By reaffirming the legitimacy of President Ahmadinejad's election victory yesterday, the so-called Ayatollah Khamenei placed his theocracy on the same (im)moral plane as the "Great Satan" that had deprived the Iranian people of its duly elected Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, in 1953.
In order to understand the significance of Khamanei's decision, it helps to recall what the United States did in 1953 to earn the moniker of the "Great Satan".
For decades Iran had supplied Britain's and much of Europe's oil under an agreement very favorable to British oil companies. Mossadegh's campaign to become Iran's Prime Minister included a stated intent to nationalize its oil industry. Mossadegh's admittedly populist appeal was to stop the pillage of Iran's precious resource by Western powers.
To thwart nationalization after Mossadegh's victory, the British planned a coup d'état to restore the Shah to power. It was to be hatched in their Teheran embassy by intelligence operatives. Mossadegh learned of the plot, and shut down the embassy.
The British then turned to the US. To his everlasting credit, Truman rebuffed them.
Upon the election of Eisenhower, and most importantly the appointment of John Foster Dulles as Secretary of State, the US government changed character.
Dulles's brother, Allen, was the Director of the CIA. Under the Dulles boys the US overthrew Mossadegh in 1953 (and then, for good measure, Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954).
Most importantly, the US not only ousted Mossadegh, it also uprooted a democracy and restored the autocratic, unelected Shah who developed a increasingly brutal dictatorship to retain power.
That is worth repeating -- the US did not just oust a Prime Minister, it uprooted a democracy in Iran, and replaced it with the Shah, whose brother ran Savak, the brutal secret police that suppressed the people of Iran for 25 years and confiscated mosque properties, while the Shah himself developed delusions of grandeur, trying to recreate the glory of Cyrus the Great, and spending lavish sums on feathering the nest of his Peacock Throne from oil revenues while the teeming masses remained poor.
Fast forward to the late 70s. Using radical Islam as the cause, the mullahs overthrew the Shah, and later seized the US embassy (where the overthrow of Mossadegh had been hatched) when the Shah was admitted to the US, and started spreading their radical brand of Islam through the Middle East.
Any mystery, then, why characterizing the US as the "Great Satan" was so easily and enduringly accepted by the Iranian people, and why American protestations of being pro-democracy do not ring true in Iran?
Khamenei has now crossed that same Rubicon. He has stolen from the Iranian people their franchise, just like the United States did in 1953. Having stoked anti-Americanism on that principle, Khamenei can hardly diminish its importance and he is forced to repeat as fact that which everyone knows is false.
Some Iranians hate the theocracy, others like or tolerate it, but its legitimacy was generally intact, even Khamenei's phony elevation to the status of Ayatollah.
That legitimacy is now undermined.
"We have met the 'Great Satan', and he is us."