Iran and Israel: A history of the world’s best enmity
The animosity between the two countries dates back to the 1979 overthrow of Iran’s Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi and the establishment of a Shiite theocratic republic by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
When the Shah was ousted, the tone of bilateral Iranian-Israeli relations dramatically changed. In his very first speeches, Khomeini, the supreme leader of the Islamic revolution, singled out the two main enemies of Iran: the US -- the "great Satan" -- and its main ally in the region, Israel, "the little Satan".
Anxious to extend the influence of the Islamic revolution in the Muslim world and to legitimise the power of the clerics, the Iranian leader, an author of many anti-Zionist works, positioned his nation as a defender of the Palestinian cause and Israel's primary enemy. Israel, Khomeini stressed, was a country he wanted to see "disappeared" in order to "liberate Jerusalem".
In the mid-1980s, as the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) was raging, a scandal erupted in the US. Despite Iran's anti-US, anti-Israeli rhetoric, the Ronald Reagan administration secretly authorised arms sales to Iran, via Israel, to help fund the right-wing Contras in Nicaragua while simultaneously negotiating the release of several US hostages being held in Lebanon by pro-Iranian militias.
At that time, Israel viewed the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq as a more immediate threat. In 1981, Israeli warplanes bombed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor, which was under construction at a site around 17 kilometres southeast of Baghdad.
In 1989, US media revealed that Israel had purchased $36 million worth of Iranian oil in a deal to obtain the release of three Israeli soldiers detained in Lebanon.
In 1994, tensions mounted when Israel accused Hezbollah, backed by Iran, of being responsible for the bombing of a Jewish centre in the Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people.
In the early 2000s, tension mounted another notch with advances in Iran’s development of long-range ballistic missiles, capable of being loaded with nuclear warheads. The election of the ultra-conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005 to the Iranian presidency plunged relations between the two countries to a new low. Ahmadinejad’s repeated diatribes against Israel as "an artificial creature doomed to disappear," coincided with advances in the Iranian nuclear programme, including Tehran's willingness to pursue uranium enrichment.
In 2006, after the war that pitted the Israeli army against Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Jewish state accused the Islamic republic of supplying Hezbollah, led by Hassan Nasrallah, with an arsenal that enabled the Lebanese Shiite movement to strike deep inside Israeli territory.
In 2009, Tehran criticised Israeli and US secret services for disrupting its nuclear programme with the help of malicious software called Stuxnet. The Iranians, who claim their right to nuclear energy for civilian purposes, also accused Israel of assassinating several physicists and specialised engineers in the Iranian capital.
On several occasions, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested that Israel could strike Iran if the international community did not take responsibility. For its part, Iran, now targeted by international economic sanctions, replied that it would not hesitate to respond to any Israeli strike.
The 2013 election of "moderate conservative" Iranian President Hassan Rouhani opened the door to negotiations with Western nations. Iran meanwhile proceeded to intervene directly and indirectly in neighbouring Iraq against the Sunni jihadist Islamic State (IS) group, as well as in the Syrian conflict, supporting Alawite President Bashar al-Assad.
Israel meanwhile conducted several raids in Syria against the Assad regime, Hezbollah and Iranian forces while Tel Aviv repeatedly stressed its refusal to allow Iranian bases near the Israeli-Syrian border.
The 2015 signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as “the Iran nuclear deal,” was widely welcomed by the international community – except Israel and Gulf Sunni monarchies. Amid frosty personal relations between Netanyahu and then-US President Barack Obama, the Israeli leader slammed the agreement which, he insisted, would not prevent Iran from acquiring the nuclear weapon. "Fix it or nix it," was Netanyahu’s mantra, which he repeated at every opportune moment.
Netanyahu’s message was finally heard across the Atlantic by the Republican candidate in the 2016 US presidential race. Throughout his campaign, Donald Trump made no attempt to hide his pro-Israel position, promising to get the US out of the “worst deal ever”. The rhetoric continued after Trump’s election even as America’s European allies made last-minute efforts to convince the billionaire US president to stick with the deal ahead of Trump’s self-imposed May 12 deadline.
