1979: Iranian Revolution
Iran was once one of America's closest allies; now it's one of President Obama's biggest headaches By Peter Edidin
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During his first television interview from the White House—given not to an American network but to Al-Arabiya, an Arabic-language channel broadcast throughout the Arab world—President Obama addressed one of his biggest foreign-policy challenges: Iran's suspected nuclear-weapons program and its support of militant groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. "If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist," the President said, "they will find an extended hand from us." Obama is the sixth American President to face off against Iran's hard-line Islamic regime; his predecessor, George W. Bush, famously declared Iran part of an "Axis of Evil" (along with North Korea and Iraq), before the start of the war with Iraq in 2003. Ironically, 30 years ago Iran was one of America's staunchest Middle East allies, until a revolution in January 1979 toppled Iran's pro-Western monarchy and brought to power an anti-American Shiite Muslim cleric, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Less than a year later, 66 Americans were taken hostage at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. It was the first time many Americans had ever heard of ayatollahs or mullahs, but 30 years later, the 444-day hostage crisis is now seen as the opening chapter in the three-decade battle against radical Islam. Modernization, if Not Democracy
The revolution and its implications caught most Americans completely off guard. The Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, had ruled Iran since inheriting the throne from his father in 1941. During the Cold War between the U.S. and its allies and the Soviet Union, the Shah sided with the West and served as a bulwark against Soviet power and the spread of Communism in the region. Washington...