Middle East Forum
June 20, 2009
Wishful Thinking and Iran
Russian Roulette on Iran
Protests aren't enough to topple the Islamic Republic
by Michael Rubin
Los Angeles Times
June 19, 2009
Street protests in Iran are important but are themselves not enough to force change. The supreme leader will not be swayed because he considers himself accountable to God, not to the people. Indeed, even the Islamic Republic's clerical establishment is irrelevant in this calculus. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's invocation of folk religion -- his appeals to the messianic Hidden Imam, for example -- is a way to bypass senior religious figures who, according to Shiite theology, will be among the greatest obstacles to the Hidden Imam's return. Nor does the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, pay too much heed to his fellow clerics in Qom. They have always refused to bestow on Khamenei a level of religious legitimacy to match his ambition. Today, the majority of Iran's grand ayatollahs oppose the concept of theological rule. Not by coincidence, the majority are now in prison or under house arrest.
Khamenei can weather the public's disdain so long as the Revolutionary Guard serves as his Praetorian Guard. Khomeini, the Islamic Republic's founder, formed the Revolutionary Guard to defend his revolutionary vision. It is more powerful than the army and answers only to the supreme leader. That the Islamic Republic has lost legitimacy in the eyes of the Iranian public is now evident to the outside world, but it is not news to the regime. In September 2007, Mohammad Ali Jafari, the new Revolutionary Guard chief, reconfigured the force into 31 units -- one for each province and two for Tehran -- on the theory that a velvet revolution posed a greater threat to regime security than any external enemy. Guardsmen are not stationed in their home cities so that they do not hesitate to fire on crowds that might include family and friends.
In the public mind, the Islamic revolution 30 years ago looms large. The regime is not aloof to this. It understands the shah's mistakes and is determined not to repeat them. Next month marks the 10th anniversary of the student uprising, which erupted after the security forces attacked a student dormitory. Their brutality shocked the Iranian public, and demonstrations spread throughout the country. For a few days, regime survival was also subject to speculation.
In the aftermath of the protests, the Chinese government supplied security consultants to Tehran. Rather than bash heads and risk protests and endless cycles of mourning, Iranian security services began photographing demonstrations, after which they would arrest participants over the course of a month when they were alone and could not spark mob reaction. With the assistance of European businessmen, the Iranian government upgraded its surveillance of communication (and the Internet).
Ultimately, the theocracy will fall only if servicemen in the Revolutionary Guard switch sides. There will be compromise. The end will come only over Khamenei's dead body. Certainly, Iran today is a tinderbox. The question is whether the regime is better at putting out fires than demonstrators are at starting them.
Michael Rubin, a senior editor of the Middle East Quarterly, is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School.
Related Topics: Iran | Michael Rubin
/////////////////////////////////////// BY SULTAN
Many sites do continue to underplay the coverage, and the American news media appears to be providing much less coverage of the situation, than their British counterparts, probably to avoid embarrassing Obama over his weak response.
It is ironic that Obama was elected as a major speaker and a supposed voice of conscience, only to be unable to do more than mumble a few random words in Iran's direction. The successfully unanimous congressional vote, opposed only by perennial tyranny lover Ron Paul, criticizing Iran, was itself a rebuke to Obama.
If Iran was the crisis that Biden warned us about, Obama has already failed miserably. If the Iranian regime falls, Obama will be remembered mainly for standing on the sidelines and doing nothing. The man who traveled all across the world giving speeches, had nothing to say when the people of Iran risked their lives fighting for freedom.
Meanwhile in the roundup,
Israpundit's Jerry Gordon takes Obama to task for missing an opportunity on Iran and Bill Levinson covers Ron Paul's failed vote.
Paul Williams at Canada Free Press looks at Jimmy Carter, the real father of the Islamic revolution
Carter’s real legacy remains in Iran with the Islamic Revolution and the rise of the murderous mullahs.
