Since the 1979 revolution that brought it to power, American presidents and diplomats have consistently misunderstood the Islamic Republic, declaring its rulers moderate and liberal and defending the regime by praising Iranian culture. Amir Taheri writes:
As a [secular] nation-state, Iran has no problems with anybody. As a vehicle for the Khomeinist ideology, it has problems with everybody, starting with the Iranian people. The Khomeinist regime makes no secret of its intense hatred for Iranian culture, which it claims has roots in “the age of ignorance.” To admire this regime because of Iranian culture is like admiring Hitler for Goethe and Beethoven and praising Stalin for Pushkin and Tchaikovsky.
This regime has executed tens of thousands of Iranians, driven almost six million into exile, and deprived the nation of its basic freedoms. It has [probably] killed more Americans, often through surrogates, than al-Qaeda did on 9/11. Not a single day has passed without this regime holding some American hostages.
Iran as a nation is a solid friend of America. Iran as a vehicle for the Khomeinist revolution is an eternal enemy of “the Great Satan.” The only realistic strategy for the United States would be to help it stop being the Islamic Republic and become Iran again.