Although Axl Rose isn't renowned for his grasp of international politics, his lyrics do neatly sum up the Western perception of Iran as the country of the mad mullahs. But what Axl probably didn't know was that the US and the UK have been doing 'as they please' in Iran for many, many years.
The West has had a long - if rather troubled - relationship with Iran. From the 18th century, Britain had a strong military, political and business presence in Persia (it became Iran in 1936). Oil was discovered in the 1900s, and British Petroleum was set up to get at it. Soon the oil had become vital to the British
At the time the shah (king) of Persia was sympathetic to Britain and the West - a policy that would continue for many years, and which was not always in the interest of ordinary Persians.
An interesting example of this tension occurred when Reza Khanís repressive regime of the 1920s imposed Western 'reforms' that included forcing Persians out of traditional Arab dress into Western styles. One Persian writer described his countrymen as wearing "European trousers, often tied with a string, and mismatched suit jackets worn day in and day out into a state of unrecognisable shabbiness."
The most recent dynasty of shahs in Persia/Iran was established by Reza Shah Pahlavi in 1925. He abdicated in 1941, and his son Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi took over until he fled the Islamic revolution in 1979.
Throughout the reign of the last few Shahs, Iran's oil meant it remained a key strategic region. In World War II, Iran was invaded by Britain and the Soviet Union, and after the war, the Americans and Russians began looking for a piece of the oil action.
Iran's relationship with the West became a divided one, punctuated by squabbles over oil prices. The Shahs tended to happily take vast sums of Western oil money while ignoring the needs of their own people.
In the 1960s the Shah began social and economic reform, and women got the right to vote in 1963. The problem was that democracy was largely a sham and the shahís government was corrupt and incredibly brutal, with regular purges by the secret police, trained, as is now well known, by the CIA.
In 1971, Britain withdrew its military forces from the Persian Gulf, but fear of the Russians led the US and UK to give massive military support to Iran, making it the region's strongest military power. However, industrialisation and modernisation, accompanied by massive extremes of wealth and poverty, were causing enormous resentment among Iranís many poor.
In 1979 the exiled religious leader Ayotollah Khomeini overthrew the shah and Iran became a religious state. A year later Iraq invaded Iran, mainly because of a dispute over the disputed Shatt al Arab waterway.
The war crippled both nations, devastating Iran's military and industrial power and killing or wounding between 500,000 and one million people. Chemical weapons were used by both countries and the war dragged inconclusively on for many years.
Khomeini died in 1989 and gradually relations with the West improved. In the '90s many European countries were re-establishing economic ties with Iran, but the US was not happy: it said Iran was involved in international terrorism (true) and was developing nuclear weapons (also true). (We Brits might also like to recall the death threat against Salman 'reaching page 18 is quite a feat' Rushdie).
But after September 11, America and Iran were hardly at each othersí throats. Iran immediately denounced the attacks, and its relations with nearby states were also peaceful. In short, things seemed to be looking up. Or at least pretty calm. But recently George Bush has made fresh claims, specifically that:
Iran helped Al Quaeda