August 9, 2007


Bush Calls on Iranians to Reject Government (William Branigin, 8/09/07, Washington Post)

Americans "ought to be very concerned about Iran," Bush said. "They're a destabilizing influence. They are a government that has -- its declared policy is very troubling, obviously, when they announce -- when Ahmadinejad has announced that the destruction of Israel is part of his foreign policy. That's something, obviously, we cannot live with. They have expressed their desire to be able to enrich uranium, which we believe is a step toward having a nuclear weapons program."

Bush added, "My message to the Iranian people is, 'You can do better than this current government. You don't have to be isolated. You don't have to be in a position where you can't realize your full economic potential.' And the United States of America will continue to work with our friends and allies in the Security Council and elsewhere to put you in a position to deny you your rightful place in the world -- not because of our intention; because of your government's intention."

They wouldn't have that government if he'd cut the post-911 deal the reformers offered and hadn't urged Iranians to boycott the last election. This, though, is a message he should travel to Tehran to deliver.

How to get real regime change in Iran (Stephen Zunes, 8/10/07, Asia Times)

Despite claims by the Bush administration that the US has always supported "liberty" and "democracy" in Iran, the history of US-Iranian relations during both Republican and Democratic administrations has demonstrated very little support for a democratic Iran. In the early 1950s, the last time Iran had a democratic constitutional government, the US joined Britain and other countries in imposing economic sanctions against Iran in response to the nationalization of the country's oil resources, which until then had been under foreign control. Taking advantage of the economic collapse and political turmoil that followed, the US Central Intelligence Agency helped engineer a coup against prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh, and returned Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi from exile to rule with an iron fist.

Over the next 25 years, the US armed and trained the shah's dreaded SAVAK (Organization for National Security and Intelligence) secret police, which emerged as one of the most repressive internal-security organizations of the era. Despite claims to the contrary by right-wing critics of the Jimmy Carter administration, the US strongly supported the shah until his final days in power, providing valuable assistance to the regime even as it was massacring protesters in the streets. It comes as no surprise, in light of this, that the revolution that finally ousted the monarchy in February 1979 was stridently anti-American.

Furthermore, since the shah's repressive apparatus had largely succeeded in wiping out the democratic and secular opposition to the regime, it was religious opponents - who survived as a result of the greater cohesion made possible through the mosques - who spearheaded the revolutionary movement. Thus the radical Islamic orientation of the revolution was greatly influenced by the shah's US-backed efforts to maintain control through repression. [...]

Despite the increased repression of recent years, Iran has witnessed a growing civil-society movement and increasing calls for greater freedom. Indeed, those in the Iranian regime correctly recognize that the biggest threat to their grip on power comes not from the US but from their own people. Civilian-based insurrections have played a critical role over the past century in challenging Iranian rulers, such as during the Constitutional Revolution of 1907 and the overthrow of the shah in 1979. Iran's clerical leaders, faced with growing dissent - particularly among youth, the middle class, and urban dwellers - realize that they may be next. [...]

The US government has historically promoted regime change through military invasions, coups d'etat and other kinds of violent seizures of power by an undemocratic minority. Non-violent "people power" movements, by contrast, promote regime change through empowering pro-democratic majorities. Unlike fomenting a military coup or supporting a military occupation, which are based on control over the population and repression of potential political opponents, non-violent civil insurrections - as a result of being based on a broad coalition of popular movements - are impossible for an outside power to control.

As a result, the best hope for Iran comes from Iranian civil society, which, despite the repression from its government and the negative consequences of sanctions and threats against its country from Washington, is quite capable of eventually bringing down the regime and establishing a more just and democratic society. Freedom will some day come to Iran. When it does, however, it will be in spite of - rather than because of - the policies of the United States.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 9, 2007 12:58 PM

To give the CIA so much credit for the shah is a bit ridiculous. Most USA Bashers trot or drag this deadhorse from the closet to say "America..BAD, BAD, BAD! See what they did to Iran?! CIA! Cuba? CIA! Bin Laden? CIA! Iraq war? CIA!" Come on, if the CIA were this good, we'd have a United Nations that voted in lock step for everything the US did or wanted.

Posted by: KRS at August 9, 2007 3:27 PM

Yes, reimposing the shah was one of their few "successes"

Posted by: oj at August 9, 2007 5:08 PM

The Iranian government is moving towards Mugabe (or Saddam) faster than we know. USA Today (among others) reported this week on the rapidly accelerated pace of executions in Iran: up to about 180 a month, and climbing. Some of the executions are outside the dictates of the justice system.

In many cases, the families are never told anything. For the semi-prominent (who could make trouble), warnings are issued to keep quiet.

The SAVAK has returned, wearing a turban and shrieking religious invective. Perhaps Ahmadinejad is trying to impress the Grand Ayatollah, or perhaps the Guardians are just letting Mahmoud know that they are serious.

The President should ask Muslims the world over, and particularly in Iran, why it is necessary for the state to kill so many? Isn't it supposed to be an Islamic paradise?

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 10, 2007 7:01 PM

Free societies require a firm hand, which is why we have the highest percentage of our citizenry imprisoned of any nation on earth.

The current round of political repression in Iran reflects a president who knows his days are numbered.

Posted by: oj at August 10, 2007 10:34 PM

The stories I read about these executions didn't elaborate, but I'll bet only a small percentage involved "capital" crimes. Probably half are 'morals' issues, and who knows how many are political?

Free societies don't execute without a good reason. The Chinese usually don't have one, and neither do the Iranians. Fear and inconvenience do not justify "a firm hand".

Mahmoud wouldn't be able to pull off the repression without some approval from above. Or perhaps the private armies are working solo, with a wink from the Guardians. There is no way to know who is colluding with whom.

But when even Khatami is calling for stricter law enforcement, you know the fix is in.

If Khameini really wants to change Iranian society, let him lead a protest march down the widest boulevard in Tehran. Stand on Islamic principle, and watch Mahmoud fold. But the chance of that happening is about zero.

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 11, 2007 10:58 AM

All crimes are moral crimes.

Posted by: oj at August 11, 2007 8:14 PM

Yes, which is why the Iranian government, the shadow armies, the Guardians, and the religious thugs have more in common with the Saudis (the matawan and the royals) than either would ever admit.

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 11, 2007 10:31 PM

Except the Iranians will vote this government out.

Posted by: oj at August 12, 2007 6:37 AM