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05/25/18

U.S. Plays Cat, And Iran The Mouse In 'Tom And Jerry' Comparison

By Freud Bezhan, RFE/RL 

When it comes to U.S.-Iranian relations, it is as simple as a game of cat and mouse; specifically, the iconic American cartoon characters Tom and Jerry, according to Iran's highest authority. The message within the Hanna-Barbera classic is recurring: while the tomcat (Tom), with its superior strength and size, might toy with the mouse, it is the clever and plucky mouse (Jerry) that always comes out on top.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei invoked the two rivals while addressing a gathering on May 23 amid increased tensions after Washington pulled out of the nuclear deal agreed between Iran and world powers in 2015.

"The U.S. has committed all kinds of animosity to hit the Islamic Republic and has plotted various political, economic, military and propaganda schemes" since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Khamenei said. "All their plots have failed -- just like Tom from the well-known Tom and Jerry cartoon -- and they will fail again in the future."

Khamenei's comments, which were not included in state television coverage of the address but were posted in English on his official website, were his first since U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened Iran with "the strongest sanctions in history" if Tehran does not comply with 12 conditions for a new nuclear agreement.

Among the demands were full disclosure of alleged past military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program, the end to its proliferation of ballistic missiles, and the cessation of its support for armed groups in the region that the United States considers terrorist organizations.

Pompeo's remarks on May 21 came two weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 deal under which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program, which it claims is solely for peaceful purposes, in exchange for relief from international economic sanctions.

Trump's decision has angered Iranian leaders, with Khamenei directly challenging the American president by saying, "You can't do a damn thing!"

Despite his long-running mistrust of Washington, Khamenei supported the nuclear deal when it was signed with world powers in 2015, even suggesting it could be the basis for further negotiations.

But he soon turned against the accord when it became clear that many of its benefits were still being blocked by residual U.S. sanctions linked to Iran's human rights record and controversial ballistic-missile program.

Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters in the Islamic republic, said last year that the agreement should be torn up if Washington pulled out.

Khamenei's reference to Tom and Jerry is ironic given the supreme leader has often warned of the dangers of American influence on Iranian culture.

But there are obvious parallels to draw on: While the threat of ultimate destruction is always there, Tom seldom actually tries to eat Jerry; the two rarely, if ever, speak to each other; and both appear to take some pleasure from torturing each other.

But there are flaws in the comparison as well. Jerry, for example, has often been portrayed as a devoted American patriot, as evidenced by the award-winning 1943 episode The Yankee Doodle Mouse, in which Tom does his best to snuff out Jerry's ambitions to launch a rocket.

WATCH -- Tom And Jerry: The Yankee Doodle Mouse

It ends, as usual, with Jerry getting the upper hand -- and saluting the stars and stripes.


About the author:

Frud Bezhan (BezhanF@rferl.org) covers Afghanistan and the broader South Asia and Middle East region.
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