Nikki R. Keddie: Retrospective – Iranian Imbroglios Revisited

The following article appears in the 25th anniversary issue of World Policy Journal. For the month of November, read the entire 25th anniversary issue, fall 2008, for free!

By Nikki R. Keddie

Ironically, the title of my 1987 World Policy Journal article, “Iranian Imbroglios: Who’s Irrational?” could serve as well today, 21 years later, for another essay on U.S. policy in Iran. My original effort noted the folly of U.S. government hubris—believing it could maneuver the Iranian revolutionary leadership to act in American interests in the Cold War against the Soviets. Seeing all international issues in terms of the Cold War contributed to our trying to find ruling “moderates” in the Iran-Contra scandal, and also to our subsequent backing of Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War.

Iran has now replaced the Soviet Union as our indispensable main enemy—indispensable in order to arouse fear of attack in our population, justify a huge military budget and aggressive worldwide posturing, while working to reassert our control of foreign peoples and resources. In both periods, our leaders followed misguided ideological approaches and ignored the advice of area specialists, except for a tiny minority who already backed their preconceived views. In the Iran-Iraq War, both Washington and Tehran finally, in 1988, accepted the UN-sponsored approach that my article advocated. So damage, though terrible, was mostly limited to Iran and Iraq.Continue reading…



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