Iran has had troubled relations with the west since the advent of the Islamic Revolution in 1979. In particular, its relationship with the US has been marked by mutual hostility in a noticeable contrast with the close friendship and strategic partnership that the two countries enjoyed before 1979. It is not possible to understand this radical transformation in Iran's relations with the west without comprehending the causes which led to the Islamic Revolution. In essence, the Islamic Revolution was a revolt against the Shah's despotism, a protest against the over-westernisation of the society under the Shah, a rejection of the gross external interference, especially by the US, in Iran's internal affairs and a reaction to the vast inequalities of income and wealth under the preceding monarchical rule. (The reader might find some similarities between the pre-1979 Iran and the current situation in Pakistan.) Predictably, the liberals with democratic leanings, the Islamists led by the Shia clergy, the nationalists disgusted with Iran's capitulation to the US extraterritorial laws and the external exploitation of its economic resources, and the downtrodden led by the leftists joined forces to overthrow the Shah. The history of external interference in Iran dating back to the nineteenth century, first by the UK and later by the US, had prepared the ground for an extremely difficult relationship between Iran and the west after the success of the Iranian Islamic Revolution. The situation was further aggravated by hostage taking of the US Embassy in Tehran and the Iraqi invasion of Iran, which was reportedly encouraged and supported by several western countries. Since then each side has developed a long list of additional grievances against the other. The Iranian charge sheet against the US includes such complaints as the freezing of Iranian assets, economic sanctions against Iran, the US policy of containment of Iran, and Washington's efforts pursued under the Bush administration to destabilise and change the Iranian regime. The US and some of the western countries accuse the Islamic Republic of Iran of supporting terrorism, developing weapons of mass destruction and opposing the Middle East peace process. Needless to say that these charges have been rejected as totally baseless by Iran. It was against this background of hostility between Iran and the US that some Iranian dissidents in 2002 revealed the Iranian programme of uranium enrichment which hitherto had been kept secret by the Iranian government. This programme was seen by the US and some other western countries as an indication of Iran's intention to develop nuclear weapons. Iran, for its part, has stressed that its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful in character in accordance with its obligations under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). At the same time, it has asserted its right to develop nuclear technology, including uranium enrichment, for peaceful purposes. Iran has also cooperated with the IAEA for establishing the peaceful nature of its nuclear programme. However, Iran has refused to suspend its uranium enrichment programme as demanded by the west, barring a short exception during the course of negotiations when Iran suspended this programme to restore trust in its assurances. Iran's refusal to suspend its uranium enrichment programme has led to three sets of UN Security Council sanctions against it. It remains to be seen whether the latest proposal under which Iran would ship most of its stock of enriched uranium to Russia and in return would get through France more highly enriched uranium as fuel for its research reactor in Tehran would lead to a solution of this issue. Iran's relations with the US as the leader of the west are likely to remain troubled in the foreseeable future, despite the fact that President Barack Obama earlier this year extended the hand of friendship towards Iran. The main reason is that the US foreign policy and security establishment continues to view the Islamic Republic of Iran as a major obstacle in the realisation of its strategic objectives in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf region. Those objectives are control over the oil and gas resources of the Persian Gulf region, ensuring the security of Israel as the US outpost in the heartland of the Middle East, and the preservation of regimes which tow the US line on major foreign policy issues. An Iran which pursues an independent foreign policy, offers support to the Palestinian cause, does not allow the US to exploit its economic resources and may encourage other countries in the region to do the same does not meet the US approval. It is for this reason that the US accuses Iran of supporting terrorism because of its support to Hizbollah and Hamas. The US instead should do some soul searching and see how far its own blind support to Israel, despite the latter's violations of the UN Security Council resolutions and the human rights of the Palestinians, is responsible for the mayhem and instability in Palestine and the Middle East. The same is true of the US objections to the Iranian nuclear programme. After all, it was the same US which had offered full nuclear fuel cycle facilities including uranium enrichment and nuclear reprocessing to Iran under the Shah in 1970's, despite the heightened international concern over nuclear proliferation because of the Indian nuclear explosion of 1974. The only difference between then and now is that at that time Iran was ruled by the Shah who was willing to serve the US interests in the region whereas the present Iranian government is seen as posing a challenge to the US hegemony in the Persian Gulf region and the Middle East. What is required is a new security structure in the Persian Gulf region involving Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and other regional countries for ensuring peace and stability in the area. The US must give up its hegemonic approach towards this region and allow the regional countries to exploit their oil and gas resources in their own benefit. The US should also adopt an evenhanded approach in dealing with Israel and the Palestinians in the interest of a just solution of the Palestinian issue and peace and stability in the Middle East. A solution of Iran's nuclear programme can be found by placing its nuclear facilities under stringent IAEA safeguards to prevent any diversion to non-peaceful purposes while allowing it to continue its uranium enrichment activities. As for Iraq and Afghanistan, the US should aim at an early withdrawal of its troops from these countries as they have become a problem rather than a solution to the problem. However, the US should leave behind governments in these countries which enjoy broad-based domestic support and the endorsement of the regional countries. The inability of the US to take initiatives on these lines will continue to create tensions in Iran's relations with the west and aggravate instability in the region. (This article is based on a talk recently given by the writer to the World Affairs Council, Houston.) The writer served as the Pakistan ambassador to Iran (1997-2003). Email: