Britons shouldn’t be so shocked at Iran’s capture of 15 sailors, said Robert Tait in the London Observer. Iran has always seen the United Kingdom as its worst enemy, “the dark mover behind the scenes,” more powerful and perfidious than the U.S. or even Israel. Britain, after all, is “the imperial power that for decades meddled in their domestic politics and monopolized their oil industry.” Iranians haven’t forgotten that while the 1953 coup that ousted the nationalist prime minister and installed the Shah was run by the CIA, it was “engineered by Winston Churchill’s government,” in retaliation for Iran’s nationalization of a British-owned oil company. Resentment is so pervasive that not only the mullahs but also the Iranian dissidents think Brits are against them. The mullahs see the U.K. as an ally of Western anti-Islamism, while the dissidents believe that the British, for unspecified but no doubt nefarious reasons, provide “secret support” to the current regime. “Britain is the common enemy and—potentially—the great unifier.” We can expect this demonization to only grow stronger. Whenever Iran needs to forge national unity—when, for example, it faces international condemnation at the U.N., as it does now—“the specter of British enmity can provide a convenient catalyst.”
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