What is the fundamental problem with US-Iran relations for which they haven't been able to establish a diplomatic relationship even after 38 years?

What does the USA want from Iran, that Iran has been unable to provide and vice versa?


If Iran's patronizing of terrorism and anti-Israel stance are the problems, how is Saudi Arabia getting along?

  • Seems Iran is still holding a grudge over the US coup d'etat of their democratic president in the 50s – Noah Feb 11 '17 at 13:47
  • Your edit should be a separate (and pretty interesting) question, if it's fleshed out to list similarities between Iran and KSA – user4012 Feb 12 '17 at 0:35
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    Also, somewhat bumper sticker, but having a majority of Iranian population that happily chants "Death to USA" and rulers who call USA "Great Satan" might be a problem from US side of the relation. – user4012 Feb 12 '17 at 0:36
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    @user4012, I don't think these are relevant to politics and diplomacy. – user4514 Feb 12 '17 at 0:41
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    @anonymous - they are quite relevant to American politics. When US citizens see people in Iran on TV on the street, burning US flags and chanting "Death to America", they are not really predisposed to call their congresscritter and say "Hey, Iran's a great country, let's change our policy to be better to them". Quite the opposite. (and, as a further consequence, when choosing between "Let's sell out to Iran" Clinton, and "Let's not" Trump, there's a chance some of them were helped to choose the latter, in part due to this type of issue. – user4012 Feb 12 '17 at 0:43

The politics is dictated by cold hard economics. There are several reasons why the US is pursuing these seemingly non-sensible and counter-productive policies to Iran.

  1. Iran is not in the petro-dollar club. If I want to buy oil from Saudi Arabia, Gulf Arab states, and many other countries in OPEC I must buy in US dollars. Some exporters also take Euros as well. The Saudis don't get to keep much of their export dollars as they have to pay billions in purchase contracts with US 'defense' contractors. They are also required to purchase US treasuries. The Saudi royalty like the late shah Pahlavy monarchy in Iran are/were puppets of the US. Democracies don't work well when you are trying to exploit the country. If the USA could have its way, history should repeat itself by replacing the present Iranian democracy again with a Shah/Saudi type puppet dictatorship.

In 1971, President Richard Nixon took the dollar off the gold standard. In 1973 Nixon made the petro-dollar deal with Saudi Arabia and other OPEC countries (including Shah's Iran) where they must sell their oil exclusively for dollars. Since then the dollar is backed by international petroleum reserves and other mineral wealth. Economists have predicted that if this was not the case and lets say the Saudis and other exporters stopped selling exclusively in dollars, the dollar would have no backing and the US economy would not last 6 months. Fiat currencies have no intrinsic value. The US cannot afford to have democracy in Saudi Arabia, and it is using Wahabism, an Islamic sect promoted by British intelligence, for social control to suppress the population.

We all saw what happened to Kaddafy when he mentioned that he was considering selling the Libyan oil for gold and a proposed pan African currency instead of dollars and euros. Not just US but NATO finished him off, since Europe's economy would also be threatened. The US just cannot afford its dollar not to be backed by Iran's oil reserves. Its a dangerous precedent for the rest of OPEC. The nuclear threat is alot of bs to arouse fear in the public so they can stomach military interventions, just as for the bs about WMD in Iraq with Saddam Hussein.

  1. The US economy needs endless war or conflicts. It cannot afford peace. What happened to the peace dividend we were expecting when the Soviet Union collapsed? Instead the US aggressively attacked many countries since. Aggression is usually the first option instead of the last option, especially for a country or failed state that cannot defend itself. Afganistan is the longest running US aggression in history with no end in sight. What was the reason for the Vietnam war?

Eisenhower warned us of the military industrial complex as he left presidential office. John F Kennedy was martyred when he didn't go along with it. The simple fact of the matter is that the US does not have anywhere near enough living wage jobs for its population. Especially since it has lost its manufacturing base. So where to warehouse the jobless excess population?

  • Military Industrial Complex,
    Education Industrial Complex,
    Prison Industrial Complex, and others

The military is a huge sector of the US economy and biggest user of energy. The wages paid by 'defense' contractors' for the most part are living wages. The soldiers who come back often have to repeat additional tours of duty because of lack of gainful employment otherwise.

In order to keep the military industrial complex thriving, there must be a 'serious threat' from 'over there'. Thus an enemy must be created and this is the purpose of CIA and Mossad concocting Al Qaeda, ISIS, WMD, ...

If there is a possible remote threat it is exaggerated and portrayed as an existential threat. In conflicts and civil wars, the objective of US and Israel is to keep the conflict going as long as possible. The Iran Iraq war dragged on for 8 years. During this time the US helped both sides, each side just enough so that they wouldn't lose the war and then helped the other side to keep the conflict going. The US provided intelligence to Saddam Hussein and supplied him with chemical weapons which he used on Iran. The US supplied arms to Iran through the Iran-Contra deal which was exposed.

The same policy of endless war and conflict is being played out in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, ... They have not succeeded in destabilizing Iran despite the huge budget dedicated to this.