Before Jimmy entered the White House, America’s closest friend and ally in the Muslim world was Iran’s Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who ascended to the Peacock Throne as shah (the Persian word for king) in 1941.
The shah modernized Iran by launching the so-called “white revolution,” a massive attempt to Westernize the Persian country through the construction of roads, railways, airports, dams for power and irrigation, agribusiness, pipelines for the oil companies, steel and petrochemical plants, heavy metallurgy, and public health, education, and welfare programs. He bolstered the expansion of U.S. business and industry throughout Iran; shared he spoils of his country’s oil reserves with Britain and the United States; endorsed (at the request of President Eisenhower) the Baghdad Pact to ward off the spread of communism in the Middle East, and never voted against America in the United Nations.
By the 1960s, Iran’s back-alley bazaars became transformed into Fifth Avenue shops. Rock ‘n roll blared from the radio stations. Movie theaters showed the latest Hollywood flicks, and programs like Rawhide and I Love Lucy played on Iranian television. Restaurants served beer and hotdogs. Nightclubs and casinos catered to foreign tourists, foreign contractors, and foreign military advisers.
And let’s remember that the shah, unlike the fat Mid Eastern despots and dictators, never asked or received a dime in U.S. foreign aid.
But not all Iranians were pleased with the changes. The Shi’ite clerics viewed the democratic changes as diabolic. The straw that broke the camel’s back came with the shah’s democratic ruling that Iranian officials were free to take their oath of office on whatever holy scripture they preferred - - including the Christian Bible. The mullahs under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini rose to condemn the shah in mosques and seminaries and to demand his removal from the throne.
Enter Jimmy Carter.
Instead of supporting America’s ally, Jimmy, true to his form as a turncoat, supported the Ayatollah as a “fellow man of religion.” Andrew Young, Carter’s ambassador to the UN, went so far as to call Khomeini, who sanctioned sex with cows and camels, a “misunderstood saint.”
When Khomeini launched his evil revolution, Carter refused to provide the shah with any kind of military assistance despite the pleading of the shah.
Instead, Jimmy demanded that he release from prison all the murderous mullahs and militant radicals who were bound and determined to overthrow the government and to impose an intransigent interpretation of shariah (Muslim law) on every Iranian.
The shah acquiesced to this demand and the rest in history.
The Ayatollah - - Carter’s misunderstood saint - - came to power and launched a bloodbath that resulted in the deaths of twenty-thousand pro-Western Iranians. Churches and synagogues were razed, cemeteries desecrated, and shrines vandalized and demolished. The judicially murdered included the 102 year-old Kurdish poet Allameh Vahidi and a 9 year-old girl convicted of “attacking revolutionary guards.” Women were reduced to servitude. They lost their rights to attend school, to initiate divorce, or to retain custody of their children. When they appeared in public, women were obliged to wear the hijab (the traditional Islamic head cover). All American music was outlawed. The movie theaters were shut down; the nightclubs closed. To top things off, the Muslim militants overran the U.S. embassy in Teheran and seized sixty Americans as hostages.
Good ole Jimmy responded by his infamous “malaise speech” of July 15, 1979 in which the former peanut former expressed his belief that America had lost its guts and remained in a state of near senility.
By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, June 19, 2009
Millions of Iranians take to the streets to defy a theocratic dictatorship that, among its other finer qualities, is a self-declared enemy of America and the tolerance and liberties it represents. The demonstrators are fighting on their own, but they await just a word that America is on their side.
Hope and Change -- but Not for Iran
Engage Iran, Not Ahmadinejad
A Revolution Named Zahra
Obama's Message to Iran
Obama, Siding With the Regime
And what do they hear from the president of the United States? Silence. Then, worse. Three days in, the president makes clear his policy: continued "dialogue" with their clerical masters.
