U.S.- Iran Relations

Myths vs. Facts

The truth about U.S. Policy Towards Iran

For nearly 32 years, the Iranian government, through its control of media, culture, and education curriculum, has tried to convey a false image of the U.S. government and its policies towards Iran and the broader region.  We know that many Iranians reject this propaganda, hearing a very different story from family and friends who have emigrated to the U.S. 

Following are the top “myths” we want to directly address.  We will continue to update this list when we see further distortions of who we are and what we stand for.  

Fact: U.S. policy is to support international norms, respecting both the rights and responsibilities of all nations. An Iran with a positive agenda would be a welcome partner. However, the Iranian government is currently pursuing a negative agenda, both at home and abroad: Iran refuses to abide by international commitments intended to ensure and demonstrate that it is not pursuing nuclear weapons; it provides money, weapons, and training to terrorist groups throughout the region, including some targeting U.S. personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan; it seeks to undermine progress towards a peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict; and it abrogates the universal rights of its citizens. The U.S. will always respect the rights of an Iran that respects the rights of both its citizens and its neighbors.

Fact:  The U.S. supports Iran’s right to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.  In fact, Iran’s nuclear program was established in 1957 through a nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States under the Atoms for Peace program.  The research reactor located at the Tehran Nuclear Research Center was built in partnership with the United States and originally fueled with U.S. nuclear material.  The United States fully supports Iran’s development and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, but with Iran’s right to nuclear energy come responsibilities and obligations.  As a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran is obligated to demonstrate the peaceful nature of its nuclear program.  But, Iran has refused to do so and refuses to cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency’s investigation into its nuclear program.  The international community is asking Iran to fulfill its common obligations and to demonstrate the same kind of transparency as other NPT members.

Fact: The U.S. has acknowledged its involvement in 1953, and believes that it is up to Iranians to decide their own future. President Obama has publicly acknowledged America’s role as a part of the difficult history between our nations, and former Secretary of State Madeline Albright regretted it as a “setback for Iran’s political development.” But as President Obama has also said, each side has a long list of grievances about actions taken or not taken by the other side. While we must learn from the past, focusing only on these past grievances will not resolve today’s problems and will not help us get to a better future.

Fact:  The United States has imposed sanctions on Iran in response to the Iranian government’s behavior and failure to comply with its international nuclear obligations.  U.S. sanctions focus on specific people or entities for their role in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, support to terrorist groups, or their role in abusing the human rights of the Iranian people.  Our sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program are part of a dual-track policy that seeks to increase pressure on the Iranian government so that it complies with UN Security Council and IAEA resolutions but also offers to engage diplomatically if Iran is serious about addressing international community’s concerns over its nuclear program.  The U.S. government continues to license the export of food, medicine and medical products from the United States to Iran, and to license other transactions with Iran related to humanitarian, educational, and scientific exchanges, as well as people-to-people contact.

Fact:  The United States actively opposes all forms of terrorism.  We have designated Jundallah, PJAK and PKK as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO). We support instead the fundamental rights of all Iranians regardless of faith or ethnicity to freedom of expression and peaceful activism for political, religious, ethnic, gender, and social rights.  As a vast nation of immigrants from different backgrounds and cultures we find strength in our diversity and strength and unity in our national pride. We respect Iranian sovereignty; the future of Iran is a decision for Iranians. The United States stands ready to help.

Fact: The United States is part of an international chorus of multilateral organizations, nations, civil society organizations all condemning Iran’s egregious human rights abuses.  The United States works through international organizations, including the UN General Assembly and the Human Rights Council (HRC), to ensure that those suffering in Iran from abuse of their human rights are not forgotten.  We strongly supported the effort in the HRC to approve a new Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, and we call on the Iranian government to allow Dr. Ahmad Shaheed to visit Iran to carry out his mandate in the most robust way possible.  We have designated numerous Iranian officials and organizations for their responsibility in the serious human rights abuses carried out after the disputed 2009 elections.  The Iranian government is responsible for jailing, intimidating, and isolating Iran’s preeminent thinkers, filmmakers, lawyers, journalists and civil society activists, depriving the world of their contributions to the international community of ideas.

Fact:  In his historic June 2009 speech in Cairo, President Obama acknowledged the misunderstanding that has marked western images of Islam and the Muslim image of the West.  As he stressed in his remarks, “Islam has always been a part of America’s story.  The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco.  In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President, John Adams, wrote, “The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims.”  And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States.  They have fought in our wars, they have served in our government, they have stood for civil rights, they have started businesses, they have taught at our universities, they’ve excelled in our sports arenas, they’ve won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch.  And when the first Muslim American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers — Thomas Jefferson — kept in his personal library.”

President Obama called for a new beginning between America and the Islamic world based on the one rule “that lies at the heart of every religion — that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us…We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.”