Hostages of History
The recent flareup between the United States and Iran is merely the latest installment in a decades-long grudge match, with both countries clinging to old grievances. The tragedy is that there would be plenty of room for cooperation to advance shared interests if both sides' hardliners weren't calling the shots.
NEW DELHI – During the recent flare-up between the United States and Iran, US President Donald Trump tweeted that he was prepared to bomb “52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago).” Some of these targets, he added, would be “important to … the Iranian culture,” suggesting that he was willing to strike Iranian national heritage sites.
Trump’s tweet suggests that his entire Iran policy is rooted deep in the past, as if actions taken today represent a belated response to wounds inflicted long ago. If so, his administration has something in common with the Iranian regime, which has long dwelled on the real and perceived wounds of bygone eras.
After all, Iranians (and many others) point out ad nauseam that the US had a hand in the 1953 coup that deposed the democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh, and installed the regime of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, which itself was toppled in the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Likewise, Iranians note repeatedly that the US assisted Saddam Hussein during Iraq’s ruthless war against Iran in the 1980s.