February 10, 2014 | Policy Brief

The Islamic Republic of Iran at 35: The Anti-American Narrative Endures

February 10, 2014 | Policy Brief

The Islamic Republic of Iran at 35: The Anti-American Narrative Endures

February 11 marks the 35th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. It is a national holiday, marked by speeches delivered by Iran’s revolutionary leaders. As was the case in years past, Iran’s leaders are expected to praise Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Revolution’s founding father. This year, however, there will likely be an additional message that has gained traction in recent months:  Western deceit and unreliability.

The theme of Western unreliability, in particular, is one that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has recently touted. Khamenei points to the West’s purported abandonment of the late Shah of Iran [Mohammad Reza Pahlavi] amidst the 1979 Revolution. Referring to the Shah’s attempts to secure asylum after the revolution erupted, Khamenei boasted that the Shah’s chief ally, the United States, “…did not even show mercy to their friend…They did not show even this bit of loyalty to him. They are such people.”

As such, Khamenei asserts that “the American government… [is] an untrustworthy government,” and that allies should expect to be deserted. In one particularly colorful commentary, Khamenei proclaimed, “When they no longer need the people they use, they simply crumble them up like a dirty tissue and throw them away…”

Khamenei believes that his understanding of American tendencies now applies to the upheavals in the Middle East. “They treated Mohammad Reza Pahlavi the way they treated him [Hosni Mubarak]. They also treated Ben Ali of Tunisia in the same way,” he proclaimed.

At the same time, according to Khamenei, the revolutions in the Middle East mark the “beginning for an uprising against global dictatorship.” Of course this conflicts with the notion that Washington has abandoned its allies. It is simply Khamenei’s goal to denigrate American credibility in the region.

Qassem Suleimani, the Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds-Force, appears to have taken a cue from Khamenei.  He now stresses Iran’s loyalty to the regime in Syria, saying, “‘We’re not like the Americans. We don’t abandon our friends.’”

As the Islamic Republic reaches a significant milestone, and with its star rising as a result of the ongoing nuclear talks, leaders will likely continue to hammer home the narrative that the West is profoundly unreliable and deceitful. This clashes with President Hassan Rouhani’s “charm offensive.” But it also serves to underscore the persistent, pervasive, and fervent anti-Americanism that has long characterized the Islamic Republic.

Behnam Ben Taleblu is an Iran Research Analyst at Foundation for Defense of Democracies.