Every spring, 8th grade students from the middle school I teach at, MacArthur Intermediate School in Santa Ana, California, take a field trip to The Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. This amazing museum teaches the importance of tolerance, a history of World War II, and the Holocaust. Upon learning of the atrocities the Nazis committed against 6 million Jews and 5 million others, students always ask, “How could this have happened?” What they mean is, how did the hateful Nazis take over a country, publicly state their goals, successfully implement their murderous plan on the Jews and others, and, how could the world have stood by and let it happen? Unbelievably, the U.S.A. and the world today is letting a similar event occur, and the American administration is actually aiding the perpetrators in their actions. The silence of the media and many of our leaders is a source of great sadness and disbelief.
A Brief History
From Ancient Times to 1925
In ancient history, there was no country of Iran but Persia, an empire of great size and importance. Ancient Persia encompassed the area from Egypt in the west to India in the East, from the Caucuses in the north to the Persian Gulf in the South. Persia competed with ancient Greece and Rome for power and in the Medieval Ages was conquered by Muslims and became part of various Caliphates. A Caliphate is an Islamic government ruled by a caliph, a man in charge of both the political order and religion. In the 1200s, Mongols conquered Persia, but then Persians regained their land from the Mongols. From 1502-1925, the modern country of Iran was founded and ruled by two major dynasties (a dynasty is a family who rules). The Safavid and Qajar Dynasties decided Iran would follow Shia Islam. (In Islam, there are two major sects – Shia and Sunni).
A Persian officer, Reza Khan, orchestrated a coup (military takeover) of Iran in 1921 and took the title of Shah (king) of Iran in 1925. Reza Shah ruled until 1941, when Allied forces invaded Iran to guarantee Iranian oil would help the U.S.A., Great Britain, and the Soviet Union win World War II. The Allies replaced Reza Shah with his son, Mohammad-Reza Shah (simply known as the Shah of Iran). America and the British wanted to have Iran as a country against the Soviet Union, and they wanted to use Iran for its oil. After World War II, the Iranian government became more democratic and also moved against American and British interests. In 1951, Iran nationalized the British-owned oil industry. Two years later, the United States and Great Britain organized a coup, overthrew the Iranian government, and made the Shah an autocrat (dictator).
The Iranian Revolution and the Islamic Republic 1979 – Today
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, many in Iran were unhappy with the Shah of Iran and his supporters, the U.S.A. and Great Britain. The main leader of the revolution was the Ayatollah Khomeini, who believed that everyone requires guardianship by a leading Islamic leader. The Ayatollah was upset at the Shah’s western ties, believing the west to be evil and decadent. In 1979, massive protests throughout the country forced the Shah to leave. The Ayatollah took power, and a national vote made Iran an Islamic Republic. In 1989, the Ayatollah Khomeini died, and since then, the Ayatollah Khamenei has held the title of “Supreme Leader.”
The Islamic Republic of Iran believes that the U.S.A. is the “Great Satan,” the source of everything in the world that is evil, it officially hates Israel and seeks to destroy it, and it does not allow any freedom that goes against its strict interpretation of Islam. It publicly states its hatred for the United States and Israel, and, it openly supports terrorist organizations that kill Americans, Israelis, and anyone who opposes the Iranian view of the world. Ayatollah Khamenei uses every method of communication, including Twitter, to detail his plan for eliminating Israel.
Iran has been incredibly successful in sponsoring, arming, and cooperating with terrorists. For a complete list of their decades of murder and terror, simply conduct a search with the phrase “Iran and state-sponsored terrorism.” Most recently, Iran is responsible for the death of over 1,500 Americans in Iraq, and it continues today to plan and carry out acts of terror against Americans. Iran’s goal is to destroy Israel and spread their Islamic Republic as far as possible. It sees America as an enemy.
Iran and the Obama Administration
In the past, American administrations have worked with allies to counter Iranian threats in the Middle East. Under the Obama administration, however, the U.S.A. is not working with its traditional ally Israel, but in fact it is aiding the Iranian Republic as it expands militarily. This American cooperation with Iran continues even though Iran is currently funding and coordinating terrorist acts against Americans and our allies.
In Iraq, Iran’s military is working with American air power to defeat ISIS. While American pilots bomb ISIS from above, Iranian soldiers take over the ground below that Americans used to hold. Americans do not know if the Obama administration has discussed what will happen in Iraq after ISIS is defeated. Will the Iranians stay?
Iran has been seeking for many years to develop nuclear weapons. As it would be the only Muslim country with this weapon, Iran seeks this power to exert its influence over the rest of the Middle East, Europe, and possibly to use this weapon to destroy Israel. Throughout the first months of 2015, leaders from the United States of America, Russia, China, Iran, Great Britain, France, and Germany have met to discuss a nuclear deal with leaders of Iran. The U.S.A. wants the deal to limit Iran’s ability to create a nuclear bomb, and Iran wants the deal to take away economic sanctions. (Sanctions are punishments that a country imposes. For example, no American company is allowed to do business with Iran.) Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanhayu has strongly objected to the talks, arguing that Iran should first cease all terrorist activities before the west grants Iran anything. Netanyahu’s thinking is, if Iran is killing Americans and Israelis now, how can we trust what they say during negotiations?
Iran and the Museum of Tolerance
When my students at MacArthur Intermediate asked me how could the Nazis take over a country and murder so many innocent people while the world stood by, I teach them about Iran today, as an example of how history is repeating itself. Iran seeks to destroy the Jewish nation of Israel, it sponsors terrorists that have killed over 1,500 Americans in the last few years, it calls America the “Great Satan,” and it is completely intolerant of anyone who does not fit their idea of what a good Muslim is. What is the American response to this? We are helping Iran expand militarily, allowing them to continue to support terror, and hoping that talking with them will bring good results. President Obama seeks to tolerate, understand and give into those who hate Americans and Israel, even at the cost of losing the lives of Americans and our allies. He fails to understand the universal rule of the bully. If you give him what he wants, he will only want more. If there is one thing the Museum of Tolerance teaches, it is that there can be no toleration for a country that foments hatred and intolerance. America cannot cooperate with and support Iran and at the same time defend ourselves and our allies from the deadly Iranian leaders.
1. What ancient empire does Iran trace itself to?
2. Who conquered the Persians in the 1200s?
3. Why did the United States and Great Britain sponsor a coup in Iran in 1953?
4. What happened in 1979 in Iran?
5. How does Iran view Israel and the United States?
6. Do you think President Obama is following the best policy with Iran?
7. If you were President, how would you deal with Iran?