21st Century COE Program Archive


  • 070519a
  • 070519b
Date: May 19, 2007 (Jointly held with Group 2)
Location: Kanbaikan, Imadegawa Campus,, Doshisha University
Title: The Iranian Revolution, the Islamic Republic, and U.S.-Iran Relations: The Roots of the Problem
Speaker: Yasunaga Matsuyuki (CISMOR Fellow)
Dr. Matsunaga gave a presentation on an analysis of the political conflicts between the United States and Iran after the Islamic Revolution.
Year after year since the Revolution, the United States has imposed many kinds of sanctions on Iran. Some of the sanctions that have had an impact are, for example, breaking off diplomatic relations (1980), designation as a state sponsoring terrorism (1984), a prohibition on U.S. companies against financing the development of petroleum resources located in Iran (1995), and financial sanctions against Iranian banks (2006). However, Iran has persisted in not negotiating with America. But it is not correct to think that there has been no diplomatic negotiation between the countries. For instance, the issue of frozen Iranian assets was officially adjusted and most of it was settled.
Although it seems that Iranian diplomatic policy is heavily influenced by a Shi‘ite?sentiment or by revivalist interests like exporting the Islamic revolution, in reality the Iranian government makes highly practical decisions on diplomatic and security matters. Basically, many of Iran’s religious claims in realpolitik are only rhetoric. The decision-making process in the Iranian regime is systematically carried out, in such a way that no one can deviate from a guideline of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. Occasionally some of the Iranian diplomats attempt to negotiate with the United States, ignoring the nation’s basic principle. However, insofar as there is no possibility for Khamenei to permit the improvement of the relationship with the United States unconditionally, we should not misread such information.
The U.S media has long reported negatively on Iran. Every day on TV, so-called 'specialists on Iran' spread the theory that Iran is fundamentally evil. The 1979-81 hostage crisis still gives Iran a certain notoriety. In fact, that crisis has already been legally resolved, and therefore it is not a determinant of U.S. policy toward Iran. President Ahmadinejad’s random statements-such as a denial of the Holocaust-are well-known, yet he is only a populist politician who was born from revolutionary ideology, and he stands far from the political consensus of the leadership of the Iranian government.
It is not difficult to distinguish between dove and hawk among the shapers of the U.S policy toward Iran. The former expects Iran’s attitude to soften by manipulating the carrot and the stick, while the latter aims to put the greatest pressure possible on Iran toward the overthrow of the regime. However, neither style will improve Iran’s attitude unless the United States substantially changes its political attitude toward the country.
Considering the strong network of Shi‘ite clergies, Iran will not break off with Hizbollah, which America regards as a terrorist organization. There is no reason for Iran to abandon its nuclear power program. Iran’s aggressive attitude toward Israel is by no means practical, but is ideological discourse. As long as the United States continues putting pressure on Iran for these and other reasons, it is impossible to break the diplomatic deadlock between the two countries. With regard to security in the Persian Gulf region, Iran is totally defensive and does not appear to have ambitious intent or preparations.
Dr. Matsunaga ended the presentation by commenting that the media in America or Japan should make an effort to realistically report the image of Iran.
Kyosuke Harada
(CISMOR Research Assistant / Graduate Student of the School of Theology, Doshisha University)