Iran is often in the news and there’s been a lot of discussion about tensions between Iran in the United States, but most people in America don’t know the first thing about Iran. Iran is a medium-sized country in Southwest Asia it’s bordered by Afghanistan and Pakistan on one side and Iraq on the other side. It has an ancient culture going back thousands of years, ancient monuments, beautiful poetry, and a very diverse population that includes Persian speakers,Turks, and Arabs. Relations between Iran in the United States go back more than a century to the Iranian Constitutional Revolution of 1906, when Iranians demanded democracy and look to the United States for support. One of the heroes of the Iranian Constitutional Revolution was Howard Baskerville, an American teacher, who joined the revolution and died in battle. And there’s a monument to him that I was able to see in Tabriz in Northwest Iran. Another American hero of the Iranian Constitutional Revolution was Morgan Shuster, an accountant, who was sent by the US government at the request of the Iranians to help them set up their Treasury Department. So, there were pretty good relations between Iran and the United States the first part of the 20th century. That changed though when the United States and Great Britain helped to organize a coup d’etat against a popularly elected prime minister in 1953. His name was Mohammad Mossadegh and he objected to the British having taken Iranians oil fields, so he took them back. The British didn’t like this and they called on the Americans to help overthrow Mossadegh along with elements from the Iranian army. That coup in 1953 is one of the most important moments in Iranian political history. Every Iranian today knows about the American coup of 1953. The coup supported the king of Iran called the Shah. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was still a young man at that point and had very little power but, after the coup he gained more and more power with American help he built his military, he built his intelligence services, and he built a brutal repressive apparatus. The Shah’s government denied human rights, tortured political prisoners, and refused to allow democratic control. During the Cold War, the United States supported the Shah in the fight against communism. In the early 1970s, the Shah joined with leaders of other oil-producing countries to triple the price of oil making the Shah and his government fabulously wealthy and allowing him to repress the Iranian people even further. The United States government despite the economic turmoil caused by the oil price hike stuck by the Shah. Even President Jimmy Carter who campaigned on a platform of human rights visited the Shah and praised him as an island of stability in a turbulent part of the world. One year later, in early 1979 the Shah was driven from power by a massive peaceful revolution. The revolution replaced the monarchy with an Islamic Republic that put all power in the hands of a single religious leader, Khomeini. Millions of Iranians had gone out into the streets to protest against the Shah’s human rights abuses. A massive general strike shut down the country for more than two months. Meanwhile, the United States government stood by the Shah. President Carter sent a General to Tehran to help the Shah and his chief of staff organize a response to these massive protest. In February 1979, Iran’s military bases were overrun by unarmed protesters. When the Shah flew into exile he was replaced by the leader of the revolutionary movement Ruhollah Khomeini. Khomeini was an elderly religious scholar who’d spent the last sixteen years in exile. Khomeini was the symbolic leader of the revolution demanding that the Shah and his monarchy be ousted and replaced with an Islamic Republic. When Khomeini returned from exile he was greeted by crowds in the millions. The American government knew that it had a challenge on its hands at this point with a hostile government coming into power. The Carter administration began negotiations with the provisional government in Iran. In order to undermine these negotiation and to protest the United States letting the Shah into America for cancer treatment a small group of militants climbed over the wall of the United States Embassy in Tehran it took more than 50 diplomats and other Americans hostage. The occupation was only going to last for a few days as a symbolic gesture, but it ended up lasting for 444 days. Khomeini endorsed the embassy occupation and the hostages were interrogated for months on end. I knew one of the hostages who spoke Persian and he heard the militants talking amongst themselves. They were certain that the Americans were trying to overthrow their revolution the way the US had helped to overthrow Mossadegh a quarter century earlier. They called the U.S. Embassy the nest of spies. As the hostage crisis dragged on for months it’s damaged President Carter’s re-election campaign. The militants in Iran were so hostile to President Carter that they refused to release the hostages until President Ronald Reagan’s first day in office. Tensions between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the United States have continued ever since. Both Iran and the United States have made plays for influence around the Middle East. In 1982, Iran’s allies in Lebanon attacked the U.S. Marines that the Lebanese government had called in. The U.S. helped arm Saddam Hussein’s Iraq which had invaded Iran. Iran started a nuclear program to counter what it saw as the United States hostility. The United States saw this nuclear program as a threat to world peace. Still, when I was in Iran some years ago, I found the Iranian people to be quite favorable towards Americans. Many of them objected to U.S. foreign policy, but they watched Hollywood movies and wanted better relations with the United States. During the Obama administration however these tensions were eased with a nuclear deal that was signed in 2015. In the months and years after the agreement there are still plenty of opponents to the deal both in the United States and in Iran. However, many Americans and many Iranians are hoping that this deal leads to a new chapter in U.S – Iranian relations, one that’s based more in goodwill and cooperation than tensions.