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Behind the Headlines

Iran at a crossroads

 A Persian Gulf missile: “Khalij Fars missile on a transporter,” (photo provided by military.ir and iranmilitaryforum.net)

A Persian Gulf missile: “Khalij Fars missile on a transporter,” (photo provided by military.ir and iranmilitaryforum.net)

By Wilson Alexander | Contributor

While most of the world was dealing with the U.S. presidential transition, officials in Iran were busy giving the 45th president his first foreign policy test.

On January 29, the Iran tested a ballistic missile, according to Fox News. This in itself is not new; according to the Spanish newspaper El Pais, Iran tested the same type of missile seven months ago, but this recent launch was the first test with Donald Trump in the White House.

Five days later, the United States announced sanctions against 12 companies and 13 people from Iran. For its part, Iran has responded with its own restrictions against the United States; Univisión reports that the Middle Eastern country also carried out new military exercises, accompanied by more missile tests. A year ago, it appeared as if relations between the two nations were improving. Now it looks as though the winds of change that have blown through the U.S. are bringing back old hostility.

Modern Iran has a complicated history with respect to its interactions with the rest of the world, especially the superpowers of the West, such as the United States. In 1953, after an attempt to nationalize the properties of several oil companies, Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq was ousted by a coup sponsored by the CIA. Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the leader of the country in the ’40s, returned to power at that time, according to PBS.

The Shah (as Reza was known) led the country until 1979. That year, a movement inspired by the religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini broke out. It rejected the influence of the West, and its values  ​​assumed control of the government, according to the Larousse Encyclopedia.

This revolution was accompanied by one of the most iconic events of the 20th century, in which a mob of students invaded the U.S. Embassy, ​​took 52 people inside the building hostage and held them captive for more than a year. Following this incident, the U.S. and Iran broke diplomatic relations, according to PBS; they have never been restored.

Tensions between Iran and the West mounted again in the early 2000s when Iran announced it would develop a nuclear power program. From the program’s conception, there was speculation that Iran could use such technology to create a bomb.

The United Nations imposed sanctions on Iran in 2006 and 2007, and in 2010, the U.S. and Israel joined forces to launch a cyber attack on the program’s computers.

Between 2013 and 2015, the U.S., China, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and Germany (called the P5 + 1 because it consists of five members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany) made an effort to prevent Iran from producing a nuclear weapon. The P5 + 1 agreed to end the sanctions if Iran reduced its reserves of enriched uranium (used to make nuclear weapons) and restricted its nuclear program over the next 10 years, reported Spanish newspaper ABC. Israel and many in the U.S. reacted with great hostility, yet the agreement took effect in 2016, according to RTVE.

Donald Trump entered this diplomatic drama by lambasting the agreement during his presidential campaign and promising to cancel it once he entered the presidency, according to Univisión. Less thantwo weeks after Trump’s inauguration, Iran completed its most recent missile test. The Muslim country’s leaders maintain that it was for defensive purposes.

It is uncertain how that confrontation will end: whether other nations will join the U.S. and sanction Iran, or if they will continue to improve relations with Iran, hoping to take advantage of this recently opened Middle Eastern market.  We could also see a combination of both reactions. However, at the moment it appears that old hostilities between these two very different parts of the world are here to stay.

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