America and Iran desperately
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
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
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
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
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
Mohammad Mossadegh. Dr. Mossadegh had nationalized the British-controlled
The U.S. government tried for a while to
mediate but finally decided to side with the British
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
The Islamic Revolution of 1979 opened a new chapter in
the US-Iranian relations. The Hostage Crisis of 1979-80,
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
for the human
ties that unite the people of the world.
such as Abraham Lincoln or Mohammad Mossadegh are
often conspicuous by
their absence. America and Iran are desperately
at this historic moment. .................... Say
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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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