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U.S.-Iran relations among topics addressed during lecture on Middle East

Olivier Rey / Red Dirt Report
Prof. Pedram Khosrownejad of OSU talking during the lecture on Sept. 27 at the University of Central Oklahoma.
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EDMOND, Okla. -- The Nigh Center at the University of Central Oklahoma hosted a dinner and lecture on Wednesday  by Prof. Mateo Farzaneh of the University of Eastern Illinois  on the subject of “ America’s Friends in the Middle East."

This important presentation was followed by a panel discussion on the subject by Farzaneh and Prof. Andrew Magnuson of the University of Central Oklahoma and Prof. Pedram Khosrownejad of Oklahoma State University.

Farzaneh, who is a guest professor at UCO, has written extensively about Iranian politics, and he has been honored  by the National Historical  Honor Society in 2016 for his writing.

The professor said that the U.S. needs a fresh and pragmatic policy in the Middle  East since its current policy has not brought peace to that region.

The choice between Saudi Arabia or Iran as ally of the U.S. was also addressed by the academic.

He told of how Saudi Arabia is a client state of the U.S. and has been for decades. But Iran’s relation to the  U. S. has been difficult for the past thirty five years.

Persian culture began more than 600 years before the birth of Christ, and Iran was an empire centuries  before it embraced Islam. 

Illustrating the situation through a slide demonstration, he explained how Iran survived being ravaged by the Mongols but eventually became a state comparable to Spain in its use of a continuous language and borders that have been in place for centuries.

At turn of last century it established a parliament based on the Western model and enjoyed prosperity.

But Iranian’s democracy  was destroyed in 1953 by a coup against the elected government that was sponsored by the U.S. and England that placed the Shah in power.

The academic reminded his listeners how after the 1979 revolution that  toppled the government of the Shah a group of students seized the American Embassy in Teheran and held the staff there hostage which created a mistrust between the US and Iran which continues to this day. 

In addition, the tacit support that the US gave to the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein  when it invaded Iran and  sought to seize some of Iranian oilfields served to heighten Iran’s mistrust of the U.S. and its intentions in the region.

But the agreement that Iran reached regarding its nuclear power program  with the U.S. and other Western powers several years ago shows that the two nations can work together.

Saudi Arabia is controlled by one family, the House of Saud,  that is wedded to an austere version of Islam that it has imposed on the nation. For centuries the Arabian Peninsula was controlled by Muslim Turks, who had a more tolerant version of Islam. But in the 18th century a Muslim cleric, Muhammad Al-Wahhab  began to preach an absolutist version of Islam that now bears his name and a vein of Islam embraced by the House of Saud.

Wahhab  sought to cleanse Islam of  what he saw as the corrupting influence of Western culture.  

Before the discovery of oil in Saudi Arabia, Farzaneh explained, the kingdom was a poverty-stricken nation, but when the revenue from oil began to pour into the coffers of the Saud family they began to finance effort to spread the Wahhabi type of Islam around the world.

The Wahhabi ideology, he asserted, resulted in the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001, and he told of how the majority of those who were involved in that action were from Saudi Arabia.

Prof. Khosronejad, meanwhile, told of how during the Iran-Iraqi War the US and other Western nations supported Iraq, but the Assad Regime in Syria supported Iraq. He also documented how Saudi Arabia attacked pilgrims in Mecca that were from Iran.

He  spoke of how the European signatories to the nuclear agreement with Iran recently issued a statement at the UN in which they stated that Iran has complied with its terms and disagreed with the Trump Administration’s recent claim that Iran has not complied with it, and asserted that the U.S. and Iran have a mutual interest in achieving greater stability in the region.

Magnuson expressed the hope that both Saudi Arabia and Iran can be friends and allies of the U.S. provided they all respect one another.

When asked what  is in the best national interest of all three nations, Farzaneh  said that Washington rarely reflects the true interest of the American people and nation, and that a US and Iranian relationship of cooperation is in the best interest of the US. 

Magnusson said that the Iranian nuclear agreement was preferable to the alternative of the U.S. destroying its nuclear capability or imposing sanctions on that state. He further warned  that a "cold war' between Saudi Arabia and Iran could possibly result in a conflict that the US could be dragged into, and said that he hoped that they all could work together on areas of mutual interest.

Khosronejad  said Iran’s honoring of the terms of the nuclear agreement is indicative of its willingness to work  with Western powers and the U.S.  and  that the majority of Iranians want better relations with the US. He pointed out that five different Iranian airports issue visitors visas to Americans and European citizens and that he hoped that the interactions between Americans and Iranians will eventually result in better relations between the U.S. and Iran.

As the event concluded,  Jalal and Mohammad Farzaneh, the owners and operators of Home Creations in Moore were thanked for their role in sponsoring the gathering. 

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Bill O'Brien

Bill O'Brien is an attorney based in Oklahoma City.

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