During the Cold War the United States had an ally in the Shah of Iran. His efforts to westernize Iran and his military cooperation with the United States did not go unpunished. Many leftists, like President Jimmy Carter, considered Communism to be misunderstood, and considered the Shah to be nothing but a strongman.
Carter is noted for his comments on Communism, which have ranged from lauding the Communist stand on 'human rights' before the end of the Cold War, to his modern whitewash of the corrupt 'election' of Chavez in Venezuela. To my knowledge, Jimmy Carter has never had a bad word to say for Communists or Islamists.
Soon after the Shiite radicals overthrew the Shah of Iran they destroyed valuable United States listening posts. Listening posts were essential during the Cold War to gain information behind the Iron Curtain. Unlike the Soviets, the United States could not send tourists or diplomats into the Soviet Union to gain intelligence information. Soviet surveillance of foreign visitors was legendary in its thoroughness.
Not long after the destruction of the listening posts, President Carter sent a communique to the Ayatollah Khomeni lauding him as a "man of God". Soon after that Iranian 'students' seized the United States Embassy in Teheran, beginning what many consider the defining event in Jimmy Carter's presidency.
In hindsight, the media coverage of the Iranian hostage crisis highlighted the inability of the western media to come to grips with fanatical religious movements. The reporters' frame of reference, the 1960's, caused many of them to view the seizure of the embassy as another student protest, which many of them participated in or covered favorably. The 'students' were educated in radical Islamic thought which some leftist radicals saw as an ally in the struggle to overthrow global capitalism. Islam being the polar opposite of liberalism did not quell leftist enthusiasm for its ability to strike a blow at the United States. This is one early example of the cooperation between socialists, Communists, and radical Islam. I consider it to be the most important example because the Iranian takeover is viewed by Islamists as their first major triumph in modern times. The Islamists seized control of a powerful nation state and humiliated the United States. They viewed America and Carter as powerless to stop them, which has encouraged recruits into radical Islam since 1979.
The hostage crisis dragged on for 444 days. The Iranian government showed its 'gratitude' for Jimmy Carter's kind words by releasing the hostages as Ronald Reagan was being sworn into office. This, along with the botched and bloody rescue attempt of the embassy staff, was one final disgrace in Carter's disgraced presidency. Ronald Reagan, of course, took a much harder stand on Communism and the Soviet Union. But the inability to deal with radical Islam continued, best exemplified by the Marine barracks bombing in Lebanon which was followed by Reagan pulling the remaining troops out.
Though that bombing was linked to Iranian-supported terror groups, Reagan did nothing in response. This was one early example of the nation-states' inability to fight asymmetrical warfare against groups not wearing uniforms or declaring war in the traditional sense. The United States was not alone, nor was this the first or last time a large powerful nation has been unable to deal with terrorism.
To understand terrorism one must understand Islam. In Islam it is assumed that war will be waged against the 'infidel' at least once a year by every Muslim. This is the doctrine of jihad. Jihad need not be declared, as it is explicitly called for in the Koran. The Treaty of Westphalia, considered an early foundation for limiting wars to nation-states, the basis for modern western thought on the nature of war, postdates Islamic thinking on war by nine hundred years.
The ayatollahs, mullahs, and imams who seized control over Iran, subjecting the citizens of Iran to brutal theocratic rule, did not consider western niceties like treaties, the rules of war, or declarations of war to be necessary. The Koran supplies all the wisdom they consider necessary in all political, social, legal, military, or religious affairs. The western view of religion, after centuries of struggle, mainly keeps religous, military, social, and political matters seperate.
Iran being a theocracy with no freedom of expression, it is safe to say that the 'protesters' in Iran speak for the government, just as the 'students' did when they captured the United States Embassy under the Carter Administration. To sum up, when the Iranians say "Death to France" that is the only declaration of war France will get. But if a small nuclear device detonates under the Eiffel Tower, don't rule the Iranians out.
The Grim Milestone of Blogs "I find the language and rhetoric coming from America too confrontational" - Prince Charles "Nuts" - Gen McAuliffe America: Saving idiots from themselves since WWI