While anti-Americanism has deep roots in the Arab world, the situation is quite unusual in Iran, where the United States has in last several years become extremely popular. Of all the governments in the Middle East, the Iranian administration remains the most firm in confronting the United States. Not only does Iran not receive U.S. aid, but its regime is an enemy of America. However, this country, according to the recent opinion palls, has a significant amount of pro-Americanism.
The countries of Iran and America have a long history together. The political relations between them started when the Shah of Persia, Nassereddin Shah Qajar, sent a first ambassador to Washington D.C. in the 1800s. Until 1979, the countries remained political allies, sharing understanding and trust. However, the trust was broken due to the British led and series of other conflicts and incidents between the two nations. That caused the tension to develop in their relationship and the trust vanished. Nevertheless, the trust and friendship just shaded, not vanished completely.
Iran has one of the most U.S.-friendly populations in the world; certainly the most pro-American in the Muslim Middle East. Unexpectedly, the popularity of the United States in Iran has increased swiftly over the last several years. This phenomenon was confirmed by the September 2002 poll commissioned by the National Security Committee which found out that 74 percent of Iranians favored continuation of the relations with the United States. Moreover, 46 percent considered that U.S. policies on Iran were “to some extent correct”. Still, what was constantly stressed in the media is the 2002 address of President Bush in which he had added Iran to the “axis of evil” (Mayer).
Iranian officials are concerned of the rapid fall of the Baghdad regime and alarmed by the “total disillusion of the Iranian people” that has resulted in a severe pro-Americanism of the population (Pour)…The government has not been able to fulfill the people’s democratic aspiration and the people are deeply disappointed. For the older generations, “America” reminds an era of economic affluence. For the younger ones, “America” brings a dream of liberal social attitudes of freedom.
It is an ironic twist of political fate: 25 years after the Islamic revolution, Washington probably has more influence on public opinion in Iran than the Islamic government. Not too many years have passed from the hostage-taking at the U.S. embassy in Tehran when millions of Iranians went on to the streets to shout “Death to America”. Nowadays, Iranian young population already does not remember those events. They don’t look at the past, only at the future. And they do love America. The student’s movement withdrew from reformer’s organizations. Many young Iranians now openly disobey the regime’s prohibition of alcohol and other activities. There is very little, or simply nothing, Iranian government in Tehran can do to cool this pro-American love.
Surprisingly, the regime has also strengthened the fondness for American. The regime always portrays America as evil, capitalistic, aggressive, and corrupt. It is natural that on the psychological level the citizens who are unhappy with the regime love America, just from the feeling of strong detest of the government. Sadly, the failures of the reform movement have also done much to raise the pro-Americanism. The government proved itself to fail, not implementing any of promised changes in the regime, while America kept attracting like a faraway dream.
The non-participation of the Iranians at the February elections – in Tehran, only 12% of the voters voted – has been lived by many, in Tehran, as’ the end of the grace period of the reformers’ the daily Le Monde wrote. It took us a quarter of century to realize that the revolution has ended in failure and disappointment.
Iranians were the only people in the Middle East to come out in a massive show of affection towards the victims of 9/11 by holding a candle light vigil only to be attacked, lashed by elements of the Iranian government.
As one astute observer of the Iranian scene summed up his impressions from two years of travel around Iran, “America’s greatest allies in Iran are the hardliners themselves; their constant anti-American rhetoric has made the United States even more popular among the Iranian people.”(Molavi) Because the regime sees America as its number one enemy, and the population sees the regime in the same way, Iranians have come to like America out of hatred for their own government. And while many Iranians are certainly enticed by Western-style democracy and social freedoms, being pro-American is largely an issue of domestic politics.
It is no exaggeration to say that America has won the fight for the hearts and minds of the Iranian people, and the uncompromising clerics have lost. The people of Iran want the same freedoms, human rights, and opportunities as people around the world. They are openly pro-Western, freedom loving and good natured people who want nothing more than to have a free, democratic, progressive society. The United States became an “American dream” of Iranian people.
Pour, Afsane Bassir, IRANIAN REGIME WORRIED BY PEOPLE’S PRO-Americanism, Iran Press Service, 4.25.2003, Posted on 04/26/2003 12:52:02 AM PDT.
Mayer, Robert, Iranian Pro-Americanism, Publius Pundit, June 14, 2005.
Molavi, Afshin, Iran: Reformist Blues, Economic Woes, PolicyWatch No. 678 from The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, November 19, 2002.
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