Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Can Iran Trust the United States?


People ask whether the United States can trust Iran. The better question is whether Iran can trust the United States.

Since 1979 the U.S. government has prosecuted a covert and proxy war against Iran. The objective has been regime change and installation of a government that will loyally serve U.S. state objectives. This war began after the popular overthrow of the U.S. government’s client, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, whose brutal regime the Eisenhower administration and CIA had preserved by driving Iran’s popular Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh from office in 1953.

Had the U.S. government not supported the shah and his secret police, there would have been no 1979 Islamic Revolution or 444-day hostage-taking at the U.S. embassy in Tehran.

The U.S. government has pursued regime change in a variety of ways. When Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi army invaded Iran in 1980, the Reagan administration supplied Saddam with intelligence and the ingredients for chemical weapons. Saddam, helped by that intelligence, used poison gas against Iranian troops.

During the Iraq-Iran war, the U.S. Navy shot down an Iranian civilian airplane over Iranian airspace, killing 290 passengers and crew members. The captain of the USS Vincennes said his ship was being attacked by gunboats at the time, and the Airbus A300 was misidentified as an attacking F-14 Tomcat. Iran countered that the civilian flight left Iran every day at the same time. Witnesses with Italy’s navy and on a nearby U.S. warship said the airliner was climbing, not diving (as a plane would for an attack), when it was shot down.

The U.S. government, or its closest Middle East ally, Israel, has helped ethnic insurgents to attack Iran’s regime. Some groups encouraged by the U.S. government, such as Jundallah and the Mujahedin e-Khalq cult, have been regarded as terrorist organizations by the State Department. Covert warfare has also taken the form of the assassination of Iranian scientistsand cyber warfare. (It strains credulity to think that Israel, which annually receives billions in U.S. military assistance, acts without the knowledge of U.S. officials.)

Then there are the economic sanctions. In international law, sanctions are an act of war. How could they not be? They aim to deprive a population of food, medicine, and other needed goods. The sanctions are said to “cripple the Iranian economy,” but an economy consists of people. Thus, sanctions inflict harm on innocent individuals, with the greatest damage to children, the elderly, and the sick. That is cruel and unconscionable. It must stop, yet some in Congress would toughen the sanctions further.

As one can see, the Iranians are the aggrieved party in the conflict with the United States. Thus they have good reason to doubt the sincerity of recent conciliatory statements, especially when President Obama insists that “all options are on the table” — which logically includes a military and even nuclear attack. Obama should match the conciliatory words with action.

But, some will say, Iran is building a nuclear bomb. The problem is that this is not true. Twice the American intelligence complex (some 14 agencies) has concluded that Iran abandoned whatever weapons program it had in 2003, the year the U.S. government eliminated its archenemy, Saddam Hussein. Israeli intelligence agrees that Iran has not decided to build a bomb. Indeed, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a religious fatwacondemning  nuclear weapons years ago and has repeatedly invoked it.

It is true that Iran has enriched uranium to near 20 percent (as it may do legally), but it is turning that uranium into plates, which, although suitable for medical purposes, are unsuitable for bombs. (Weapons-grade uranium is 90 percent enriched.)

Moreover, Iran, a party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, submits to inspections from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has repeatedly certified that Iran’s uranium has not been diverted to making bombs. On the other hand, Israel, a nuclear power whose government (and American lobby) agitates for war between America and Iran, is not a member of the NPT.

Ask yourself: What would Iran do with a nuclear weapon when Israel has hundreds of them and America has thousands?

Despite the peace overtures from President Rouhani, which echo those of his predecessors, Obama is on a course for war. He should spurn the warmongers and choose peace.

Sheldon Richman is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (

Sheldon Richman, author of the forthcoming America’s Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 26, 2016
John W. Whitehead
A Deep State of Mind: America’s Shadow Government and Its Silent Coup
Anthony Tarrant
On the Unbearable Lightness of Whiteness
Mark Weisbrot
The Most Dangerous Place in the World: US Pours in Money, as Blood Flows in Honduras
Eric Draitser
Dear Liberals: Trump is Right
Chris Welzenbach
The Establishment and the Chattering Hack: a Response to Nicholas Lemann
Luke O'Brien
The Churchill Thing: Some Big Words About Trump and Some Other Chap
Sabia Rigby
In the “Jungle:” Report from the Refugee Camp in Calais, France
Linn Washington Jr.
Pot Decriminalization Yields $9-million in Savings for Philadelphia
Pepe Escobar
“America has lost” in the Philippines
Pauline Murphy
Political Feminism: the Legacy of Victoria Woodhull
Lizzie Maldonado
The Burdens of World War III
David Swanson
Slavery Was Abolished
Thomas Mountain
Preventing Cultural Genocide with the Mother Tongue Policy in Eritrea
Colin Todhunter
Agrochemicals And The Cesspool Of Corruption: Dr. Mason Writes To The US EPA
October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation Wasted $32.2 Million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future