In March 2000, in a speech at the American Iranian Council — a conservative think-tank with a board of directors composed of a variety of high-ranking corporate officers, diplomats and academics — then Secretary of State Madeline Albright for the first time admitted in a public forum the involvement of the United States in the overthrow of Prime Minister Mossadeq. This was almost a month before the New York Times published its report based on Wilber’s CIA text.
AIC considers this so-called “apology” one of its accomplishments in facilitating US-Iran relations. Albright’s actual words, however, convey no “apology,” not even a sincere admission of wrong-doing and accepting of responsibility for the ills that followed the coup, the thousands of people who were killed by the Shah’s CIA-trained SAVAK in prisons, for the pillaging of the country’s resources, for the traumas and repression inflicted upon Iranians. And, again, while Albright admits the US support for Iraq during the Iraq-Iran war, she does not acknowledge any responsibility for the millions of people who were killed and maimed in that war nor even mention the human cost of that war.
By comparison, when Albright “lists” the US grievances against Iran, namely the take-over of the US embassy and the Iranian govrenment’s support for terrorist groups, she packs in many emotive words — disgraceful, trauma, innocent — and humanizes the event by mentioning “hostages and their families,” “innocent Americans and friends of America.”
But that common ground has sometimes been shaken by other factors. In 1953 the United States played a significant role in orchestrating the overthrow of Iran’s popular Prime Minister, Mohammed Massadegh. The Eisenhower Administration believed its actions were justified for strategic reasons; but the coup was clearly a setback for Iran’s political development. And it is easy to see now why many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America in their internal affairs.
Moreover, during the next quarter century, the United States and the West gave sustained backing to the Shah’s regime. Although it did much to develop the country economically, the Shah’s government also brutally repressed political dissent.
As President Clinton has said, the United States must bear its fair share of responsibility for the problems that have arisen in U.S.-Iranian relations. Even in more recent years, aspects of U.S. policy towards Iraq, during its conflict with Iran appear now to have been regrettably shortsighted, especially in light our subsequent experiences with Saddam Hussein.
However, we have our own list of grievances, and they are serious.
The embassy takeover was a disgraceful breach of Iran’s international responsibility and the trauma for the hostages and their families and for all of us. And innocent Americans and friends of America have been murdered by terrorist groups that are supported by the Iranian Government.