There are particular reasons why1979 marked the downfall of American-Iranian relations.

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Prior to the revolution, throughout 1978 the United States facilitated the Shah’s legacy with military aid and equipment and opposed Khomeini.

Key objections against Khomeini:
Restriction of western influence in Iranian policies and relations with the western world;
Major shifts in economic relations because of oil (strategic geopolitical resource ) availability and price increases;
The support of the revolutionary movement in Iran by the Communist party (Tudeh);
Fearing Tudeh communist party as a forthcoming threat of spreading the Soviet influences in the country (Zonis 84).
Over 1978-1979, the US officially supported Mohammad Reza.
Regardless of the US support to stabilize the situation in Iran, Khomeini’s revolutionaries would take over Mohammad Reza Shah’s power.
After Huyser’s return back home, the US establishment decided to arrange positive relations with Khomeini to prevent the Soviet Union from taking over Iran.

Major causes
Khomeini and Iranian establishment deemed the U.S. as a selfish player.
Aftermath, the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the American-Iranian relations deteriorated:
Khomeini blamed the US for exploiting Iran’s money and strategic resources.
Khomeini accused the US for engaging the Iranians in a bloodshed revolution.
Khomeini was ready to take economic risks to eliminate western influence in Iran.
Khomeini engaged Iran in isolationism and refrained from any contacts with the United States.
Khomeini gave anti-American speeches, while in response the decrees issued by the U.S. Congress criticized the Iranian government for its current policies (Rubin 308).

Major outcomes
For the rest of 1979, the American-Iranian relations worsened:
(1) The alteration of oil policies;
(2) The removal of U.S. “containment”;
(3) Change in U.S.-Iranian arms sale agreement;
(4) The US dissatisfaction with insufficiency of human rights in Iran;
(5) The Iranian hostage crisis; and finally
(6) the U.S. embargo on Iran (Moin 199).

The new leader removed Iran from the US sphere of influence. Contrary to his predecessor, Mohammad Reza, Khomeini legalized the Tudeh communist party. With that, pro-Soviet influences actualized in Iran while the Soviet Union got strategic advantage over the United States in the country. Prior to the revolution, the US used Iran as a strategic place to gather intelligence against the Soviets (Keddie 146).

  • Keddie, Nikki. Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006): 146.
  • Moin, Baqer. Khomeini: Life of the Ayatollah (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999): 199.
  • Rubin, Barry. “American Relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran, 1979-1981,” Iranian Studies, Vol. 8, (1980): 308.
  • Zonis, Marvin “The Rule of the Clerics in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 482, (Nov. 1985): 84.