Islamists have spent years casting any criticism of radical Islam as inherently bigoted, dismissing it with a pejorative label of "Islamophobia."
Now Iran's political and military leaders are using a similar strategy to fend off heightened scrutiny of their nuclear ambitions and other diplomatic crises facing the Islamic Republic. These are products of an "Iranophobia" project to control their country, government officials claim.
Leftist Israeli scholar Haggai Ram coined the phrase in 2009, for his book Iranophobia: The Logic of an Israeli Obsession. Ram argued that Israel used anti-Iranian fear to avoid dealing with domestic anxieties and to create an external enemy to match the West's war on terror. The term only came into vogue with Iranian officials in the past month, however, and was then recast as a way to reflect any legitimate criticism of Iranian government actions.
"Iranophobia" was used to malign American accusations about an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington and to bomb the Saudi and Israeli embassies there. "The US drive to promote Islamophobia and Iranophobia is the root cause of its accusation against Iran regarding the alleged terrorist plot on the US soil," said senior political figure Mehdi Mahdizadeh told Fars New Agency.
Iranian news agencies and politicians then picked up on the term, as the Supreme Leader and other political heavyweights adopted it into common usage. "The repeat of ineffective and stupid methods by hapless and distracted policymakers in the West (to spread) Iranophobia will again bear no result," Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told the nation's army on Oct. 13.
News site like Iranian.com and Press TV then used the term to describe an elaborate Western conspiracy, termed the Iranophobia Project, to control the Islamic world and maintain troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. There were even calls for America to apologize for promoting a phobia of all things Iranian, which the United States dismissed as a "rant."
"Iranophobia" has become the go-to response to other Western accusations for which the Islamic Republic has no answer. Concern over Iranian nuclear ambitions is a form of "Iranophobia," and the "irrational fear" of Iran is being used as an excuse for new Iranian military deployments