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Why do Western ‘leftists’ and ‘liberals’ love Iran’s government?

Many wonder why so-called Western “leftists” and “liberals,” as well as mainstream liberal media outlets, shower praise on Tehran, particularly given its condemnation of the West, its state sponsorship of terrorism, its poor human rights record and its meddling in other countries in the region.

The answer is linked to preserving one’s economic and career interests, as well as to Western education systems, particularly at highly regarded universities. I will focus on the second dimension since the first is self-explanatory.

In Western academic systems, students are normally taught via methods that encourage critical thinking and take students out of their comfort zone. It appears that a significant part of shaping this critical thinking is to focus on literature that examines Western imperialism, colonialism and orientalism.

As a result, many develop a negative image of the West while thinking of Tehran as a victim. Since the focus becomes how the US treated or mistreated Iran, the whole picture of what is happening in Iran, what its government is doing to its people, and how it is acting in the region becomes irrelevant and is disregarded.

If you examine Iranian-Western scenarios in this framework, you are seen as highly educated, sophisticated, humane and civilized. Even if Iran violates international law, liberals will justify it and blame the West or other countries in the region. This is how they are trained. If you do not follow this framework, you are attacked and labelled, and your credentials and qualifications are questioned.

Because they fit into its agenda of demonizing the West while disregarding or justifying Iranian aggression. 

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

Tehran loves these Western “liberals” and “leftists” because they fit into its agenda of demonizing the West while disregarding or justifying Iranian aggression. Many are repeatedly invited to speak on Iranian media outlets or participate in other activities. Many of them fail to realize that this framework has become their new comfort zone.

This framework is binary, simplified and unsophisticated. It does not reflect the nuances and complexities of Iran’s politics, and does no justice to the overwhelming majority of Iranians and others in the region, including Syrians.

By only focusing on criticizing the West vis-a-vis Tehran, we are overlooking the latter’s daily injustices and military adventurism. This indirectly empowers and emboldens Iran’s government to repress its own people and fuel conflicts in other countries such as Syria.

If liberals truly stand for values such as peace, social justice, freedoms, democracy and human rights, as they say they do, they ought to forcefully condemn Tehran for violating all these values. It is hypocritical not to do so.

• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated, Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business. He can be reached on Twitter @Dr_Rafizadeh.