December 23, 2007


Ordeal leaves Iranian dissident with doubts: After 40 days in a notorious Tehran prison, a student activist wonders if he should have heeded his father's warnings to avoid politics (Borzou Daragahi, 12/23/07, Los Angeles Times)

The belief that he was part of a groundswell of change that had kept him going in prison was crushed as soon as he got out. Though his student friends honored him as a hero, Iran was in the midst of a massive crackdown on dissent and freedom of speech. More newspapers had been shut down. More activists arrested, including three of his friends at the university.

The same international news agencies that had enthusiastically covered the student protests hadn't bothered to report his imprisonment, some of them fearful of losing their press accreditation in Iran.

One of Zamanian's friends had called an Italian broadcaster who reported on the student demonstrations to tell her the student she'd put on camera was now in jail. The reporter said she wasn't interested, that the story was old news.

Instead of becoming a cause celebre, Zamanian found with dismay he'd been ignored and forgotten by much of the world.

One European diplomat in Tehran described the student movement as "the charge of the light brigade," a hopeless but valiant effort to change Iran from within.

"There really is no national movement," the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "There are no political leaders. They're fighting for their country, but there really is no hope."

Zamanian finds himself baffled by the West's attitude toward Iran, speaking about democracy one day, raising the specter of armed conflict another, then offering to cut deals with the government the next.

He finds himself disgusted by the Iranian exile groups, including those in Los Angeles who beam their messages to the country via satellite. They urge Iranians not to take part in the political process, in effect handing the hard-liners a victory that has resulted in a more domestically repressive and internationally belligerent Iran, he says.

What is the goal here? he wonders. What is the strategy?

"They've worsened conditions," he says. "Today the West promotes negotiations. Tomorrow they brandish the threat of war. The best thing they could do is clarify their position."

All of the President's big mistakes in the WoT have been a function of failing to recognize the opportunities that Shi'a affords us, for instance, encouraging reformists to boycott the last presidential election in Iran.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 23, 2007 10:08 AM
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