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Conspicuous absence
America and Iran desperately in need of Lincolns and Mossadeghs

February 10, 2004

At my primary school in Iran (1944-1949), I started a wall newspaper. Abraham Lincoln was featured in the first issue. He was my cultural hero. Lincoln's rise to American presidency from humble origins and the Emancipation Proclamation filled me and my readers with admiration.

Britain and Russia had dominated Iran for over a century and half. The French, Germans, and Americans were viewed as possible liberators. Instead of French, that was viewed as a superior language of culture, I chose to study English in high school. That enabled me to read the English books, magazines, and newspapers in the American library in Tehran.

Together with a friend, we translated Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms into Persian. I did not fully understand his poetic prose, but the novel drew me closer to American heroism and romance.

At the time, many other American novelists such as John Steinbeck, William Saroyan, and Erskine Caldwell were immensely popular in Iran. To my generation, America seemed to be a land of liberty and heroic struggles against injustice.

In fond anticipation, I later came to the United States to continue my studies. I discovered first hand the goodness and generosity of the American people. I also became aware of the significant differences between peoples and their governments.

August 19, 1953 had a decisive impact on the American image in Iran. On that date, a CIA-engineered coup d'etat overthrew a popular, nationalist, and democratic government headed by Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh. Dr. Mossadegh had nationalized the British-controlled oil industry.

The U.S. government tried for a while to mediate but finally decided to side with the British to de-nationalize the oil industry. That was a great blow to the Iranian nationalists. Their romance with America had led them to a hard awakening.

For the next 26 years, the United States supported a dictatorial regime that was hated by million of Iranians. U.S. foreign policies in Iran paved the way for the subsequent rule of the ayatollahs. Bushist foreign policies today may produce more disasterous consequences tomorrow

The Islamic Revolution of 1979 opened a new chapter in the US-Iranian relations. The Hostage Crisis of 1979-80, in particular, unleashed the pent-up emotions on both sides. But a continuing struggle between the U. S. and Iranian governments has kept the two great nations apart. Governments are often dominated by ambitious men (yes, mostly men) who relentlessly purse power with little regard for the human ties that unite the people of the world.

Great leaders such as Abraham Lincoln or Mohammad Mossadegh are often conspicuous by their absence. America and Iran are desperately in need of such leaders at this historic moment. .................... Say goodbye to spam!


Majid Tehranian is Professor, School of Communications, University of Hawaii at Manoa, and Director of the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research in Honolulu, Hawaii.  His latest book is Bridging a Gulf: Peace in West Asia (London, I. B. Tauris, 2003).


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By Majid Tehranian




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