Monday, June 15, 2009

Iran Buys Time, Obama Votes Present, Iraq's Status Is Recognized

The Mad Mullahs of Iran's theocracy now have some real problems. The perception of a stolen election has clearly animated what was, previously, an apathetic and beaten down populace. And the challenge of the populace is not merely to the election results - it is now to the legitimacy of the unelected theocracy itself. There has been another large protest today, even though the regime outlawed it. In a clear effort to buy time, Supreme Guide Khamenei has opted to acquisce to Mousavi's request to review the election for fraud. Obama, true to his word of not attempting to impose the evils of democracy on any nation, has opted to stay silent on the revolt. And finally, Tom Friedman and Victor Davis Hanson make points that I have been making for years: Iraq is of critical importance as a nascent democracy bordering Iran and in the heart of the Middle East.

This from the NYT on the latest developments in Iran:

The Iranian opposition leader, Mir Hussein Moussavi, appeared publicly on Monday for the first time in more than two days to call for calm as state media repeatedly broadcast a report that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had called for a high-level inquiry into accusations of election irregularities.

But more than half a million protesters massed in the streets of Tehran to renew the challenge to the outcome of the vote, and demonstrations were reported in other cities as well, despite the continued blocking of text-messaging services and disruption of Web sites and some cell phone networks.

News from the rest of Iran is not forthcoming, but given that every major city was home to large protests on Sunday, it would be surprising if what is happening in Tehran is not being repeated throughout the country. And it will be interesting to see how much control Mousavi can exert over those who have taken to his banner. As several commentors have noted, the challenge being posed by this revolt is not just to the election, but to the legitimacy of the unelected theocratic regime itself. Whether Khameini's decision to allow an investigation into Mousavi's allegations of fraud over the next ten days will succeed in diffusing this explosive situation is an open question.

ABC News is reporting on the radio as I draft this post that police have opened fire on demonstrators in Tehran and that at least one person is dead. If true, this is a substanial move along the continum from protest to open revolt.

Update: Gateway Pundit is following this through Twitter. There are fights going on throughout Iran and 15 people are reported dead.

This situation is at a point where Obama should be showing moral support for those people now risking life and limb in opposition to the regime. Obama should be speaking to the importance and need for real democracy. Yet Obama is silent. His record shows a preference for voting "present" in response to tough issues, and it appears that is what he is doing now. Indeed, he seems more concerned about what this will mean for his unconditional talks with Ahmedinejad than about supporting democracy and regime change in Iran.

The entire history of Iran's theocracy tells us that, unless we are prepared to use or threaten force, we are not going to move the mad mullahs off their determined path towards, one, a nuclear weapon, and two, the spread of their Khomeinist Revolution. There is only one other answer, and that is regime change in Iran. Iran's regime is not supported by the citizenry. There could be no clearer evidence of that then this stolen election and the blood now being spilled in the streets because of it. True, Obama does not and should not speak out in favor of Mousavi as that would be all the excuse the theocracy needs to justify its brutal repression. But Obama should be speaking out about the need for Iran to both hold free and fair elections and to honor the will of the people, not to repress them. He should be speaking words of concern about the integrity of voting process. Instead, not only has Obama been silent, but worse, he has indicated he will go ahead with unconditional talks irrespective of the ongoing revolt. That sends precisely the wrong message to both the theocracy and the citizens suffering under that theocracy.

The WSJ has weighed in on this also:

Having shown such courage, the demonstrators deserve Western support, not least from the media that have recently trumpeted the Mousavi candidacy as evidence of Iran's openness and potential for reform, conciliation and so on. Whatever happens in the days ahead, the world has now seen the tyranny raw. The least we owe the protestors is not to look away.

That moral obligation goes especially for the Obama Administration. President Obama came to office promising the world's dictators an open hand in exchange for an unclenched fist. But as with Kim Jong Il's nuclear advances and the sham trial of two Americans in North Korea, Mr. Khamenei has repudiated the President's diplomacy of friendly overture. It turns out that the "axis of evil" really is evil -- and not, as liberal sages would have it, merely misunderstood.