  1. A successful and democratic Islamic system independent of the west is anti-thetical to western interests. The attempted isolation has not worked. On the contrary Iran has been able to build its industry, infrastructure, military, and democracy independently without help from the west. A democratic Islamic country that works is a serious threat to the capitalist world order. It will embolden the muslim populations such as that of Saudi Arabia to revolt against their corrupt monarchies. These corrupt monarchies are essential for the petro-dollar as alluded to in point 1. An alternative to western capitalism that survives and heaven forbid, thrives, is very threatening to the western plutocrats who want to keep the corrupt systems going.

please note: If you question any of the assertions and statements, please request references in comment section instead of down voting.

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    Note that you cite globalresearch.ca as a reference. This site is a well-known crank website which peddles all sorts of conspiracy theories. Citing it does not improve your answer (quite the opposite in fact). See e.g. Wikipedia and RationalWiki. – user11249 Jun 21 '17 at 15:56
  • Many assumptions, few arguments, doubtful sources - I am not convinced. – Thern Oct 26 '17 at 10:29
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    Truth is not always popular. The OP chose my answer despite all the down votes. – 0tyranny 0poverty Oct 27 '17 at 1:55
  • with you, @0tyranny0poverty, plused you back a bit. – user2501323 May 25 '18 at 7:11
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    "Truth is not always popular" - the converse, that because it's unpopular, that makes it truth, seems to be what you are trying to imply here. Seems almost all the sources cited were conspiracy sites. – PoloHoleSet Jun 4 '18 at 15:49

History: Mohammad Mosaddegh was the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran from 1951 until 1953 when he was removed from power in a coup on 19 August 1953, organised and carried out by the CIA at the request of MI6: See here.

The US was the main supporter of the ex-dictator of Iran, the Shah, until the 1979 Iran Islamic revolution. The US accepted the Shah, (who had killed tens of thousands), and refused to deliver him for trial. In return, Iranian student occupied the US embassy... .

Two policy based on Two ideology

The new government system of Iran was an Islamic republic. Iran's foreign policy took from slogans that people used to say during demonstrations against Shah: "No to East no to West only Islamic republic" (rejecting Soviet Union and US). On the other hand the US claims that liberal democracy and secularism is the best way of life.

In the region that has the main oil resources of the world, this new system claims that we want to be independent of the West. If this ideology spread among other (Muslim) nations of region, the outcome would be a catastrophe for the US. Pro-US dictators would disappear and independent governments could sell their oil for prices they want.

Iran wants to show that the independent Islamic model is prosperous, and the US wants to show independence is a model of failure.

As an Islamic republic, based on Shia ideology, Iran begin to support the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance against Israel. This was not what the US liked.

Two factors have a big effect here.

  1. Pro-Israel lobbies like AIPAC have a decisive role for elections in the US.
  2. Some media impress people by demonizing Iran.

On the other hand supporting the Shah and Israel makes the US a demon from the Iranian perspective. Imposing sanctions makes it bitter.

What does the USA want from Iran, that Iran has been unable to provide?

Give up independence. Don't support Hamas and Hezbollah and recognize Israel,... Briefly; Don't be yourself.

What does the Iran want from USA, that USA has been unable to provide?

Don't try to dominate the world. I want to be independent. Don't support Israel,... Briefly; Don't be yourself.

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    How are Saudis getting along with the USA then? – user4514 Feb 11 '17 at 10:45
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    @zabeus NO. Iran has Not nuclear missile, till now. It is only nuclear program, as u said. Israel has nuclear weapon, India has nuclear weapon. Pakistan has nuclear weapon. – user 1 Feb 11 '17 at 13:24
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    -1. Israel is "little Satan", USA is "great Satan". You're clearly contradicting Iranian own views on what the bigger problem in the relationship is. – user4012 Feb 12 '17 at 0:38
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    @anonymous Because they rather betray their own people and recognize Israel than give up their backward stone age kingdom, power and wealth. – dan-klasson Apr 8 '17 at 16:48
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    @zabeus Yeah and the problem is that you read mass media too much. Iran has been nothing but IAEA complaint. It should be clear to everyone they have no military nuclear program. – dan-klasson Apr 8 '17 at 16:51

What is the fundamental problem with US-Iran relations for which they haven't been able to establish a diplomatic relationship even after 38 years?

One sovereign nation wants to dictate what the other sovereign nation can or cannot do.

  • But, that is going on with other countries also, I mean USA is dictating all. So, what is the problem with Iran to accept that . – user4514 Apr 8 '17 at 13:50
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    This is a really weak answer which @anonymous should not have accepted. A good answer would further elaborate on who wants to dictate what to whom and explain why exactly it is an unreasonable demand. – Philipp Apr 8 '17 at 16:40
  • @dan-klasson If it's so obvious it shouldn't be hard to write it into the answer. If it would be so obvious to the OP they wouldn't have asked the question. – Philipp Apr 8 '17 at 16:43
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    This ... doesn't explain anything. It's like answer "why is the sky blue?" with "because natural processes give it that colour". While not incorrect, it doesn't explain anything about the processes. – user11249 Apr 8 '17 at 17:50

I don't know why my post is removed despite of that I try explain it more.

