July 21, 2015 | Quote

‘Great Satan’ and ‘Axis of Evil’ No More? How US, Iran Show Similarities

For nearly four decades, Iran has seen the United States as the “Great Satan,” while for the US, Iran was a prime member of the global club dubbed the “axis of evil.”

In each case, the other was viewed as the antithesis of what it was, of how it worked as a country and operated in the world.

Which makes it all the more remarkable that the two longtime bitter adversaries find themselves displaying so many similarities as they take up the deal reached by world powers last week to limit Iran’s nuclear program.

However, not everyone agrees that the days of the Great Satan and the axis of evil are drawing to a close.

“It’s a catchy formula, but it’s wrong,” says Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) in Washington.

The reason, he says, is quite simple: “The major beneficiaries of the deal in Iran are those who believe in and perpetuate the idea of the Great Satan … the revolutionary establishment and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).”

The “Great Satan” characterization of the US has served the IRGC well for decades as it has consolidated its role in Iran’s economy and military, says Mr. Dubowitz, who is an expert in international sanctions and their impact on Iran. He sees no reason that would change now, as the IRGC reaps the benefits of the deal’s lifting of international sanctions on Iran’s economy.

Some analysts also see a big difference in the political situations of the two countries, in that the US Congress could still scuttle the deal – by overcoming a promised presidential veto of a congressional “no” vote – whereas virtually no one sees that possibility in Iran.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has signaled his approval of the deal, making a parliamentary revolt against it unthinkable.

Any debate in Iran will reflect the tensions between the country’s “revolutionary establishment” and the political wing represented by Mr. Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, says Dubowitz of the FDD. But, he adds, the political battle will be “muted” because the deal presents no challenge to the IRGC’s hold on the country’s political and economic strings.

“There’s always an internal debate between the Revolutionary Guards and the Rouhani-Zarif elites, so [the former] are not going to praise Rouhani and Zarif too lavishly,” he says. “But we’re not seeing the kind of opposition you’d expect if they [IRGC] thought this deal really threatened them.”


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