TCS Daily

A Revolution Ignored?

By Pejman Yousefzadeh - June 17, 2003 12:00 AM

The Islamic Revolution that brought about the advent of a clerical regime in Iran nearly a quarter of a century ago captured the attention - and quite often, the horror - of the world. Constant press coverage of Ayatollah Khomeini's successful effort to overthrow Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi and the Iranian monarchy helped those unfamiliar with Iran learn about the country and its geopolitical significance. And given the historical significance of a theocratic revolution displacing one of the most enduring monarchies in human history, it was entirely proper to have so much attention paid to the Islamic Revolution, and to the eventual creation of an Islamic regime in Iran.

Now, many of the mullahs who helped Khomeini overthrow the Shah are seeing their own power threatened, thanks to nearly a week of protests against the Islamic regime. These are some of the most serious protests that the regime has faced in its existence, and certainly the most serious since the summer of 1999, the last time that Iranians rose up in significant numbers. Considering the fact that the Supreme Religious Guide, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has threatened to crack down on the protestors in the same manner that he did in 1999, and considering the fact that violence has indeed broken out, it is clear that the regime is taking the protests seriously, and is concerned about them.

But while there has certainly been coverage of events in Iran, it has not reached the levels of attention paid to the course of the Islamic Revolution in the late 1970s. Perhaps that attention will come in time, but it should be paid now. More media outlets should devote resources to cover the student protests in Iran. They should not be read about merely in Internet stories and newspapers, but should receive coverage on television in order to allow as many people as possible to learn about the potentially momentous events that are taking place there.

And a surefire way to get the press to pay more attention to the protests in Iran is for the Bush administration to talk more about Iran, and to make clear its support for the reformists who aim to change the policies of their country - as well as the regime that propagates those policies.

It is puzzling why the administration has not lent more public support to the Iranian reform movement, especially considering just how much regime and policy changes in Iran could benefit the United States, and the international community at large.

The Islamic regime collaborates with terrorist organizations like Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah, and assists them in their murderous operations through financing, weapons transfers, intelligence sharing, and other measures. These groups disrupt efforts to craft a peace settlement that allows Israel and an independent Palestinian state to live side by side. The current effort on the part of the Bush administration to bring about a comprehensive solution to the Arab-Israeli peace process will benefit from a change in Iran.

Iran's apparent pursuit of a nuclear program - a pursuit that has drawn the attention and concern of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) - is another reason for the administration to work aggressively for a change in the policies and regime in Iran. With its huge oil and natural gas deposits, there is no reason for Iran to pursue a nuclear program, unless the country wishes to acquire a nuclear weapons program. Such a program would pose a severe risk to American national security, and to the security of the international community.

Moreover, it is vital to the war on terrorism and to the effort to combat Islamic radicalism to demonstrate Iranian-style radicalism is a failure, and its implementation leads to a failed society. Iran is the chief test case for the proposition that Islamic fundamentalism can make for good government, and that it should be adopted by nations throughout the Muslim world. We know that proposition to be false - the Iranian economy is in a shambles, the Iranian people are increasingly embittered by the way their government treats them. If the reformist movement can succeed in changing the nature of the Iranian regime and the policies it pursues, it could demonstrate to Islamic radicals throughout the world that the fundamentalist vision advanced by Khomeini is a failed one, and that it should not be pursued elsewhere. Communism suffered a tremendous blow to its reputation when the Warsaw Pact nations threw off the oppression of their communist governments, and when the Soviet Union itself fell. Islamic fundamentalism could be similarly discredited via a regime change in Iran - especially given the fact that Iranians are determined to bring that change about.

In response to BBC reports covering the protests in Iran, one Iranian sent the following in an e-mail to the BBC:

The Iranian people have shown their urgent tendency for freedom. Now the US must start to support the demonstration by warning the Iran government not to act against the people. This enforcement from the outside and people's demonstration inside, will finally down the Iran regime. We are waiting for immediate support of the US.

And they deserve to have it. Supporting the Iranian people publicly will help bring about a change in Iran that will benefit both the security interests of the United States and the international community, and the interests of the Iranian people. This burgeoning revolution should no longer be ignored.

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