Dialogue with a regime that is breaking heads, shooting demonstrators, expelling journalists, arresting activists. Engagement with -- which inevitably confers legitimacy upon -- leaders elected in a process that begins as a sham (only four handpicked candidates permitted out of 476) and ends in overt rigging.
Then, after treating this popular revolution as an inconvenience to the real business of Obama-Khamenei negotiations, the president speaks favorably of "some initial reaction from the Supreme Leader that indicates he understands the Iranian people have deep concerns about the election."
Where to begin? "Supreme Leader"? Note the abject solicitousness with which the American president confers this honorific on a clerical dictator who, even as his minions attack demonstrators, offers to examine some returns in some electoral districts -- a farcical fix that will do nothing to alter the fraudulence of the election.
Moreover, this incipient revolution is no longer about the election. Obama totally misses the point. The election allowed the political space and provided the spark for the eruption of anti-regime fervor that has been simmering for years and awaiting its moment. But people aren't dying in the street because they want a recount of hanging chads in suburban Isfahan. They want to bring down the tyrannical, misogynist, corrupt theocracy that has imposed itself with the very baton-wielding goons that today attack the demonstrators.
This started out about election fraud. But like all revolutions, it has far outgrown its origins. What's at stake now is the very legitimacy of this regime -- and the future of the entire Middle East.
This revolution will end either as a Tiananmen (a hot Tiananmen with massive and bloody repression or a cold Tiananmen with a finer mix of brutality and co-optation) or as a true revolution that brings down the Islamic Republic.
The latter is improbable but, for the first time in 30 years, not impossible. Imagine the repercussions. It would mark a decisive blow to Islamist radicalism, of which Iran today is not just standard-bearer and model, but financier and arms supplier. It would do to Islamism what the collapse of the Soviet Union did to communism -- leave it forever spent and discredited.
In the region, it would launch a second Arab spring. The first in 2005 -- the expulsion of Syria from Lebanon, the first elections in Iraq and early liberalization in the Gulf states and Egypt -- was aborted by a fierce counterattack from the forces of repression and reaction, led and funded by Iran.
Now, with Hezbollah having lost elections in Lebanon and with Iraq establishing the institutions of a young democracy, the fall of the Islamist dictatorship in Iran would have an electric and contagious effect. The exception -- Iraq and Lebanon -- becomes the rule. Democracy becomes the wave. Syria becomes isolated; Hezbollah and Hamas, patronless. The entire trajectory of the region is reversed.
All hangs in the balance. The Khamenei regime is deciding whether to do a Tiananmen. And what side is the Obama administration taking? None. Except for the desire that this "vigorous debate" (press secretary Robert Gibbs's disgraceful euphemism) over election "irregularities" not stand in the way of U.S.-Iranian engagement on nuclear weapons.
Even from the narrow perspective of the nuclear issue, the administration's geopolitical calculus is absurd. There is zero chance that any such talks will denuclearize Iran. On Monday, President Ahmadinejad declared yet again that the nuclear "file is shut, forever." The only hope for a resolution of the nuclear question is regime change, which (if the successor regime were as moderate as pre-Khomeini Iran) might either stop the program, or make it manageable and nonthreatening.
That's our fundamental interest. And our fundamental values demand that America stand with demonstrators opposing a regime that is the antithesis of all we believe.
And where is our president? Afraid of "meddling." Afraid to take sides between the head-breaking, women-shackling exporters of terror -- and the people in the street yearning to breathe free. This from a president who fancies himself the restorer of America's moral standing in the world.
BIG STRONG RESPONSE FROM THE WORLD'S MLOST POWERFUL PERSON
Obama to Iran's leaders: Stop 'unjust' actions
Published: 06.20.09, 21:50 / Israel News
US President Barack Obama is challenging Iran's government to halt "all violent and unjust actions against its own people."
His comments Saturday came as a postelection crackdown against protesters in Tehran grew more violent. Obama said in a statement that the universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected. He said the US "stands with all who seek to exercise those rights." (AP)