The United States has had a rocky relationship with Iran since the late twentieth century. The United States and Britain, for example, orchestrated a coup against a democratically elected government to reinstall the pro-Western Muhammad Reza Pahlavi as the shah, or ruler, of Iran after he’d been deposed. The coup outraged Iranians and fueled suspicion of the West. In 1979, the Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini overthrew the shah and then attacked the American embassy and held more than sixty Americans hostage for 444 days. The United States supplied Iraq with weapons and equipment in its war against Iran throughout the 1980s, driving the two countries even further apart.
In recent years, Iran has been trying to acquire nuclear technology, ostensibly to build nuclear power plants. The United States and the European Union, however, believe that Iran is trying to construct a nuclear weapon for protection against Western encroachment or for possible use against Israel. Iran is, therefore, at the center of American efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons, especially in light of the recent failure of the United States to prevent North Korea from developing nuclear weapons.
For all of the nineteenth and most of the twentieth century, Europe lay at the heart of American foreign policy. For the most part, the United States remained nominally neutral, hoping to trade with the great European powers and avoid becoming involved in their costly wars. World Wars I and II transformed the United States into a major military and economic superpower and prompted Washington to assume a leadership role in the postwar world.
The United States and its Western European allies waged much of the Cold War in Europe as well, carving the continent into spheres of influence. Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990 and the formation of the European Union in 1992, Europe has become one of the most politically and economically stable regions in the world. As such, it has become less of an American foreign policy concern. Nevertheless, the United States still has a number of vested interests in the region and has fostered democratization and humanitarianism.
The collapse of the Soviet Union and the Iron Curtain surrounding the Eastern-Soviet bloc ushered in a new era for democracy and stability in Europe. Many Eastern European governments crumbled or voluntarily relinquished power in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall, including Poland, Hungary, Romania, and the former Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. Not all countries have made the full transition to democracy and the United States continues to support the peoples in Eastern Europe who are still struggling to end corruption and authoritarianism. The United States, for example, purportedly helped train many of the agitators who peacefully ousted the corrupt regimes in the Velvet Revolution in the Republic of Georgia in 2003 and the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine in 2004.
Although the United States welcomed the end of the Cold War, the demise of the Soviet Union and its satellite governments brought only chaos. Nowhere was this more evident than in Yugoslavia, where bitter ethnic rivalries and tensions between Serbs, Croats, Albanians, and Bosniaks led to the Bosnian War in the early 1990s and the Kosovo War in 1999, which the United States participated in through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The United Nations still maintains peacekeeping forces in Kosovo to prevent any further conflict.