The dominant paradigm in Middle Eastern studies is so-called “Postcolonialism”, a particular worldview which ironically privileges the perspectives of Islamist imperialists and Arabist colonialist over their indigenous victims. Postcolonialism is a form of Post-Marxism rooted in the doctrine of historical materialism which consistently plays down the influence of religion on politics. Yet the major civilizations are founded on major world religions. The ideologies of liberalism, socialism and conservatism are all based on barely secularized (and often inverted) forms of Christian metaphysics despite most Westerners being unaware of this fact as extensively documented by Jacques Derrida. While this writer identifies as what is known as “neoconservative”, this is a specific foreign policy Weltanschauung founded in pre-Christian Greek philosophy and does not imply any particular position on domestic politics. This of course is not to imply that these Para-Christian ideologies do not make important contributions to liberal democracy or are somehow less valid due to their Christian origins (their claims to universalism are notably rooted in Christianity) but rather that Christendom is thoroughly rooted in Christianity. Other major civilizations are based in their respective foundational religion and so is Islamdom thoroughly and undeniably so rooted in Islam.
Anyone seeking to fashion foreign policy vis-a-vis the Islamic Republic of Iran must internalize that we are dealing with a theocratic regime that believes itself to be engaged in perpetual religious war against the outside world which will only end with its final triumph and imposition of global theocratic rule. There does not appear to be understanding among US policymakers that Khomeinist hostility towards the United States is part and parcel of Khomeinist Anti-Semitic eschatology which assumes that there is a global struggle between the forces of Islam and the alleged American-Jewish conspiracy to destroy Islam. This is perceived as a struggle between good and evil with the “Jewish-controlled Americans” cast as the evil ones. This is not just ingrained hostility due historical American foreign policy towards Iran but is part and parcel of Khomeinist Anti-Semitic, Anti-American theology.
Theology is fluid, subject to change and evolves over time. Is Khomeinism (and Islamism generally) a theology or an ideology? These are Western categories but the answer is both, Khomeinism is a fusion of Islamic theology and European ideology, particularly Nazism and Communism as its Anti-Semitism and Anti-Americanism can be traced to KGB propaganda (“Anti-Zionism and Anti-Imperialism”), specifically Operation SIG which focused on disseminating Anti-Semitism and Anti-Americanism in Islamdom.
The US conflict with Khomeinism is no different than the US conflict with Salafi Jihadism (ISIL, al Qaeda etc.). All Islamists movements believe themselves to be in a state of global conflict with the alleged American-Jewish conspiracy to destroy Islam and there is no way for America to pivot away from this conflict. ISIL and al Qaeda perceive their conflict with the United States as a religious war and so do Iran and its proxies around the world similarly perceive their conflict with the United States as a religious war.
Unfortunately, there is no way to end a religious war through diplomatic means.