What the Axis of Evil metaphor did to Iran

Daniel Heradstveit, G. Matthew Bonham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


This article focuses on the Axis of Evil metaphor that was used by President George W. Bush in his State of the Union Address in 2002 to represent Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. After describing "axis" as a metonym for fascism and Nazism, and "evil" as a metonym for Satanic forces that implies an alliance of Iran, Iraq, and North Korea that is collectively responsible for evil deeds, the authors analyze the impact of this metaphor on Iranian self-image and politics. The data for this analysis are drawn from in-depth interviews conducted with 18 members of the Iranian oppositional elite. The interview results suggest that the Axis of Evil metaphor had an impact on political discourse in Iran and strengthened the rhetorical position of conservatives vis-à-vis reformers by reviving militant revolutionary language with the Great Satan (the United States) as the main target of the theocratic and conservative forces. The article concludes with some observations about the implications of using cultural and historical experiences for explaining differences between the ways in which Americans (and other people in the West) and Iranians have understood the metaphor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)421-440
Number of pages20
JournalMiddle East Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


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