The Clinton Administration
- In 1993, William Jefferson Clinton inherited almost 15 years of troubled relations with Iran, impeded by no diplomatic ties, deep animosity on both sides and layers of sanctions. He left office in 2001 with no breakthrough in relations, but an improved atmosphere that offered an opening for further progress.
- This shift happened despite Iran’s suspected involvement in the 1996 attack on the U.S. barracks in Khobar, Saudi Arabia. But the terror attack heavily influenced U.S. policy toward Iran in the Clinton years. The White House refrained from military retaliation but signaled that additional terrorism could lead to conflict.
- Clinton sought to build a relationship with President Khatami after his surprise 1997 election, but was thwarted by the Khobar legacy and internal Iranian politics. Clinton and Khatami encouraged reciprocal people-to-people exchanges to reduce animosity and prepare the groundwork for improved relations.
- The Clinton administration hoped for a breakthrough in government-to-government dialogue and eventual diplomatic relations. It offered on several occasions, via different interlocutors, to set up a direct dialogue without conditions, but Iran refused.
- By the end of the second Clinton term, the United States and Iran had moved from the precipice of armed conflict in 1996, after the Khobar attack, to an indirect dialogue. The climate had improved, but policy differences remained wide.
- Tensions over Iran’s role in terrorism, its ties to Hezbollah and its pursuit of nuclear technology were the most serious differences. But a new effort to defuse tensions between Washington and Tehran had begun.
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"The Iran Primer"--Book Overview
The world’s most comprehensive website on Iran, “The Primer” brings together 50 experts—Western and Iranian—in concise chapters on politics, economy, military, foreign policy, and the nuclear program. It chronicles events under six U.S. presidents. It also has leader bios, timelines, data on nuclear sites—and context for what lies ahead. Click here for a hardcopy. New articles are added at the top.