What Iranians Want Americans to Know about Iran

September 11, 2001

  1. There were no Iranians or Shiite Muslims among the attackers on 9/11.
  2. Iran was the first Islamic country to condemn the 9/11 attacks.
  3. Iran cooperated with U.S. and coalition forces to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan.
  4. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban have never been friends of Iran, and Iran has never funded or supported either group. Arab countries supposedly friendly to the U.S. have provided major sources of funding for both.

Regional Context

  1. Iran is a Shia Persian country in a hostile Sunni Arab neighborhood.
  2. Iran has been a victim of Arab extremism. More than 250,00 Iranians died in the Iran-Iraq war when the U.S. and other western countries were supportive of Saddam Hussein. Nearly every family in Iran lost someone in the war. In proportion to the population, Iranian casualties exceeded U.S. casualties in WWII. The West, including the U.S., did nothing to prevent Saddam from using weapons of mass destruction against Iran. In fact, many Iranians believe that western nations helped Iraq obtain the chemical weapons that were used against them.
  3. The Wahhabis, a radical Sunni Muslim sect that works closely with the Saudis, hate Persian Shia Muslims more than they hate American or Jews. Wahhabis, who are funded by the Saudis, are exporting their radical brand of Islam throughout the Muslim world even to the Balkans and the United States.

Security Concerns

  1. Iran's neighbors, including Russia, India, Pakistan and Israel, all have nuclear weapons and effective delivery systems.
  2. Israel is estimated to have between 100-200 nuclear weapons and has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that Iran is criticized for violating.

US–Iranian Relations

  1. The majority of Iranians living today do not remember the Shah.
  2. The Iranian people do not hate the United States. The large majority, especially the young people, want a better relationship with the U.S., but Iranians will unite to defend their country against any foreign attack, just as they did during the Iran-Iraq war.
  3. The U.S. may have felt humiliated when the U.S. embassy was seized in 1979, but no Americans were killed by their Iranian captors.
  4. Democracy in Iran may not be perfect, but they do have competitive elections for their president and for the 290 seat Unicameral Islamic Consultative Assembly (or Majlis). There is more democracy in Iran than in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Egypt — all staunch U.S. allies.
  5. The U.S. and Iran want stability in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  6. The U.S. needs Iran to assist in the Middle East with Iraq, Afghanistan, and Lebanon. Iran needs the U.S., but has lived without the U.S. for more than 25 years.

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is president and founder of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy. He's the co-editor of Religion, the Missing Dimension of Statecraft.