounding Iran. In fact the country can be viewed as a more rational actor than many other states the West is allied with and possibly even the West itself. The last official military engagement by Iran was the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, which was initiated by Saddam Hussein, who invaded Iran just after the Revolution. Since then, there have been countless American engagements, which could portray them as a more dangerous state than Iran. the obvious example being the invasion of Iraq in 2003 on the grounds of false information over the presence of WMDs. Nevertheless, time and again Iran is viewed as an irrational actor on the world stage.
I am in no way condoning a lot of the human rights violations Iran commits. The most recent example being the imprisonment and lashings of young Iranians in Tehran, who recorded themselves singing the Pharrel Williams song Happy in public. However, if America can be allies with Saudi Arabia who beheaded 19 people at the beginning of August for charges such as “sorcery”, does the possibility of making peace with Iran seem that impossible?
Iran is a relatively stable country in an ever changing and volatile region. The West would be wise to make peace and formal relations with such a state if they wish to ever reduce their presence in the Middle East, rather than continually scaremongering and hyping tensions over unnecessary and unfounded allegations.
By Lizzie Roberts
Please note, I chose this feature image [Credit: John] as it ironically came up first when I searched “Iran”. It is of old anti-American graffiti which was all over Tehran after the 1979 Revolution. A lot of it was taken down and painted over during Khatami’s Presidency.