In the 1997 Presidential election, Mohammad Khatami, a reformist candidate, managed to dismiss all prior predictions and won a landslide of a 13-million-vote majority (nearly winning 70% of all votes cast).
His rising to power penned an important chapter in the Iranian political history. Tailoring a concept out of the name “Medina” (City of the Prophet), Khatami came up with the “civil society” as a derivative in the interior politics and later in the foreign policies, he took up a détente approach and embarked on the “dialog among civilizations” as means of enhancing Iran’s interaction with the world.
Khatami was the only post-1979 Iranian President who visited Germany, Italy and Austria at their governments’ invitation. What might come off as an achievement of his approach was the fact that it set the US Senate back from passing new sanctions against Iran, and it further removed the oil giants of Total, PETRONAS, and Gazprom from the DFAT list.
While the ties between Iran and the US headed toward détente destination, the morning of 9/11, four passenger airliners—which all departed from airports on the U.S. East Coast bound for California—were hijacked by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists to be flown into buildings. Two of the planes, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, were crashed into the North and South towers, respectively, of the World Trade Center complex in New York City. The attacks left all passengers and a number of citizens inside the buildings dead.
Shortly hours after the tragedy, Mohammad Khatami, Iran’s then President, condemned the terrorist act and offered his sympathies with the people of the US. Iranian in crowds gathered in front of the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, lit candles and voiced their grief for the lives lost. In some parts of the Middle East, however, people were elated by the attack and even celebrated it.
Within the first few hours after the horror, Muslims and Arab countries were first to accuse. The US mindset went extremely hostile against Islam and esp. Arabs. George W. Bush accused Islam and Muslims and called 9/11 a revival of the Crusades. Therefore 8 countries and 20 organizations were listed as the nest and destination of terrorism, most of which being Muslim.
Six months after the 9/11 incident, on January 29, 2002 while the US had managed to launch a war in Afghanistan and topple the Taliban government within the body of an international alliance, in his annual speech at the US Congress, George W. Bush named Iran, along with North Korea and Iraq, as the “Axis of Evil”. In fact, his response to Khatami’s condolence and Iran’s readiness for fighting Taliban in Afghanistan was a refusal of cooperation.
The chief speechwriter of President Bush, David Frum who invented the term “Axis of Evil” would never imagine there might come a day when a group named the “Islamic State” rises to power and rules instead of Taliban in the Middle East, and Iran, which was called the “Axis of Evil”, be the country that prevented this group from setting foot on its soil.
Turning a blind eye on Khatami’s peaceful offer and turning back at his détente approach practically stifled the chance for cooperation between Iran and the US. It further gave life to a notion in the Iranian society that had the people believe no matter how genuinely they try to assist the US, the US shall still remain hostile.
Mohammad Khatami eventually left the office and his successor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accomplished presidency. He used whatever in his power to challenge the US policies within his 8 years and trod as far as calling the 9/11 disaster a “tremendous lie”.
Now, it is 8 years after all the chaos, hostility and unfriendliness in Iran’s foreign policy, and Hassan Rouhani is trying once again to make the most of Khatami’s experience in order to promote a brand new landscape in the international community. He well knows that after bringing the nuclear project to fruition, he should improve Iran’s chances in the international arena and urge and convince European trade giants to head to his country so that its economy can finally be recession-free.
Yet, unfortunately, just as Rouhani’s visit to Europe and arriving in France and Italy is viewed to be vastly effective in enhancing the political and economic ties, the 11/13 evening of Paris is hit hard with numerous terrorist attacks that spread waves of horror throughout the city, and later, the ISIS takes responsibility of the biggest atrocity at the heart of Europe with honor.
Rouhani stepped off the plane and in addition to sympathizing with the victims and their families, dispatches his Foreign Minister to join the Syria Talks. Syria is nearly in the hands of the ISIS and many European countries are now hosting waves of refugees after bearing witness to the loss of lives and tragedies in it.
The truth is that once the matter of Assad’s “stay or leave” as well as the divide among the countries that seek influence in Syria went in session over the past few years, the fact that Syria had become a nest for snakes and terrorists to mooch off of it was ignored and somehow neglected. The ISIS, on the other hand, could become the biggest global security threat by selling oil and gaining support from a number of countries.
This time, the people of Europe are no longer watching the Hollywood-like ISIS decapitations in on their TVs, but they are terrified to their bones, feeling the horror with every cell of their flesh. Once must ask now “who the Axis of Evil really is”. Do the US and European states intend to continue their previous scenario, overlook the roots of terrorism, and make the same mistake as George W. Bush did?