5 June 2014, 16:51

Iran-US: bitter enemies or willing partners?

Iran-US: bitter enemies or willing partners?
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For decades relations between Iran and the United States have been marred by animosity and mutual accusations. The two countries severed official diplomatic relations after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran and the subsequent hostage crisis.

Washington and Tehran have been mostly at odds since then, with anti-American sentiment running deep in the Islamic Republic. Iran's incumbent President Hassan Rouhani thus described tense relations between the two countries:

"There is a chronic wound, which is difficult to heal. However, it is not impossible provided there is goodwill and mutual respect between the two countries." But years of enmity and mistrust cannot disappear overnight. Iranians continue to bear a grudge against Uncle Sam for supplying Iraq with chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war, for shooting down an Iranian passenger plane in 1988 – allegedly, by mistake - and, above all, for imposing stringent economic sanctions against their country.

For Washington and its allies the main point of contention is Iran's nuclear program. They question its peaceful nature.

A real opportunity for breaking this vicious cycle appeared in 2013 after a historic telephone conversation between the US and Iranian President, Barack Obama and Hassan Rouhani. Commenting on it, Mr. Obama noted that the two leaders shared responsibility for pursuing diplomacy.

"The very fact that this was the first communication between an American and an Iranian President since 1979 underscores the deep mistrust between our countries. But it also indicates the prospect of moving beyond that difficult history. We have a unique opportunity to make progress with the new leadership in Tehran," Barack Obama said.

After Rouhani's election, the United States offered Iran a "willing partnership," and the Iranian President indicated his country's readiness for dialogue. This is widely seen as a sign of the two nations' willingness to become not just "frenemies" but true "willing partners."

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