The vote should prompt Mr. Obama to rethink his pursuit of a grand nuclear bargain with Iran, though early indications suggest he plans to try anyway. On Saturday, the New York Times quoted one unnamed senior Administration official to the effect that the election uproar would cause Mr. Ahmadinejad to be more receptive to Mr. Obama's overtures as a sop to disgruntled public opinion. If the Administration really believes this, then Mr. Obama is the second coming of Jimmy Carter and the mullahs will play him for time to get their bomb. . . .

Mr. Obama has the opportunity to lend the protestors the considerable weight of U.S. moral support, just as he has the opportunity to show the regime there are consequences for stealing elections. One such consequence would be for the President to remove his opposition to various bills in Congress, sponsored by Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman and others, that sanction companies that sell gasoline to Iran. An estimated 40% of Iran's domestic gasoline consumption comes from foreign sources.

In Iran today, a sham election has been met with an open revolt. This takes great courage. The world's free nations need the courage to do better than respond with the sham policy of making nice with an illegitimate regime.

Lastly, I supported the Bush's decision to invade Iraq in 2002 on the basis that it held the promise of creating an Arab Shia democracy in the Middle East and on the border of Iran. I have always thought that nothing could be more important in the long term to counter radicalism throughout the Middle East and, in particular, in Iran. And indeed, as I've pointed out repeatedly, Iraq poses a mortal threat to Iran. It does so because it has a rough but real democracy, it has a secular government, and it is honoring the millenia old Shia tradition of apolitical "quietism." Both Tom Friedman and Victor Davis Hanson have made similar points recently. This from Tom Friedman, commenting on the election in Lebanon:

There are a million things to hate about President Bush’s costly and wrenching wars. But the fact is, in ousting Saddam in Iraq in 2003 and mobilizing the U.N. to push Syria out of Lebanon in 2005, he opened space for real democratic politics that had not existed in Iraq or Lebanon for decades. “Bush had a simple idea, that the Arabs could be democratic, and at that particular moment simple ideas were what was needed, even if he was disingenuous,” said Michael Young, the opinion editor of The Beirut Daily Star.

What, if anything, was "disingnuous" about Bush's idea or why Friedman felt the need to include that attack on Bush is not apparent. This ad hominem attack is nothing more than the ridiulous, knee-jerk need of the left to delegitimize Bush whenever his memory is invoked. But to continue from Friedman:

“It was bolstered by the presence of a U.S. Army in the center of the Middle East. It created a sense that change was possible, that things did not always have to be as they were.”

When I reported from Beirut in the 1970s and 1980s, I covered coups and wars. I never once stayed up late waiting for an election result. . . .

Lebanese, by contrast, just waited up all night for their election results — no one knew what they’d be.

Third, the Bush team opened a hole in the wall of Arab autocracy but did a poor job following through. . .

That's gruding praise indeed. And from VDS:

Much of Iran wants what they see going on in Iraq. How odd that the ‘experts’ assured us that Bush had empowered Iran by removing his rival Saddam. Perhaps in the short term-but in the long term TV, radio, and osmosis from free Iraq is proving more destabilizing to the theocracy in Iran than are Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and shaped charged IEDs to Iraq.

I could not have said it beter, though I have said it often.

Prior Posts:

Heating Up In Iran
Tehran Is Burning; What Will The Iranian Army Do? (Updated)
The Mad Mullah's Man Wins Again - For Now
The Next Moves In An Existential Chess Match (Background On Iran)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You don't remember when we toppled Saddam's govt? We went around "collecting weapons" but left huge stockpiles of bombs, etc., unprotected? Try to get some of your facts straight and you'll see why Rumsfeld's (you DO remember him don't you, "Wolf"?)handling of the Iraq war was a disaster.