How Good Is the US Policy on Iran, Really?

Waving Iran flag above skyline of Tehran at sunset. © Borna_Mirahmadian /

Iran is not a backward, violent dictatorship. Under the guidance of its religious leaders, it has developed into a progressive and vibrant Islamic democracy. The US needs to rethink its policy of sanctions and threats toward this increasingly important nation.

Americans believe that Iran is a rogue state run by murderous mullahs, demonizing the Shi’a clerics that oversee the state. This perception is a result of the country’s propaganda, partly influenced by Iranian diaspora there. After the 1979 Islamic Revolution, many wealthy members of the Iranian elite left the country; most of them ended up in the US. They never came to terms with the regime. Although they had serious differences amongst themselves, they were united in their opposition to the mullahs. They used their large financial resources to actively influence the politics of the US and other western countries to follow a hardline anti-Iran policy. Thanks to their efforts, combined with those of the Israel lobby and others, the US has been extremely hostile to Iran.

The US has consistently brandished its “all options open” policy as a formidable weapon against Iran. Under the Obama administration, it unleashed some of the most stringent and extensive sanctions witnessed since 1980. Continuing its relentless pursuit of regime change, the US has unveiled this April a fresh wave of sanctions against the Islamic Republic. While clamor for threats of a military nature has failed to resonate, the repercussions of sanctions on Iran’s economy have been profoundly debilitating. The insidious grip of poverty has tightened unabated across the nation, with countless Iranians succumbing to illness and anguish amidst a dire scarcity of vital medications.

Amidst a relentless barrage of western propaganda advocating for a regime change in Iran, the Iranian populace remains resolutely unfazed, displaying a conspicuous choice not to heed these efforts. There are reasons for this optimism. This is not the first time Iran has faced stern international opposition to its regime, and survived. During the 1980 invasion by Iraq, a conflict that saw the involvement of over 80 nations and military backing from 34 countries, including both the US and the Soviet Union, in support of Iraq, Iran found itself pitted against overwhelming odds, with only Libya and Syria extending their sympathies. In the face of this formidable hostile force, Iran valiantly resisted for a grueling eight years, steadfastly preserving its territorial integrity without conceding an inch of its land to the Iraqi aggressors. One of those killed in the pushing back of Iraqis out of  the country was my brother Sayyid Husayn. He was then a 23-year-old seminary student. Even my over 70-year-old father and other brothers volunteered to defend their country.

Despite the barrage of American sanctions, Iran has been able to avoid their suffocating effects, navigating a path towards self-reliance. The Islamic Republic responded to years of relentless US pressure by spearheading the de-dollarization of its oil trade in 2007, setting in motion an international wave of dissent against the American-dominated financial framework. Consequently, the once-dominant petrodollar rapidly ceded its hegemony, with BRICS nations, Venezuela, and other states eagerly following suit. There are some hints that even Saudi Arabia, a staunch ally of the US, may be succumbing to this paradigm shift. Recent discussions between China and Malaysia in early April concerning the establishment of an “Asian Fund” aimed at diminishing reliance on the US dollar further underscore the momentum of this trend.

Alas, the response from the US to this trend has been disconcerting. Instead of absorbing the lessons and altering its course, the US harbors animosity towards Iran for catalyzing the decline of the almighty dollar. In times to come, impartial historians will undoubtedly highlight Washington’s susceptibility to manipulation by Iran’s diaspora, Israel’s influential lobby, and other anti-Iran factions as contributing factors to the gradual erosion of American hegemony.

What You Probably Need to Know About Iran Under the Mullahs

Despite the persistent hostility spearheaded by the US and its western allies, Iran’s mullahs have propelled it forward on several fronts.

Contrary to the portrayal of Iran as a dictatorial regime, the Islamic Republic operates as a theo-democracy, as affirmed by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini, who stated, “Islam does not permit us to establish a dictatorship. We follow our nation’s votes and act according to their views.”

My visits and observations have convinced me that Iran’s leadership is committed to the democratic process. I have witnessed heated debates in Iran’s Majlis, its parliamentary chamber. They exemplify a passion for the vibrant exchange of ideas. Perusing the newspapers, I have noted that some regularly support the government, while others criticize it. In buses, parks, and other public areas, I have listened to common people expressing their thoughts, for or against the government, without being reprimanded or arrested.

On the other hand, I found it perplexing to note the level of sensitivity of some security personnel to the wearing of the hijab in numerous localities. This stringent enforcement has continued to provoke discontent among many young Iranians, who find themselves increasingly aggrieved by such measures.

Iran’s progress under the leadership of the mullahs has been nothing short of remarkable, catapulting the nation to an impressive position in global intellectual achievements. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Iran boasts the second-highest number of engineering graduates per capita on a global scale. Iran’s engineers and scientific researchers are making great strides in areas from autism research, to pharmaceuticals—of which 96% are now produced locally—to cutting-edge nanotechnology.

Quality of life has surged since the revolution. Between 1976 and 2021, the literacy rate experienced a remarkable surge, soaring from a mere 36.5% to an impressive nearly 89%. Likewise, life expectancy witnessed a substantial upswing, climbing from less than 55 years in 1976 to a commendable nearly 77 years in 2021.

