[Mb-civic] Interesting Times: Bush's Iranian End Run
michael at michaelbutler.com
Fri Dec 10 15:07:01 PST 2004
Reza sent this:
Iran va Jahan
Friday, December 10, 2004
Interesting Times: Bush's Iranian End Run
December 09, 2004
The Jerusalem Post
The mullahs have us over a barrel, literally. French ambassador to Israel
Gerard Aroud, in a burst of candor, admitted to The Jerusalem Post that
nothing short of an oil embargo would stop Teheran's nuclear program, so
Europe's current feckless diplomacy was the only realistic alternative.
But is it? The Bush Administration does not seem to think so. According to
a report on Tuesday from Knight Ridder, "the White House and the Defense
Department are developing plans to increase public criticism of Iran's human
rights record, and offer stronger backing to exiles and other opponents of
Teheran's repressive theocratic government."
This is the best news I've heard in a while, and long overdue. If true, it
means that the White House does have a strategy toward Iran, and it's called
Some dismiss this as unrealistic as a European oil embargo. "[Bush
Administration] hawks speak of supporting a democratic revolution inside
Iran, but none seems likely soon, and many of Iran's democrats also want the
bomb," a Washington Post editorial claimed on Monday.
This sort of wisdom is as conventional as it is misplaced. It is true that
the mullahs could perhaps go on crushing dissent for some time, assuming
that the Iranian democracy movement continues to be ignored and dismissed in
the West. But why assume this?
The US has barely begun to do what it can to support the Iranian
opposition. And there is what to support. In just the past week, Tahkim
Vahdat ("strongest unity"), the largest student organization in Iran and the
force behind "reformist" mullah Khatemi's rise to the presidency, has swung
its weight behind a campaign to force a referendum on the regime. Eight of
Iran's most prominent dissidents, including some still in Iranian jails,
have endorsed an effort to collect 60 million signatures in support of a
referendum calling for a new democratic constitution to replace theocratic
Though the petition drive is only a few days old (see www.60000000.com),
20,000 signatures have already been collected, many handwritten and smuggled
out of Iran itself.
IT IS clear what must be done. Human rights organizations should endorse
the referendum campaign. President Bush and other world leaders should
publicly meet with its organizers to show their support. The US Congress and
other parliaments should commit themselves to the campaign for Iranian
The more international support they receive, the more the Iranian people
will lose their fear of the regime. On Monday, Khatami was shouted down at
Teheran University by students demanding a referendum and blaming him for
failing to bring promised freedoms. One read from a statement saying:
"Unfortunately, what Khatami sees as tolerance, we see as his extreme
weakness towards the opponents of democracy."
It is a fair guess that these students were emboldened by Bush's
reelection, and see a brief window of opportunity to organize before Iran's
scheduled May elections. They also are surely taking notes on events in
Why should the world be more tolerant of rigged elections in Iran than in
Ukraine? So far, the mullahs have managed to avoid the sort of velvet
revolutions that swept away governments in central Europe and are now being
played out in Kiev. But there is no reason, given a similar level of global
support for democracy, that the mullahs will continue to be able to arrest
and intimidate an emboldened people indefinitely.
The claim that supporting democracy does nothing to ameliorate the nuclear
threat is not thought through. First, it is not true that the opposition is
equally in favor of developing nukes. As Mideast scholar Michael Rubin
notes, Iranian dissidents told him that nukes are the mullahs' way of
preserving their power, so they are very opposed to the regime's attaining
Even more importantly, even if an Iranian nuke is unstoppable, it makes a
huge difference what sort of regime has its finger on the button. A
democratic, pro-Western Iran might well go the way of other countries that
have mothballed or abandoned their nuclear programs.
Finally, supporting the opposition opens up a whole new front of leverage
against the regime. The mullahs likely fear their own people at least as
much as they fear Western sanctions, and realize the two are connected.
If international support for the Iranian opposition ramps up, the mullahs
could well make serious concessions on the nuclear front to ease the
pressure. For the same reason, it is important to call Iran to account for
its strenuous efforts to torpedo, through terrorism, the two democratic
processes the world is championing: among Palestinians and Iraqis.
Currently, Iran is in the hotseat over nukes, but less so over terrorism
and violations of human rights. Bush should do an end run around European
appeasement on the nuclear issue by turning up the heat on the regime's
other two claims to pariah status.
Those who oppose military action, whether American or Israeli, should see
that supporting Iranian people power is a much preferable, and even more
saul at jpost.com
- Editorial Page Editor Saul Singer is author of the book, Confronting
Jihad: Israel's Struggle & the World After 9/11
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