Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A way forward for regime change in Iran, Part 2

Part 1

Former diplomat, current author and professor Paul Rahe:
Five things are nonetheless clear.

First, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did not win anything like 63 percent of the vote in the recent election. Over the last four years, he has brought Iran to the edge of economic disaster; many Iranians are fully aware of their plight; and the authorities, fearful that he would go down to defeat, rigged the entire process from the start.

Second, the ruling order in Iran is bitterly split over what amounts to a coup d'├ętat.

Third, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has put his prestige and that of the regime itself on the line.

Fourth, the people of Iran are aware that they have been hoodwinked, and the Islamic Republic is now without a shred of legitimacy.

And, finally, if the police and the militia should prove unable to control the crowds in Teheran, and if the Revolutionary Guard is called out and the guardsmen refuse to fire on their fellow citizens, things really will come apart.

If the authorities manage to restore order (as, I suspect, they will), the pot will nonetheless continue to boil--unless they resort to severe repression and purge those within their own ranks who lent support, open or tacit, to the demonstrators. But if they do this, they will at the same time seriously narrow the base of the regime's support, and that will only hasten the day of reckoning. As Reuel Marc Gerecht argues in a trenchant piece in The Weekly Standard, we are witnessing a game-changing moment.

From all of this, the supporters of George W. Bush's policy in Iraq should draw consolation, for the elections that took place in that country under the American aegis contributed mightily to the discontent in Iran. The people of Iran were witness to the emergence within Iraq of a secular republic sponsored by an Iranian cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, possessed of an erudition and an authority rivalling and arguably surpassing that of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran. They were witness to elections that were really free and to public debate open in ways that debate within the Islamic Republic is not. Morever, in Quom, the stronghold of the Shiite clergy, the clerics who most fully command respect have long rejected, as contrary to Shiite tradition and the interest of Islam, the path of direct clerical rule pursued by Khomeini.

Iran today looks something like England in the wake of Oliver Cromwell's death. There has been a religious revolution; it never commanded full popular support; it is now seen, even by many of its most ardent supporters, to be a failure; and there will be a scramble to attempt to sustain the polity it produced. Ordinarily, American leverage does not amount to much. In this situation, it could nonetheless be considerable. Economically Iran is on the ropes. If we keep the pressure on, following the policy of the Bush administration, the regime may in fact collapse. If, however, in the interests of stability, in the manner of the so-called "realists," the Obama administration opts to take the pressure off and, in effect, bails out Iran's bankrupt regime, it may stumble on for some years to come.
The genesis of the current revolution began with the impossibility of effective rule by a fundamentalist clerical Islamic government: it was a bad idea to begin with, and it could not work. The next step was Iran's call for more babies, so as to replace the lost men from the Iran-Iraq War in the early 1980s. This was followed by citizen dissatisfaction with the repressive and corrupt aspects of the current regime(dissatisfaction which was helped along by access to the internet). The youth population, combined with this growing dissatisfaction, has for some years prompted predictions of an uprising in the Iranian street.

GWB's sandwiching of Iran between democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan did not cause this Iranian revolution, yet it likely helped tip this revolution over the top of the mountain. I wrote this on Monday:
Iranians could already see votes which count in neighboring Turkey and Pakistan. Suddenly they see votes which count in Iraq and Afghanistan. Afghanistan?! She is to an Iranian as Mexico is to a U.S. citizen. Iranians are proud of their nation. Iranians had to think the equivalent of: Why do Mexicans cast votes which count, and we do not?! This is intolerable!
Such thinking was not the genesis of the revolution, but it was the final step which pushed the revolution over the top of the mountain and started things rolling down the other side at speed.
neo-neocon comments on the Obama Administration's claim that the Cairo speech inspired the uprising. She ruminates on the difference between action (GWB), words (Barack), and words which are backed by a foundation of years of prior action (Reagan's 1987 call to "tear down this wall").

Related End Zone:

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