|Outside the American embassy after a mission to rescue hostages failed|
|Burning an effigy of Uncle Sam outside U.S. embassy in Tehran|
Decades of interference, both overt and covert, had convinced the west that any kind of uprising to get rid of the Shah did not exist, even within the realms of possibility. Opposition to the Shah's rule within Iran was dismissed by the CIA in a report which stated only months beforehand that Persia 'was not even in a pre-revolutionary situation'. In his New Year's Eve toast in 1978 President Carter issued the immortal words, 'under the Shah's brilliant leadership Iran is an island of stability.'
|An American flag set on fire by Iranian protesters|
The Reagan administration was plagued (at least in its second term), by the possibility of the public finding out about a number of arms for hostages deals. Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North of the staff of the National Security Council gave the go-ahead to take twelve million dollars from arm sales to Iran, and give the money to the contra 'freedom' fighters in Nicaragua. This was pointedly against all protestations from Reagan that he absolutely and categorically refused to negotiate with terrorists and that any arms for hostages deal was out of the question. . An ongoing scandal for the Republicans with a Democrat congress to contend with, the exact role of President Reagan in the scandal was never properly delineated, and will probably never be known.
|One of many spontaneous mass demonstrations against the Shah|
With a regime change in 1992, President Bill Clinton appealed to many as a progressive who would perhaps reach out to Iran in a show of friendship (with of course the necessary conditions.) As with most centre-left parties in western democracies, the Democrats had to worry about managing to stay in power, once they were elected. They had to tread carefully with the voters in order not to seem indifferent to matters of national security. They had to appear resourceful, and able to take the initiative when it came to protecting the country's interests abroad. Yet the bellicosity of the Republicans did not seem to work for them. They had to forge an image which enhanced their ability at making the peace, at reaching out and achieving some kind of dialogue with nations whose customs and religious beliefs were less comprehensible to them than others, in an area of the world as important economically as it was politically.
|Reagan receiving the Tower Commission report c1987|
With a Democrat President currently in office, the rhetoric of the hawks with their itchy trigger fingers is balanced by a more prudent and rational discourse, as the United States attempts to balance national security pre-occupations with its international responsibilities and its revisionist stance to right the wrongs of the disreputable regime that came before the current administration. Neither political party has had much success in breaking through the institutionalised antipathy that America and Iran feel for each other. But that isn't to say that it won't happen, and in the process save the world from a confrontation that may be too dreadful to contemplate.
 Bob Woodward, Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate, New York, Simon & Schuster, 1999, Ch. 10, p. 110.