I love questions about Iran, Anon. I actually know very little about Iran, and much of what I do know is through people right here on Quora. But I know enough about the neighborhood, as their neighbours’ neighbour, that I can make intelligent guesses.
They may be very far from correct guesses, of course. But you did choose to A2A me.
In this answer, I will try to be fair. I have my own ideology and opinions, and they will become clear. But neither Iranians nor Americans are my enemy.
The West is under American hegemony. Now, hegemony is not necessarily a bad thing (although I do need to read a lot more about what Gramsci originally meant by it). Hegemony involves a way of thinking that gets adopted by the many, and that benefits a privileged group. That doesn’t mean that the privileged group is wrong. And that doesn’t mean that the many aren’t sincere in their agreement with the privileged group. Whatever Gramsci says.
Some of the American hegemony’s ideology include secular government, constraint on mob justice, distancing from terrorism (a notion the US has not been very consistent about), acceptance of American dominance, and social freedoms.
The Iranian theocracy has over the years done several things that run counter to this ideology. Again, just because they are challenging a hegemon does not make them right: sometimes Goliath is the good guy after all. And conversely, just because their government rejects Western ideas of what a good country is, doesn’t automatically make them a Bad Country. Ideologically, however, America and Iran are opposed.
That is enough to make Iran call America the Great Satan, and the US to reciprocate the demonisation.
There were a few other factors that cemented the perception of Iran as part of the so-called Axis of Evil.
- The humiliation of America with the hostage crisis.
- Proxy conflicts with America in Lebanon and the Iran-Iraq war.
- The interregnum between the Soviet Union and modern day Russia and China, and for that matter Al Qaeda and ISIS, when Iran was seen as the major Challenger to the American World Order.
- The challenge Iran poses to Israel, which is always a factor in how the US, if not Europe, views regional players.
- Conspicuous challenges to the Western model of social liberalism, including the veil and the fatwa against Salman Rushdie.
- Of course, the fact that both demographically and militarily, as well as by virtue of geography, Iran is well positioned to be a thorn in America’s strategic interests.
- Fear of Islam as a challenge to the West overall.
Readers will have different opinions about which of these concerns are merited and which are not. Alert readers will be aware that some of those challenges are more acute in Saudi Arabia than in Iran.
If history had played out slightly differently, and America had made some better informed decisions early on, Iran could have been an arms length ally of America, instead of Saudi Arabia. And if that had happened, even with Iran a theocracy, I doubt it would rank as high up on the list of hated countries as some now place it.