When President Reagan and General Secretary Mikhail S. Gorbachev met in Geneva last November, the fundamentalist Moslem rulers of Iran devised their own interpretation of the summit conference. "The biggest worry of the two superpowers," Radio Tehran announced, "is neither 'star wars' nor the speedy buildup of nuclear weapons, but the revolutionary uprising of the world's Moslems and the oppressed." Iran's president Sayed Ali Khamenei asserted that the two leaders, fearful of revolutionary Islamic ideology and the disturbing effect it has across the Third World, met to figure out "how to confront Islam."
The rulers of Iran are convinced that the United States and the Soviet Union conspire together to keep Third World peoples in line. President Khamenei believes that the superpowers have already divided the world between them and disagree only on the exact disposition of territories. The summit, in this view, provided a convenient occasion for them to negotiate their small differences.
Muslim fundamentalists offer a most peculiar interpretation of superpower relationships, derived from an awareness of what many in the West overlook: cultural similarities between the United States and the Soviet Union far outweigh the difference between them. By looking beyond political disagreements, fundamentalist Moslems see how much the two share. If American and Soviet citizens alike have trouble recognizing themselves—or, for that matter, each other—as they are portrayed by fundamentalist Moslems, this eccentric assessment motivates a significant body of opinion through the Moslem world.