Often what happens in future is a corollary of past. The future of US-Iran relations also hinges on their mutually shared past. The current Iranian reluctance to meaningfully engage with the West in general and the US in particular is rooted in its exploitation at the hands of the Western imperial powers during the greater part of the twentieth century. Like most Third World countries (although this term became redundant after the break-up of Soviet empire), Iran, too has been a victim of tri-Western imperialism. In the first quarter of the twentieth century it experienced bi-colonialism when the British and the Russian imperialists struggled to carve their spheres of influence in the northern and eastern Iran. Under the Anglo-Russian Convention (1907), the whole country was divided into three zones: the Russians controlled the north, and the south and south-east were held by the British whereas central Iran was kept as the neutral zone between the two colonial powers under the weak Qajar rulers. Despite the fact that Iran professed neutrality during World War II, it was kept under Allied occupation from 1941 to 1945. After the war, the US dominated Iran as an imperial power till its stooge the Shah of Iran was overthrown by the Islamic revolutionaries. The major historical events in Iran such as the Tobacco Movement (1890-92), the constitutional revolution (1905-11), the movement for the nationalisation of oil under Dr Mossaddeq in the 1950s and the Islamic Revolution under Khomeini (1979) were some of the important responses of the Iranian nation to the imperial suppression. In spite of their weak status during the last one-and-a-half century, some Iranian regimes did try to maintain a semblance of independence. For example, to establish equilibrium between the greedy Russians and the British, Prime Minister Mirza Taqi Khan popularly known as 'Ameer Kabeer' adopted the strategy of 'bitarafi' - non-alignment - back in 1848-51 while dealing the two colonial powers. After nationalising the oil industry, Dr Mossaddeq resisted the British pressure for negotiations. In addition, despite the havoc caused by war imposed by Saddam and supported by the West, Iran resisted the peace overtures till 1988. So, it is not that the Iranians are passive rather they have shown that they are a nation endowed with a strong character to resist the aggressor. Their philosophy of 'Neither West nor East' can be understood in this context. If, today, Iran refuses to play ball with imperial America, it is because of her bitter experiences with the Western powers in the past. The primary concern of Dr Mossaddeq was that 'Iranian must administer his own house', so he was totally opposed to any foreign intervention. There was nothing wrong with this. In fact, he should have been strengthened but the British, whose Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) was deprived of its control over the Iranian oil, ensured that Iran could not sell its oil in the world markets. Here, the British government instead of safeguarding the interests of the British state became the protector of an oil company. Iran suffered because its oil income dropped from $400 million in 1950 to just $2 million during 1951-53. The so-called free Western press lost its journalistic balance by portraying Mossaddeq as a communist. So much so that the widely read Time magazine termed the Mossaddeq government as "one of the worst calamities to the anti-Communist world since the Red conquest of China." The CIA came into action and overthrew the democratically elected government of Mossaddeq under operation 'Ajax' in 1953 and installed their puppet the Shah of Iran. This running wound bled for twenty-five years and contaminated the relations between the two countries. As the US political influence grew so did their numbers and according to one estimate the American nationals living in Iran grew from eight thousand to nearly fifty thousand between 1970 and 1978. The attitude of some of these Americans bordered on racism whereby Iranians were referred to as 'sand-niggers', 'ragheads', 'stinkies' and their culture was denigrated as 'camel culture'. While some Americans did leave positive images in Iran such as Helen Young, who set up the first girls school in Rasht and Barkley Moore, who single-handedly established the first public library in Gunbadi Kavus in northern Iran, others left negative imprints. For instance, James A Bill narrates in The Shah, the Ayatollah, and the United States that "In October 1975, three American women dressed in bikini shorts and halters strolled into the Ancient Friday Mosque in Isfahan, where laughing, gesturing and talking in loud voices, they toured the holy places in their own good time." Earlier on, in October 1964, the Iranian 'Majlis' passed a law at Shah's behest that annoyed the middle classes. This law was known as 'Status of Forces Agreement' (SOFA) in US and the 'Capitulation Agreement' in Iran. It provided the American military personnel and their dependants stationed in Iran exemption from the Iranian law guaranteeing complete diplomatic immunity. Calling it as an act compromising the country's sovereignty, Khomeini lashed, "If the servant of some American or some cook of some American assassinates your 'Marja' (a leading religious leader) in the middle of the bazaar or runs over him, the Iranian police do not have the right to apprehend him", and continuing his barrage of criticism against the Shah, he added, "If someone runs over a dog belonging to an American, he will be prosecuted. But if an American cook runs over the Shah, the head of the state, no one will have the right to interfere with him." At the end, he blasted the Shah for "having reduced the Iranian people to a level lower than that of an American dog." Undeterred, the Shah remained steadfast in his loyalty towards Uncle Sam. While the people of Fars province suffered from famine, he commemorated 2500 years of Persian monarchy at the ancient capital of Persepolis - a part of the famine inflicted province - in October 1971 in which he entertained five hundred foreign guests with choiced delicacies including 25000 bottles of wine especially shipped from France, costing the exchequer $200 million as the total cost of the ceremony. Shah's unswerving loyalty proved an invaluable asset to the American interests in the region which can be well-understood from Kissinger's words: "On all major international issues, the policies of the United States and the policies of Iran have been parallel and therefore mutually reinforcing." The Shah was willing to act as a 'policeman' in the Gulf. The next step was the arming of this 'policeman'. The Nixon government went out of the way by exempting Iran from the arms sales review normally conducted by their State and Defence departments thus creating a bonanza for the American weapons manufacturers. Consequently, the transfer of arms from the US to Iran between 1972 and 1978 peaked such level that had no example in the history of the world. This can be imagined from the fact that the net value of US military sales to Iran touched the $9.4 billion mark, which was an increase of 680 percent. The Middle East was a troubled region for the American policy makers but the Shah had secured it for them. The US was more than happy and its President Carter while showering heaps of praise on the Shah underscored in 1977, "Iran under the great leadership of the Shah is an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world. This is a great tribute to you, your Majesty and to your leadership." The ubiquitous Kissinger was equally flattering: "He (the Shah) was that rarest of leaders, an unconditional ally and one whose understanding of the world situation enhanced our own." In the process of making himself dear to his American masters, the Shah antagonised his own countrymen who threw him out despite the all-powerful American backing. He died in miserable circumstances in exile in 1980. The American callousness in betraying the Shah in his last days was pithily admitted by Richard Nixon, who after attending the funeral ceremony told the reporters, "Jimmy Carter's handling of the Shah was one of the black pages of American foreign policy history." Even after the Islamic revolutionaries took power in Iran, the CIA continued its machinations to exercise its hold over the revolutionary regime. It was successful in cultivating relations with the then Iranian President Abul Hassan Bani Sadr (1979-81) who was offered $1,000 per month to act as an 'American company advisor'. This was revealed in the documents published by the Iranian students after the US embassy take-over in Tehran. This infuriated the Iranians and one influential member of the Islamic Republican Party, who was closely involved in the embassy drama commented, "Embassy documents prove that Bani Sadr has committed high treason. Is there a place in the world where a man proved to have committed high treason is president." Such American interference in the Iranian affairs was strongly disliked by the masses. Two popular slogans that echoed the streets of Tehran in the revolutionary days were: 'Death of the American Shah' and that the Iranians would not allow a repetition of 'the Mossaddeq debacle'. These ghosts of US imperialism still haunt the Iranians. If the Americans wish to re-establish cordial relations, they will have to ensure that they don't repeat their past mistakes. E-mail: qizilbash2000@yahoo.com