If you look to history of region, you see that three countries took control of most part of the world and Middle East in different times.

Iran: Before Islam Saudi Arabia: After Islam Turkey: Ottoman time.

And now all those countries have dreams about their golden ages and have competition with the others to take control of Middle East in their hands.

Between those three countries Iran has different conditions. Energy reservoirs, mineral depositions, strategic situation, population, cultural ties with all peripheral countries and agricultural conditions give Iran unique position compare to the others. Turkey doesn't have access to Persian Gulf, doesn't have energy resources and almost people in there are Turk and Kurd. Saudi Arabia doesn’t have access to Caspian Sea area, doesn't have important mineral depositions and doesn’t have powerful agriculture with majority of Arab people. However Iran’s people are Fars, Turk, Kurd, Arab, Baloch, Turkman, Armenian and many others (including other Christians and Jewishs).

I think that Iran's will to control of region, started in 1970s. Iran (or I should say Shah) took leadership of OPEC and they fought for oil price. Among this fight, Mr. Nixon made the petro-dollar deal with Saudi Arabia and other OPEC countries but OPEC (Shah?) won the war at 1974 and oil price rise dramatically. I believe that fundamental of problem between Iran and US was made in that time. And after that US worried about Shah's plans.

Iran started developments plan in all directions. Iran's nuclear program started with help of US and Germany. Iran's army developed rapidly (with particular attention to Air Force) and growth of Iran's economy rose to between 10 and 20 percent for a decay (with producing 6 million-barrel oil per day).

And then Iran started to play a major role in region. For instance: At 1973 Iran started to send troops to Oman to defeat rebellions and the Iranian troop remained in there till Iran's revolution.

Iran's problem with Iraq led to a military conflict and Iraq was defeated in two days. The military conflict led to 1975 contract that was signed by two countries in Algeria. It's interesting that Saddam Hussein signed contract from Iraqi side and in 1980 he ripe off the contract.

Then in last years of 1970s Iran became most important and most powerful country of Middle East, in the time that all countries of region heavily suffered from undeveloped conditions.

Shah got more and more disobedient. He started to establish a military relationship with USSR and bought some armored vehicle from USSR.

To get everything worse, Shah started to crisis west and claims that western countries should change their people life style and they should work harder.

All of these led to Guadeloupe conference.


I think background of decision that was made in Guadeloupe returns to 1953 (Ajax Operation). In That year, CIA made a coup against democratic elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh to return Shah to power with help of Islamists, Mobs and some part of army. The coup was successful, but in that time US made fool Ayatollah Kashani and after coup he loses all of his influence.

In last years of 1970s US think that "why we cannot repeat the successful experience of corporation with Islamist?" They thought that this time they could remove Shah from power and then helped to moderate nationalist Islamic parties (Technocrats) to take power (The party that was reborn after coup from remain of the other party that heavily suffered from the coup – Nehzat Azadi). Consequents could be something like this: disobedient Shah would have been removed from power and again an obedient Iran with technocrat’s leadership (educated in west) remains in Western Bloc.

Then Guadeloupe decision was made and Iran faced revolution. But this time everything has changed to compare 1953. Cleric people in Iran didn’t forget that what happened in 1953. Imam Khomeini was far far smarter than that Americans supposed. After revolution, for preventing from something that was happened in 1953, US embassy was captured by Muslim Students Follower’s Imam Line and Iran Hostage Crisis was started on November 4 1979. Only after Hostage Crisis, Mr. Carter realized that Iran was out of control. And after that US did everything to return Iran to Western Bloc but failed completely.

Operation Eagle Claw on April 24 1980

Nojeh Coup on 9-10 July 1980

Iraq Attack on 22 September 1980 to August 1988.

Support Iraq in war in anyway https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_support_for_Iraq_during_the_Iran%E2%80%93Iraq_war

Downing Iranian Airbus on July 3 1988 with 290 civilians dead

… … …

Sanctions because of everything

And finally Mr. Trump

Against that Iran did something bad to US too as revenge.

All these not only didn’t get back Iran to Western Bloc but also caused Iran more and more was pushed toward Russia and China.

And now an independent Iran, most stable and most democratic country in middle of disturbed Middle East with close ties with Russia and China, is worst thing that US could imagine.


One factor (the only one I'm mentioning because it is excluded from the other answers) is that each is very convenient to use as an evil political boogeyman to whip up nationalist "enthusiasm" among the masses.

If there is any level of discontent, a need to distract from current state of affairs or news, or momentum for change, nothing rallies the masses around the in-power status quo like uniting against an evil enemy. This applies to both nations, for this particular question.

This can be seen by the way the nations have cooperated militarily against ISIS/ISIL/Daesch, but that cooperation was kept in the background and not spoken of, let alone emphasized, by either government. Usually nations are pretty open and proud of working together towards a common goal. In this case, it would undermine the message and usefulness of the message of the great "enemy."

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