Before we all get caught up in the
excitement of a new enemy to fear and loathe, could we possibly
consider Iran's perspective on what its been like to deal with the
benevolent West over the past century or so?
When the Ottoman Empire disintegrated following World War I, Iran looked forward to building a modern nation for themselves. But their geo-political location, as well as the unfortunate fortune of sitting on massive untapped oil reserves, meant that they would be subjugated to manipulation by Russia from one side, and by England from the other. The main point of contention was that the Brits thought that Iranian oil was only meant for British profit.
Starting in 1905, the Iranians staged a Constitutional Revolution and established a parliament with democratic representation. Parliament coexisted with the Iranian Monarch, but the people had significant power. In 1925, their was a coup at the top and Reza Shah Pahlavi started a new family line of leaders who abused the rights of parliament and used force to assert their control of power.
Nonetheless, by 1951, the parliament was invigorated by the leadership of Mohammad Mosaddegh, who was pushing for nationalization of the oil fields and for expanding the rights and liberties of the common people. The Shah tried to dismiss the prime minister, but popular demonstrations in the streets were so large and determined that the Shah backed down and re-instated Mosaddegh. At long last, it looked as though a champion of the Iranian people was going to get a chance to see his policies through, for better or worse, without being thwarted by a despotic Shah.
However the British and American government quickly engineered a coup d'etat, installed a prime minister who would aceed to Britain's oil needs and re-invigorated the nearly neutralized Shah who retaliated by terrorizing his people with a vengeance. For more than two decades, Iranians lived under a brutal regime that routinely tortured and murdered political opponents. By 1979, unrest and discontent with the Shah had reached such a pitch that the conditions were ripe for a peoples' revolution, and the Iranians had one. The conservative Shi'i opposition led the revolution and their new government held a deep grudge against the U.S. for the 1953 coup and its support of the Shah.
And the Iranian people, instead of getting a chance to pick up the pieces of their interrupted democracy, instead faced another regime of ideological despotism, this time by the ruling mullahs.
In spite their bad relations, the U.S. supported Iran in its ghastly and costly war with Sadaam Hussein's Iraq. But when it looked as though Iran might win, the U.S. showed its true colors and gave Sadaam the assistance he needed to push back the Iranians and sue for peace.
Fast forward to the 1990s and you hear George Bush the Lesser declaring Iran, along with North Korea and Iraq, to be a member of a newly minted club of really bad guys, the Axis of Evil. Doubtless, Iranians wondered what that designation would mean.