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The Iranian Revolution and the US Policy of Dual Containment

2009 marks the 30th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution.  The Revolution ended a symbiotic relation between the US and the Shah, whereby the latter helped to sustain the economic and political interests of the US in the Persian Gulf region and the former helped to preserve the rule of the Shah.  Since the end of this mutually beneficial relation the US government has tried to contain Iran by imposing numerous sanctions against her and threatening her with military action.  The following PowerPoint presentation provides, even without my usual lecture which accompanies the slides, an outline of the US policy toward Iran since the revolution of 1979.  To the extent that this policy must be understood in its historical context, the presentation also provides the historical background for the formation of the containment policy.

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Excerpt from the Presentation:

On February 22, 2005, Bush stated: “This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous.  Having said that, all options are on the table.”

Much of the double talk or military threat was posturing and engaging in psychological warfare.  A military attack against Iran is difficult and could have long-term consequences.  Therefore, such an attack has never been the first-choice option of the US-Israel.

What the US and Israel tried to do was to repeat the Iraqi scenario, that is

  • Pass severe UN economic sanctions against Iran.
  • Wreck the Iranian economy and weaken the Iranian government.
  • Overthrow Iran’s government afterward.

Ultimately, they succeeded in passing three UN sanction resolutions against Iran:

  • Security Council Resolution 1737 in December 2006
  • Security Council Resolution 1747 in March 2007
  • Security Council Resolution 1803 in March 2008

Among other things, these resolutions demanded that Iran halt all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.  They also imposed financial sanctions against certain individuals, organizations and banks.  In addition, they asked states to be vigilant against the entry of certain Iranians into their countries.

Iran has defied the resolutions, arguing that they are illegal, since they violate Iran’s right under Article IV of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: “Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II of this Treaty.”

Attempts by the Bush Administration to pass a fourth UN sanction resolution against Iran ran into difficulties for a number of reasons.  In particular, the rising oil prices, followed by a massive economic downturn, slowed down the US policy of containment of Iran.  In the end, the Bush Administration ran out of time to do to Iran what it had done to Iraq.


Sasan Fayazmanesh, chair of the Department of Economics at California State University, Fresno, is the author of The United States and Iran: Sanctions, Wars and the Policy of Dual Containment (2008).  This presentation was made available at Payvand News on 13 February 2009, and it is reproduced here for educational purposes.


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