The problem is that Iran has ultimately been virtually irrelevant in recent history. Sure they are a pest you have to deal with every now and then but they haven'te really been that significant. There have been 7 different National champions in the last decade. That alone means that Duke would be beyond the comparison of Iran. I could possibly agree with you that China and Duke aren't fair comparisons but on this silly scale I don't see Iran and Duke being a fair comparison. Iran has ultimately been irrelevant on the national scale.
Here is ultimately why I think China is an almost perfect comparison. There is a lot of hype and it is rarely delivered. For the last 10 years Duke has almost always been hyped as a top 5 National Championship contender and have only actually delivered once (and it was in the year no one paid attention to them). China is viewed (by some in the US) as a huge threat to everyone existence and they never fulfill that prediction.
However they are still relevant enough that you have to deal with them (see obama trade negotiations, an attempt to push US policy on the world before China can). Just like Duke (see: 2010 national title, if you ignore them they will take it all). China gets a lot of talk but not a lot of substance. Duke is getting a lot of talk and recently hasn't had a lot of substance.
The other side of it is that Duke is a major threat in stealing all of your recruits just like China is stealing, at least trying to, steal all of the US secrets. Which makes the comparison to Kentucky (USA) even better, Duke has had more one and dones in the last 5 years than they had in the history of the program (not factually based). UK is doing the one and done route and suddenly Duke is trying to steal this idea.
I in no way think the last comparison is true but I think it is a really great coincidence and can provide for a good laugh.