October 05, 2015 15:01 UTC

In the News

Troubled US-Iran Relations Pre-Date 1979 Revolution

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This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

When did the problems begin between the United States and Iran? Many Iranians say it was nineteen fifty-three. That year the United States supported the military overthrow of Mohammed Mossadeq. He was the nationalist prime minister of an elected government .

Later, the United States supported the rule of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. He fled the Islamic Revolution in nineteen seventy-nine.

That November, supporters of a new religious leader in Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, captured the United States embassy in Tehran. They held more than fifty American hostages for four hundred forty-four days.

The two countries ended diplomatic relations in nineteen eighty. And, when the Iran-Iraq war began that year, the United States supported Iraq.

In nineteen ninety-seven, Iranians elected a president who raised American hopes, Mohammad Khatami. The next year, American Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called for the two countries to "explore further ways to build mutual confidence and avoid misunderstandings." She said it could be a step toward normal relations.

But President Khatami said the United States would have to apologize for its part in the nineteen fifty-three overthrow. He said this in two thousand:

MOHAMMED KHATAMI: "Through their confession, if the Americans accept to do it, I think that this will be a very big step toward removing our misunderstandings, but unfortunately in action, they have not done this."

When President Obama took office in January of two thousand nine, he had a message for nations hostile to the United States.

BARACK OBAMA: "To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit, and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history -- but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."

The main target of that message was Iran's current president. This is what Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the Associated Press this week during his visit to New York:

MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD (INTERPRETER): "The United States administrations must recognize that Iran is a big power, and accept it as such."


Outside the United Nations, demonstrators protested his yearly appearance among world leaders speaking at the General Assembly.

President Obama said Iran had failed to respond to what he called the "extended hand" that he offered a year ago. He said new Security Council sanctions approved in June make clear that international law is not an empty promise.

BARACK OBAMA: "Now let me be clear once more. The United States and the international community seek a resolution to our differences with Iran, and the door remains open to diplomacy should Iran choose to walk through it. But the Iranian government must demonstrate a clear and credible commitment, and confirm to the world the peaceful intent of its nuclear program."

A few hours later, Mr. Ahmadinejad spoke. He said Iran remains ready for what he called "serious and free debate" with American officials on the nuclear issue.

He also suggested that the majority of the American people believe that their government planned the attacks of September eleventh, two thousand one.

MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD (INTERPRETER): "That some segments within the U.S. government orchestrated the attack to reverse the declining American economy, and its grips on the Middle East, in order to save the Zionist regime."

His comments led American diplomats and delegates from several European countries to walk out of the assembly hall. President Obama told the BBC that the accusation was inexcusable, offensive and hateful.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.


Reported by Arash Arabasadi, Margaret Basheer, David Gollust and Jeffrey Young

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