Bad blood doesn't begin to describe decades of antagonism between the United States and Iran.
The nuclear agreement hashed out in Geneva over the weekend by Iranian officials and the P5+1 countries - the United States, Britain, China, Russia, France and Germany - would seem the first step in a thaw between America and the Islamic theocracy. Even though it's only a six-month deal, world leaders hope it'll pave the way to a long-term guarantee that Iran won't produce nuclear weapons. And Iran hopes to recoup some of the billions of dollars it's lost as a result of international sanctions.
There are no formal diplomatic relations between Iran and the United States. That's been the case since the Iranian hostage crisis, which began with the U.S. embassy seizure by student radicals in November 1979. From an American perspective, any broader, long-lasting U.S.-Iranian thaw in relations would need to include recompense for the 444-day hostage crisis. Under international law, seizing an embassy is considered an act of war.
Iranians, not surprisingly, have a different view of what soured relations between the Persian titan and American superpower. In 1953 Iranian leader Mohammad Mossadeq was overthrown by a coup, organized by the CIA and British intelligence service M16. The following quarter-century saw a close alliance between Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi's regime and the U.S. government. That was, in turn followed, by a dramatic reversal and hostility between the two countries after the 1979 Iranian Revolution. As noted in the opening of the Ben Affleck thriller "Argo", Iran authorities remain angry that the Shah was allowed into the U.S. for medical treatment before his 1980 death.
There may be slight reasons for hope about a rapprochement. The visit by President Hassan Rouhani of Iran to New York City in September 2013 was hailed as major progress in Iran's relations with the U.S. Rouhani previously said that his government was ready to hold talks with the United States after 32 years. However, he rejected U.S. President Barack Obama's request for a meeting with him. On Sept. 27 , a day after the two countries' foreign ministers met during the P5+1 and Iran talks, Rouhani and Obama spoke by telephone, the two countries' highest political exchange since 1979.
But for every step forward there's a two-steps back effect. That call led to protests by Iranian conservatives who chanted "death to America" when Rouhani returned to Tehran. On the 34th anniversary of the embassy siege, tens of thousands of supporters of a more hardline approach to relations gathered at the site of the former U.S. embassy to denounce rapprochement. It was the largest such gathering in recent years.