Great Satan

epithet used by the Iranian government, referring to the United States
(Redirected from The Great Satan)

The Great Satan (Persian شيطان بزرگ Shaytan-e Bozorg, Arabic الشيطان الأكبر Al-Shaytan Al-Akbar) is a common epithet for the United States of America in Iranian foreign policy statements, popularized by Imam Khomeini. Death to America is another closely linked propaganda phrase.

The Great Satan

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  • In practice, opposition by the new Iranian regime to the Americans did not necessarily extend to support for the Soviet Union. Two days after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Soviet envoy in Iran promised Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of the Islamic Revolution and Guardian of the Islamic Republic, assistance in any conflict with the USA; only to be told that there could be no mutual understanding between a Muslim nation and a non-Muslim government. Nevertheless, as a result of American backing for the Shah and for Israel (with whom the Shah had co-operated), and its identification with liberalism and consumerism, Khomeini saw America as ‘the Great Satan’. He instigated the seizure of the American embassy in Tehran by student radicals on 4 November 1979, an act that created a hostage crisis lasting until 20 January 1981. This crisis, and the failed American attempt to rescue the hostages in April 1980, discredited Carter and helped Khomeini sustain a highly-charged atmosphere in Iran. It was clear that America’s loss of a strategic partner had altered the Cold War even if Iran had not joined the Soviet Union, which Khomeini described as ‘the other Great Satan’. Thus, there was no equivalent for the Soviet Union to the now-closer relations between the USA and both China and Egypt.

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