Days before that deadline -- and just days after a Netanyahu presentation from the Israeli Defense Ministry accusing Iran of lying – Trump officially announced the USA’s withdrawal from the Iran deal on May 8. That very night, Israel conducted an airstrike targeting Iranian military interests south of the Syrian capital of Damascus, in an area believed to hold an “arms depot belonging to Hezbollah and Iran,” according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Nine people were killed in the Israeli strike, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and the stage was set for the start of the post-Iran nuclear deal season of feverish tensions between Israel and Iran.https://www.france24.com/en/20180511-ir ... -hostilityIran–United States relations
Iran and the United States have had no formal diplomatic relations since 1980.
The last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, maintained close ties with the United States during most of his reign, which lasted from 1941 until he was overthrown by the Islamic Revolution in 1979. He pursued a modernizing economic policy, and a strongly pro-American foreign policy; he also made a number of visits to America, where he was regarded as a friend.
The Shah received significant American support during his reign, and frequently making state visits to the White House and earning praise from numerous American presidents. The Shah's close ties to Washington and his Modernization policies soon angered some Iranians, especially the hardcore Islamic conservatives.
The U.S. helped Iran create its nuclear program starting in 1957 by providing Iran its first nuclear reactor and nuclear fuel, and after 1967 by providing Iran with weapons grade enriched uranium. Iran's nuclear program was launched in the 1950s with the help of the United States as part of the Atoms for Peace program. The participation of the United States and Western European governments in Iran's nuclear program continued until the 1979 Iranian Revolution that toppled the last Shah of Iran.
The United States reached a deal in 2015 to limit Iran's nuclear capabilities. Sanctions relief under the terms of the deal freed over 100 billion dollars in frozen assets overseas for Iran and increased foreign access to the Iranian economy. In return, Iran had to agree not to engage in activities, including research and development of a nuclear bomb. The United States withdrew from the deal in 2018.
The 1979 Revolution, which ousted the pro-American Shah and replaced him with the anti-American Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, surprised the United States government, its State Department and intelligence services, which "consistently underestimated the magnitude and long-term implications of this unrest". Six months before the revolution culminated, the CIA had produced a report, stating that "Iran is not in a revolutionary or even a 'prerevolutionary' situation."
Khomeini, who referred to America as the "Great Satan", instantly got rid of the Shah's prime minister and replaced him with a moderate politician called Mehdi Bazargan. Until this point, the Carter Administration was still hoping for normal relationships with Iran, sending its National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.
The Shah, suffering from terminal cancer, requested entry into the United States for treatment. The American embassy in Tehran opposed the request, as they were intent on stabilizing relations between the new interim revolutionary government of Iran and the United States. However, President Carter agreed to let the Shah in, after severe pressure from Henry Kissinger, Nelson Rockefeller and other pro-Shah political figures. Iranians' suspicion that the Shah was actually trying to conspire against the Iranian Revolution grew; thus, this incident was often used by the Iranian revolutionaries to justify their claims that the former monarch was an American puppet, and this led to the storming of the American embassy by radical students allied with the Khomeini faction.
On 4 November 1979, the revolutionary group Muslim Student Followers of the Imam's Line, angered that the recently deposed Shah had been allowed into the United States, occupied the American embassy in Tehran and took American diplomats hostage. The 52 American diplomats were held hostage for 444 days. In Iran, the incident was seen by many as a blow against American influence in Iran and the liberal-moderate interim government of Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan, who opposed the hostage taking, resigned soon after. Some Iranians were concerned that the United States may have been plotting another coup against their country in 1979 from the American embassy. In the United States, the hostage-taking was seen as a violation of a centuries-old principle of international law that granted diplomats immunity from arrest and diplomatic compounds sovereignty in the territory of the host country they occupy.
On 7 April 1980, Carter severed diplomatic relations between Iran and the United States and they have been frozen ever since.
The United States contends that Hezbollah, a Shi'ite Islamist organization and client of Iran, has been involved in several anti-American terrorist attacks, including the April 1983 United States Embassy bombing which killed 17 Americans, the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing which killed 241 US peace keepers in Lebanon, and the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing. An American district court judge ruled in 2003 that the April 1983 United States Embassy bombing was carried out with Iranian support.
United States District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth declared that the Islamic Republic of Iran was responsible for the 1983 attack in a 2003 case brought by the victims' families. Lamberth concluded that Hezbollah was formed under the auspices of the Iranian government, was completely reliant on Iran in 1983, and assisted Iranian Ministry of Information and Security agents in carrying out the operation. An American federal court has also found that the Khobar Towers bombing was authorized by Ali Khamenei, then ayatollah of Iran.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran%E2%8 ... _relations