Ambassador Gregg on the Iran Nuclear Deal

Donald P. Gregg (Ambassador to South Korea, 1989-1993)


In assessing the current nuclear deal with Iran, it may be useful to remind ourselves of some highly pertinent facts from the past that are seldom mentioned.

First, in 1953, the democratically elected premier of Iran, Mohammad Mossadegh, was overthrown by those avatars of American exceptionalism, the Dulles brothers, John Foster as secretary of state and Allen Welsh as director of central intelligence. We may find it convenient to forget this, but the Iranians never will. Mossadegh’s major sin, in our eyes, was his nationalization of Iran’s oil fields. The British were particularly outraged by this, and the American coup was undertaken with London’s full support.

Second, in 1979, Iran’s Islamic Revolution took place, spearheaded by the seizure of the American Embassy in Tehran, and bringing Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to power.

Third, in 1980, Iraq invaded Iran over a border dispute, and in the ensuing bloody conflict, that lasted for eight years, America strongly supported Iraq against Iran.

Fourth, in early 2002, President George W. Bush gave his “axis of evil” speech, which led to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, created a deeply hostile relationship between Iran and the U.S. and ended a hopeful period of rapprochement between Washington and North Korea.

Fifth, from 2005 to 2013, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, rabidly anti-Israel and anti-American, was president of Iran. Any sort of intensive diplomatic activity with the Iranians during that period would have been impossible.

This is a record of wreckage and conflict in the Middle East that President Obama seeks to curtail by reaching out to Iran that is not only a powerful country, but also a proud civilization, then known as Persia, going back thousands of years. Iran is a permanent major fact of life in its region. Can the same be said of fractured Iraq or tragic Syria? A full diplomatic relationship with Tehran is very much in our interests, and is sought by most Iranians

Iran is already changing. The elections of 2013 brought to power moderate men with whom it was possible to negotiate this deal. Our partners in this accomplishment, China, France, German, Russia and the U. K., are all comfortable with it, which is a tremendous argument in its favor.

Will Iran fully comply with the letter and spirit of the agreement? They probably will, but maybe they won’t. But the agreement puts us in a position, via inspections, to KNOW how the Iranians are behaving, and to react appropriately.

So I strongly believe that this agreement is in our interests, that we are better off with it than without it, that US legislators should support the deal, that in ten years it will stand as one of President Obama’s greatest achievements, and that even the Israelis will have come to recognize that we have done them a great favor by bringing Iran back into full, civilized contact with the world.


Ambassador Gregg’s memoir, “Pot Shards: Fragments of a Life Lived in CIA, the White House, and the Two Koreas,” is available now. For more information, please click here.


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