Iran's distrust of 'evil Britain' rooted in history of imperial meddling

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It is no surprise that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, put the “evil British Government” at the top of his list of Western powers that he accuses of fomenting the biggest street demonstrations in Tehran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Britain has been a convenient scapegoat and whipping boy for Iranian leaders when things go wrong at home. According to an old Persian proverb, if you trip over a pebble, you can be sure it was put there by an Englishman.

In the tumultuous prelude to the revolution, the late Ayatollah Khomeini was convinced that the BBC was supporting the US-backed Shah. The monarch, in turn, had little doubt the BBC was helping London to destabilise his regime by broadcasting everything Khomeini said from exile in France.

Three decades on and many Iranians still see Britain as “perfidious Albion”, a scheming “little Satan” that pulls the strings of the “Great Satan” America, which is viewed as a superpower with more brawn but fewer brains than its “duplicitous” Anglo-Saxon ally.

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