Dubai: It was on this day 30 years ago when Iran's anti-American fire burned the strongest.

Early on November 4, 1979, hundreds of Iranians stormed the US Embassy compound, and held 52 American hostages for 444 days.

Three decades have passed, and the smoke still keeps billowing, as the core issues dividing the two sides have remained.

Both Iran and the US continue to regard the other with deep mistrust and suspicion. Under US President George W. Bush, Iran was classified under the "axis of evil" and Tehran continues to label the US as "the Great Satan".

Experts believe that the situation will remain stagnant unless one side changes their behaviour.

"Iran's policies are 99.9 per cent contradictory with American policies in the region," Mahjoub Zweiri, head of Iran's unit at Jordan University's Strategic Studies Centre said.

"Each side's perception of the other has not changed at all since 1979, though the two had to overcome that and show some pragmatism in certain political issues such as in Afghanistan and Iraq," Zweiri told Gulf News.

"America's perception that Iran is a ‘threat' to its national security and that of its allies, and that it supports non-governmental players in the region remains unchanged," Zweiri added in reference to Iran's known support for Hezbollah and Hamas.

"Iran continues to consider the US as its enemy which is imposing economic sanctions on Iran and leading the international community against Tehran's nuclear programme," Zweiri added.

On the public level, experts say many Iranian people favour better relations with Washington.

Anoush Ehteshami, professor of international relations and head of the school of government and international affairs at England's Durham University, believes that public enmity towards each other has disappeared.

"Both the younger and even the older generation don't seem to harbour enmity towards the US, which is a very significant change on the social level," he said.

"On the American side, I don't think Americans really ever held the Iranian people responsible, only Iran's government," he added, referring to the seizure of the US embassy in Tehran a few months after Iran's 1979 revolution.

In April 1980, the US cut its diplomatic relations with Iran. A year later, the Swiss Government started representing American interests in Iran, and the Pakistani government for Iran's interests in the US.

Today, the US Embassy compound in Tehran is run by Iran's Revolutionary Guards. On many occasions, Iranians exhibit American "crimes" against their country, including a booklet on the seizure incident, showing in pictures how the Iranians managed to piece together the classified documents found in the Embassy compound shredded by the Americans then.

Power struggle

The seizure was a turning point in hostile bilateral relations, as many experts and researchers noted that the hostility goes back to 1953, when the US and British Intelligence services engineered a coup against Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, the architect behind nationalising Iran's oil industry. He was engaged in a power struggle with the Western-supported Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

Mosaddeq was imprisoned, and the Shah suppressed his opposition and was domestically condemned for "westernising" Iran.

"By nationalising the oil [sector], Mosaddeq gained popular support, and was considered a nationalist leader," Zweiri said. "Though he was not a religious figure, he enjoyed the support of both religious and secular people alike."

"Bad" memories are still hindering improving relations with the US, experts say, though signs of advancement started to emerge with the election of US President Barack Obama last year.

"Despite the difficult situation after Iran's elections in June, Obama's administration has persisted in trying to have a more positive and productive working relationship with Iran, and this is a big change," Hady Amr, Director at the Brookings Doha Centre, said.

However, such a new beginning cannot neglect pending issues of contention between the two, such as Iran's controversial nuclear programme and its support of Palestinian and Lebanese opposition groups.

Referring to the message Obama sent on the Iranian New Year last March, and to his statement of seeking productive relations with the "Islamic Republic of Iran" — and not only "Iran", Amr added, "the US president has made an unprecedented effort compared to his predecessors."

"Obama's soft power is a lot more effective than [George] Bush's hard power," in dealing with Iran, Ehteshami said. He explained that while Obama's diplomacy includes showing the Iranians he is more comfortable with Islam and Muslims and praising Iran's history and heritage, the Iranian government still paints the US as hostile towards Iran.

Among other issues that need to be solved before US-Iranian rapprochement, are the region's deep fears and suspicions that Iran wishes to be a regional power. The region, specifically the Gulf countries, believe that any development on US-Iranian front will come at their expense.

"There are no peace-makers between Iran and the US at the moment," Ehteshami said.

"On the other hand, there are no war-makers either," he noted.

Israel has often threatened to take their security into "their own hands" and strike Iran's nuclear facilities before they are operational.

However, Ehteshami believes Israel would think twice before such an action. "I don't think Israelis would welcome a war against Iran under the current circumstances," he said.

Wariness between Iran and the US remains three decades after Iranians stormed the US Embassy compound in Tehran — a turning point in hostile bilateral ties. Although newly-elected Obama has used a soft-power approach in dealing with Iran, the Iranian government still paints the US as a hostile entity.