TCS Daily

You Say You Wanna Revolution?

By Pejman Yousefzadeh - May 17, 2002 12:00 AM

The Islamic Republic of Iran is a tired and decaying government. Its failed domestic and foreign policies have brought international and domestic opprobrium upon the regime, and impel its swift overthrow.

Iran's turbaned Torquemadas have isolated themselves by supporting a foreign policy of terrorism and destabilization. Iran continues to advocate the destruction of Israel through the appalling and despicable practice of suicide bombing (or policide bombings, if you will), and by selling arms to the Palestinian Authority in the Karine A incident. Iran has also been deeply involved in planning terrorist acts against the United States. The Islamic Republic is widely suspected of wanting to bring down the interim Afghan government of Hamid Karzai, and poses a threat to international security and stability by pursuing weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, which former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani publicly stated, would be turned against Israel at the first available opportunity.

Despite the fact that President Mohammad Khatami gained over 70% of the vote for his reform platform in two consecutive presidential elections, the hardline Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the reactionary Council of Guardians have vetoed any moves by either Khatami, or a reformist Parliament to institute democratic change in the country.

Iran leads the world in the dubious statistic of the number of journalists it holds in prison. Indeed, Iran itself is a prison-house of a nation, and its people are the inmates. Meanwhile, Khatami has betrayed the mandate of his people by not fighting hard enough for reform, and by consistently backing down against the threats made by the reactionary mullahs. Many hoped that Khatami would be an "Iranian Gorbachev" who would liberalize his country. Their hopes have been fulfilled, since like Gorbachev before him, Khatami seems increasingly unequal to his task, and strangely devoted to the Sisyphean task of propping up a failed regime.

Even the most casual outsider can see that Iranians yearn for freedom, and for help in obtaining that freedom. In the wake of President George W. Bush's State of the Union Address, where he properly labeled Iran as part of an "axis of evil," Iranians called into the Voice of America's Persian service to express their support for the President's words, and to express the hope that America would help in the effort to liberate their country. Immediately after the President's speech, the regime sought to organize a demonstration in the capital of Tehran that was purported as showing strong domestic support for the Islamic Republic. However, as Michael Ledeen pointed out, the regime was only able to scrounge up a crowd of 300,000 people maximum-in a country of over 70 million. Far from reassuring themselves of popular support, the mullahs must have been terrified of this popular manifestation of no confidence in the regime.

Despite tremendous political pressure, reformist parliamentarians have bravely spoken out against some of the more egregious acts of the regime. People like parliamentary speaker Mehdi Karroubis, and MP Hossein Loghmanian, who served jail time for speaking out against the regime's abuses, continue to agitate bravely for political liberalization in Iran. They have attracted a strong political following and would be well positioned to lead the country in a new direction, as would Reza Pahlavi, the son of the late Shah of Iran, who has created important alliances with reformist forces, and who is extremely popular with many Iranians.

The Bush Administration can help in the political liberalization of Iran, and the consequential defeat of Islamo-fascist terrorism. To do so, it must fight a war on two fronts against the Islamic Republic.

The first front involves the use of propaganda. As David Hoffman properly pointed out in the March/April issue of Foreign Affairs, the United States has lagged behind badly in the battle to win the hearts and minds of Middle Easterners. It should reinvigorate its efforts by investing more and focusing on the potential effectiveness of the Voice of America's Persian service. VOA could provide invaluable support in broadcasting messages of hope and freedom into Iran.

Additionally, the Bush Administration would be well served by supporting National Iranian Television (NITV), which is based right here in the United States. In the past, NITV has been able to broadcast directly in the homes of Iranians who, despite the regime's ban on satellite television, continue to maintain satellite dishes at their homes in order to pick up outside news services. NITV is now running low on cash, and is increasingly unable to thwart the jamming of its satellites without forcing viewers to subscribe to its services. But by instituting a subscription service, NITV would risk losing much of its audience inside Iran. The Bush Administration can ameliorate this concern by giving financial backing to NITV to continue its operations. Such support for propaganda efforts could help provide the political catalyst needed for Iranians to undertake the difficult task of standing up to their own leaders.

The second front in the war to liberate Iran is military. However, this may not necessarily mean an invasion of Iran is needed. Unlike Iraq and North Korea, the other countries in the "axis of evil," Iran does have a dissident political movement fighting the regime's hardline stance on policy. Iranians are much more apt to go to the streets and demonstrate against the tyranny of their government than Iraqis and North Koreans. As such, it will likely be easier to prompt a popular overthrow of the Islamic Republic from within Iran. One of the best ways to accomplish this goal is via a military action against Iraq that is designed at overthrowing Saddam Hussein and his Ba'athist regime. Once the Iranian people see that a Middle Eastern strongman has been overthrown in one country, they will likely be encouraged to take the battle for their own freedom and liberty directly to the mullahs, and displace their oppressive government.

The Iranian people have clearly manifested their desire for political freedom from a barbaric regime. The civilized world has manifested its desire to be free from Islamo-fascism. By helping Iranians achieve that freedom, the United States would also help deal a potentially mortal blow to a pernicious and destabilizing doctrine. Both strategic considerations and moral imperatives compel a new Iranian revolution. It's time for it to begin.

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