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Britain as old Great Satan 25, June 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iran.
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Just a quick thought on my earlier article on Britain as the New Great Satan. I’ve spoken to a few people about this and had some interesting comments. I am well aware, though my title might have belied that, that Britain and Iran’s relationship goes back some distance and that Iran has a long, seething and passionate hatred for the UK. I’ve spent most of this year reading about the 17th, 18th and 19th century history of the Gulf and Britain’s involvement along with many other powers.

Whilst I do agree with some the sentiment of David’s comment that ‘Britain has ALWAYS been enemy number one in Iran’ I do feel that recently, at least, the empirical evidence disagrees. It is not Britain’s name that Iranian’s have been castigating as the Great Satan for the last thirty years in Friday prayers. It seems to me, moreover, that Britain as the arch-enemy is a straw-man, which has a nice, familiar and potent resonance in Iranian history. I don’t think for one second that Ahmadinajad et al really believe the the UK has been up to anything particularly nefarious in Iran. But that with America being so manifestly popular at the moment and a chance of detente potentially around the corner, they need to go to their back-up enemy, the British.

Ali Ansari from St. Andrews has a peice in the Times of London discussing briefly the background of the Iranian-British relationship. Also, David points to a fascinating article in Prospect Magazine. I think that this article must be taken, however, with a pinch of salt. The author is selling his book, after all, which – as luck would have it – takes something of a controversial tone repletajade with ornate, verbose language and somewhat clumsy ‘I was there reporting’.

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Britain as new Great Satan = Iran wants detente? 23, June 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iran, UK.
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4 comments

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has denounced Britain as a meddling, evil power to the extent that maybe – just maybe – we might have taken over America as the Great Satan. Whilst I would be thrilled for the UK to beat America at anything, I wonder what this means more strategically.

First, I suppose that it is more difficult to castigate America as evil now that Obama is being so manifestly open to dialogue and generally genial.

Second, obviously, the powers that be in Iran need some foreign power to blame. It makes historical sense that the UK would be next in the kicking line.

Third, does this, therefore, mean that Iran has some kind of longer-term detente stratagy with America? I honestly think that it might do. I can’t see them performing elections again or giving in in other substantive ways, though who’s to say what can happen in such a volatile situation? This leads me to suggest that the conservative few in Tehran are thinking a few moves ahead. Once this election fiasco has calmed down then, ceteris paribus, America might well seek to tentatively get back on track with their detente with Iran. This, therefore, seems to me to be Iran’s first gesture towards taking part in this detente as a way to appease the vocal liberal swathe of their population.