Saturday, June 20, 2009

What an American President's Response to the Iran Election Should be

That timely and powerful message from Mitt Romney is exactly what the people of Iran should be hearing from all of the leaders in our country.

The people of Iran and the people of the United States have often had trouble understanding each other because of enormous cultural differences. However, it appears the people of Iran are now staring death in the face in order to achieve some liberty. Throughout the history of the United States, we have defended the spread of freedom around the world. The obviously rigged and fraudulent elections in Iran have provided the United States another chance to promote the spread of freedom. However, most of the Main Stream Media ignored the demonstrations of hundreds of thousands Iranians until social networks like Twitter and Facebook demanded coverage. Still, the coverage has not been sufficient. Furthermore, when given a chance to support the people of Iran, President Obama first was silent. Then, he made an even more dangerous decision and instead warned that US "meddling" in Iran's internal politics would be counterproductive, and vowed to push forward his engagement policy with Iran.

How can this president possibly continue to "engage" with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who is now ordering his army and police to shoot at unarmed civilians, expel journalists, bomb mosques, filter and/or shutdown social networking sites, poor boiling water on crowds, and utilize other methods of intimidation?

We already knew Obama didn't seem to think Ahmadinejad's promises to "wipe Israel of the map" were serious enough to stop engaging with him, but how much repression of freedom and bloodshed will Obama tolerate?

Moreover, this incipient revolution is no longer only 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.

Unlike the perception the Main Stream Media creates, most of the people (especially the young people) are favorably disposed towards the United States. "Why?" you ask? The spread of technology in Iran has allowed young people (50% of the population of Iran is 27-years-old or younger) to be introduced to more than just the propaganda of the Ahmadinejad regime. Many Iranians have Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites which have facilitated conversations and relationship with the West. The cultural barriers are now starting to be understood, and freedom is on the march in Iran.

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 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. For the first time in 30 years, a true revolution is 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, 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. Ahmadinejad 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' 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 Mahmoud 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 terrorism -- 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 and built his entire campaign upon hope and change while he does nothing to bring hope or facilitate change to people who want it so bad they are willing to die for it.

* some parts taken from Charles Krauthammer

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