On January 3rd, 2020, U.S. airstrikes on Baghdad International Airport in Iraq killed Iranian General Quessam Soleimani, and the ever-evolving conflict between Iran and the United States was thrust into both the national and international spotlight. By now, the details of the assassination and the events that followed are widely known. The strike was ordered in response to the attempted storming of the U.S embassy in Iraq. Just days after the airstrikes by the US in Baghdad, Iran retaliated by firing missiles at bases housing American troops, and later a Ukranian passenger jet was shot down inside Iran’s airspace. No further action has been taken as both sides struggle to reach a compromise.
With so many events influencing such a complicated issue, the question of how this all came to be must be asked. How did Iran and America’s relationship crumble? Why are both sides on edge? Why is it so difficult for either side to come to an agreement?
Recently, Hawken invited Professor Karl Kaltenthaler of the University of Akron to speak about the current status of Iran’s relationship with the U.S. He discussed how recent events may shape the future of the two countries in addition to what has influenced their complicated relationship to this point. He described the current relationship as “In a state of flux,” adding that “Both sides appear to want to negotiate, but it’s ever-changing.”
Dr. Kantenthaler also contributed background information that is crucial to understanding the conflict, as the relationship between Iran and the US has been extremely complex over the lsat forty-five years. Ever since the Iranian revolution of 1979 that brought radical changes to the country’s government, Iran has believed that the U.S. wants to destroy its form of government and replace it with a democratic system like our own. The Iranian government has operated as an Islamic Republic for over forty years. This, coupled with the 444 day standoff between Iran and the US during the Iran Hostage Crisis, during which Iran held 52 American’s captive with no intent to release them, have made US-Iran relations consistently difficult. Additionally, Iran has made many relationships with various militias such as Hezbollah in an effort to defend its borders and increase its military power. However, many of these proxy groups allied with Iran are considered terrorists or threats to the U.S. This led to a conflict of interest between the two countries, with Iran and its allies on one side and the United States on the other. Iran relies on its militia allies as they are essential to its military strength and influence in the middle east, while the U.S. views them as terrorist groups that threaten democracy, making any sort of peace agreement incredibly difficult.
These conflicts of interest only grow in number when more factors are taken into account. Iran wants the U.S. away from its borders, as well as to weaken Israel and Saudi Arabia. However, moving forces away from the middle east would remove a major military presence and give terrorist groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) a foothold in the area.
So how do all of the events happening across the world affect us at Hawken?
In one example, gas prices in America are heavily affected by large exporters in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is one of the largest exporters and producers of oil in the world. Should something happen to Saudi Arabia’s oil fields, such as a repeat of the Iran-lead bombing of the Saudi Aramco oil field in 2019, global gas prices can rise substantially. Last September, crude oil prices temporarily rose up to 15%. That translated to a 10 cents per gallon increase lasting into the middle of October. Fortunately, neither country wants to engage in a military conflict, although that doesn’t rule it out of the equation. Neither the U.S. or Iran trusts the other, which is the main thing keeping the two sides from coming to a negotiation. In the words of Dr. Kantenthaler, “You have to develop trust, but it’s easier said than done.”