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Iran — Let’s Get MAD?

How does the Bush Adminstration deal with a member of the “axis of evil?”

February 14, 2002

How does the Bush Adminstration deal with a member of the "axis of evil?"

Iran’s relations with the West have been strained ever since the U.S. embassy in Tehran was seized back in 1979. Despite the country’s continuing steps on the road toward full democracy, the United States still remains deeply suspicious of Iran’s reformist government in Tehran. In fact, President George W. Bush’s State of the Union address included Iran as part of an “axis of evil.” Our new Read My Lips feature examines Iran’s ambivalent relations with the United States.

How does President Bush differentiate between Iran’s regime and its people?

“Iran aggressively pursues these weapons [of mass destruction] and exports terror — while an unelected few repress the Iranian people’s hope for freedom.”

(U.S. President George W. Bush, January 2002)

Did the United States and Iran share common goals during the war in Afghanistan?

“The Iranians were espousing the same objectives we were: getting rid of the Taliban and having a broad based government afterwards. This convergence was limited.”

(Pentagon official, February 2001)

How do historians view the talk of the “axis of evil”?

“Iran’s recent promotion from a rogue state to a member of the “axis of evil” appears to be a belated rhetorical response to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s portrayal of the United States as the Great Satan.”

(Abbas Amanat, Yale history professor, February 2002)

What was Iran’s official reaction to the September 11 terrorist attacks?

“The horrific terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States were perpetrated by a cult of fanatics who had self-mutilated their ears and tongues — and could only communicate with perceived opponents through carnage and devastation.”

(Iran’s President Mohammad Khatami, November 2001)

What is surprising to those who see Iran as a hotbed for Islamic extremism?

“Islamic radicalism flourishes in corrupt, pro-United States countries in the Middle East — but is hated in an anti-U.S., fundamentalist country like Iran.”

(Wall Street Journal editorial, October 2001)

What else distinguishes Iran from other Islamic nations?

“It is important to recognize that Iran is one of the more stable regimes in the Middle East.”

(Abbas Amanat, Yale history professor, January 2002)

Are Iranians merely gullible followers of the country’s powerful Muslim clergy?

“When I speak to the youth, they don’t accept it any more if I say, ‘do this because so-and-so said so.’ You have to give a reason, otherwise they don’t accept it.”

(Ali Mohammadpur, Iranian mullah, February 2001)

What view do many Iranian hardliners have of the United States?

“For the unelected few, the United States is still the Great Satan, benefactor of the little Satan — Israel.”

(Derk Kinnane Roelofsma, UPI journalist, February 2002)

What is the current state of reform in Iran?

“We have reforms. We are trying to have a democratic society.”

(Ali Rabiee, Iran’s National Security Advisor, June 2001)

What is the status of free speech in Iran?

“Freedom of expression does exist in Iran. What does not exist is freedom after the expression.”

(Iranian citizen, writing in the Washington Post, January 1996)

How does Iran’s former royal family view the country’s reforms?

“Behind a benign façade of electoral process and claims of an Islamic version of democracy, the Iranian regime remains one of the world’s most cynical oppressors — and an enemy of democratic values.”

(Reza Pahlavi, son of the late shah of Iran, who himself was accused of running an oppressive regime, January 2002)

How long will Iran’s oppressive elements influence national policy?

“An establishment that blocks the paths to reform — and closes the doors to public criticism and protest — will not survive.”

(Hossein Loghmanian, Iranian reformist Member of Parliament, January 2002)

How do Iran’s reformists believe the United States needs to change?

“The United States has to change the way it looks at Iran.”

(Ali Rabiee, Iran’s National Security Advisor, June 2001)

What makes dealing with Iran so tricky?

“Neither Iranian President Mohammad Khatami nor his foreign minister, Kamal Kharrazi — who have up to now been courted by U.S. diplomats — have the final say in foreign policy matters.”

(Derk Kinnane Roelofsma, UPI journalist, February 2002)

Finally, what is Iran’s view of proposed time limits on the current U.S. embargo?

“An embargo is an embargo. Whether it’s two years — or five years.”

(Hamid-Reza Assefi, Iran’s Foreign Minister, June 2001)