Today, over 90% of the population is covered by free health insurance, ensuring access to essential medical services. In rural areas, health houses have been established to cater to the needs of approximately 1,200 residents per facility, bringing healthcare closer to remote communities. Moreover, Iran’s commitment to healthcare extends to refugees, with accessible services provided to these vulnerable populations.

The quality of healthcare in Iran has become so reputable that many people now visit Iran to benefit from advanced and affordable medical treatment, positioning the country as a destination of choice. Iran has introduced impressive innovations in areas such as addressing autism, offering valuable lessons and insights that can benefit not only the US but also other nations grappling with similar challenges.

Iran is a Beneficial Regional Leader

Iran’s military leaders have left a positive mark on the Islamic world. The revered Qassim Soleimani has left an indelible impression on hearts and minds across the region, and also instills a sense of awe in the hearts of Iran’s adversaries, attesting to the nation’s capacity to nurture exceptional military leaders. Iranian officers are not a gang of thugs, as western propagandists would like to portray them, but competent, professional, and honorable leaders making an impact on the world stage.

In recent memory, General Soleimani, with the help of Russian air power, played a pivotal role in urging Iraqis to liberate their land from the clutches of the terrorist organization ISIS. In Syria, Soleimani’s influence extended to inspiring the local population to push back against ISIS, bolstering the resistance against this extremist group. In Lebanon, he inspired a robust response to Israeli aerial bombings. Furthermore, the Iranian general motivated Yemenis to forge a united front against the Saudi-led coalition’s aggressive actions.

Iran has demonstrated its ability to use diplomacy just as well as warfare to build connections and foster stability in the region. President Ebrahim Raisi’s administration has actively sought to bolster diplomatic ties with key global players, most notably China and Russia, among other nations. Impressively, his efforts have yielded significant progress in normalizing relations with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states. These constructive engagements have the potential to initiate a much-needed environment of peace and stability in this turbulent part of the world.

In stark contrast to the US-led western powers, the mullahs of Iran have demonstrated a clear objective of fostering stability and peaceful coexistence among regional countries. Their unwavering commitment to this vision is exemplified by their endeavors to share Iran’s resources and inspire neighboring nations. The influence of the mullahs has been particularly notable in countries such as Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, and others, where they have been instrumental in galvanizing these nations to assert their independence and stand united against acts of aggression.

Time for a New US Iran Policy

Iran’s strategic maneuvers in forging key partnerships are poised to reshape regional dynamics, inviting the West to reevaluate its approach towards the nation.

Recently, Iran awarded India a contract to develop the Chabahar Port, in a move that holds immense potential for enhancing connectivity and trade. Complementing this development is the planned construction of a railway network linking Iran’s Shahid Rajaee port on the Persian Gulf to southern Russia. Upon completion, this ambitious infrastructure project will revolutionize transportation between East Asia and Russia, with far-reaching implications.

The significance of these initiatives cannot be overstated. For India, the railway and port development will dramatically reduce transportation time, with the current 45-day journey reduced to a mere 14 days, a savings that will translate into substantial cost reduction, amounting to millions of dollars for the Indian economy. Equally consequential is the impact on Europe, as it stands to benefit from an expeditious and cost-effective cargo route between the continent and East Asia via Iran. This newfound advantage is bound to incentivize European nations to reassess their stance on sanctions and explore collaborative opportunities with Iran.

It is not just economic policy that is giving the West reason to reevaluate. The stance adopted by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, against weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) has posed a formidable challenge to world powers. Khamenei’s moral stand categorically forbidding the production of WMDs is informed Iran’s own history during the protracted and devastating eight-year war with Iraq in the 1980s. The repercussions of Iraq’s chemical attacks persist to this day. Tragically, I recently received news of the passing of one of my relatives in Iran, a victim of the chemical injuries sustained during that period, whose years of suffering have finally come to an end. Despite the suffering that thousands of Iranians have likewise endured, the nation’s moral conviction stands as a rebuke to a Western global order predicated on mutually assured nuclear destruction.

The Iranian revolution has triggered a profound realignment that continues to shape the contemporary global landscape. By asserting its own distinct worldview and challenging western preeminence, Iran has engendered an ongoing dialogue on the nature and distribution of power in the international arena, posing questions that demand thoughtful consideration. Despite these signals, however, the US persists in its efforts to meddle in the affairs of Iran and other nations. Instead of embracing a more diplomatic approach, the US clings to its reliance on punitive sanctions, invasions, and interventions, which have become all too familiar hallmarks of its foreign policy. The recent Russo-Ukrainian War serves as a stark and regrettable illustration of the US’s propensity for favoring military action over constructive dialogue and negotiation. It is imperative that the US awaken to the realities of our changing world.

Under the leadership of its mullahs, Iran has demonstrated an exceptional ability to forge its own path and shape its own destiny. While the hostility exhibited by the US may prove to be transient, one aspect of Iran’s trajectory endures steadfastly: its commitment to de-dollarization. The US must recognize the significance of this development and disregard the influence of affluent and divisive diaspora groups and anti-Iran factions. Instead, a fresh, astute, and equitable policy towards Iran must be crafted—one that embraces peaceful negotiations marked with wisdom and balance, fostering a constructive and mutually beneficial relationship.

By Mehdi Alavi

This article was originally published in Fair Observer on June 5, 2023.