Relations between the US and Iran have shifted decisively over the past week. Enemies since the Iranian revolution in 1979, the two countries are now taking the first wary steps towards a rapprochement that has the potential to alter the politics of the Middle East fundamentally. Although presidents Obama and Rouhani did not shake hands when they were both at the UN on Tuesday, they did talk on the phone on Friday afternoon, the first conversation between an Iranian and an American president since 1979. Read more >>
The cartoon by Chappatte from the International Herald Tribune shows President Obama and President Rouhani both holding olive branches - a symbol of peace. Rouhani calls Obama "Small Satan", while Obama describes Rouhani as the "Axis of Not-So-Evil".
"Small Satan" is a reference to "Great Satan" a derogatory epithet for the United States of America in some Iranian foreign policy statements. The term was originally used by Iranian leader Ruhollah Khomeini in his speech on November 5, 1979 to describe the United States whom he accused of imperialism and the sponsoring of corruption throughout the world. "Axis of Not-So-Evil" is a play on "Axis of Evil", a term initially used by the former United States President George W. Bush in his State of the Union Address on January 29, 2002, and often repeated throughout his presidency, describing governments that he accused of helping terrorism and seeking weapons of mass destruction. Iran, Iraq and North Korea were portrayed by George W. Bush during the State of the Union as building nuclear weapons. The Axis of Evil was used to pinpoint these common enemies of the United States and rally the country in support of the war on terror.
The cartoonist is making the point that while there has been a thaw in relations between the USA and Iran, the two countries are still very suspicious of each other. There is a long way to go before they put aside old emnities and establish a relationship of mutual trust.
Rapprochement is a situation in which the relationship between two countries or groups of people becomes more friendly after a period during which they were enemies. • There now seems little chance of rapprochement between the warring factions. Note that rapprochement, like many words used in diplomacy (détente is another example), is French in origin and is pronounced as a French word: ræˈprɒʃmɒ̃.