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Short of military action
Iranians, now, more than ever, need the U.S. as a strong-armed friend

By Shahla Azizi
June 30, 2003
The Iranian

The History of U.S relations with Iran since WWII is studded with incredible gaffes. Afraid of communist takeover and Soviet influence in Iran for much of this time the U.S. blindly backed a dictatorship that became less and less popular.

When the time came for an indigenous, Ghandiesque, nationalism in the person of Mossadeq, the U.S. failed to win him over through negotiations and instead opted for a cold-war style coup d'etat in 1953 which brought the Shah back to power for the cost of a few million dollars.

But the real cost of the '53 coup d'etat was paid later in '79 when their well-groomed English-speaking-without-an-accent puppet was overthrown by a revolution that unleashed an anti-American Islamist movement whose reach extended to September 11th.

The success of the Islamic Revolution of 1979 gave much courage to all discontented Muslims. Its example produced Islamic movements in many parts of the world. Before '79, an Islamic Republic was a mere utopian theory existing in the minds of a few revolutionary clerics but after the coming to power of Khomeini it became a reality, a tangible option. Islam, the revolution in Iran proved, was the best way to both battle Western cultural hegemony and American imperialism.

Marxism was a Western concept better suited for industrial nations with largely literate populations. It did not speak in the language of the tribal, rural and still mainly pre-industrial Muslim nations of the Middle East and Africa.

By overthrowing a movement like Mossadeq's for fear of it being taken over by the communists, the U.S. aborted the birth of an anti-imperialist ideology in the form of nationalism. So when the time came for the people to overthrow the Shah's dictatorship and claim their independence from America, Islam was the only viable ideology. The U.S. then stood shocked as Iran ousted the Shah, took her embassy hostage and went on to spew anti-American propaganda in the region for the next twenty-four years.

Now Iranians have tested this Islamic form of government and rejected it. They have rejected it because it is a form of dictatorship worse than before for it now tells them not only what to say but what to wear and drink as well. They have rejected it because the clerical leaders have proven to be more corrupt and hypocritical than their tie-donning predecessors. A weak economy and a suffocating society have become unbearable, especially for the youth who make up the majority of the population. It is this rejection that was recently being voiced in the streets and universities of the country asking for the removal of the regime.

The demonstrations fizzled out but not after a good dozen of nights and much violence and arrests of students. Now all in Iran are watching to see if 18th of Tir (July 9th) which will mark the anniversary of the student uprising of four years ago will produce more regime-damaging protests. People wonder if the force and intimidation used by the regime and its thugs (the Bassijis and Ansar Hezbollah vigilantes) is sufficient to, similar to four years ago, subdue the movement.

Once again the U.S. is facing a decisive moment in the history of its relations with Iran. Should she back the protestors or should she opt for staying on the sidelines and watching to see what happens? Should she back the reformists in government or should she push for regime change?

At this juncture the U.S. should not waver in its support of the majority of Iranians who oppose the clerical leadership. To do so would be irresponsible. The official line of the Bush administration is that while it supports the protests and desires a regime change it does not need to get directly involved. The Iranian people, the U.S. claims, will win their own victory.

Whatever gaffes have been made in other countries and in the past, in Iran, today, the youth that has mustered enough courage to face government thugs in order to voice its frustration with the clerical regime, expects and deserves the U.S. to be a strong-armed friend.

Since the hated rulers have co-opted anti-Americanism, the Iranian people have rejected it to the point where they are now less anti-American than many Europeans! They actually resemble the Europeans after WWII who were delighted by the Americans who had helped liberate them from fascism.

The U.S. should certainly not negotiate with the reformist in government, as the Europeans and some within the Bush administration seem to favor, just when their credibility and popularity has run out. This would be another gaffe. The majority of Iranians are tired of Mullahs-- period.

Any dialogue with the regime will smack of appeasement. Picking on Iran for its allegedly bellicose nuclear program or for harboring of Al Qaeda members will only prompt the ever savvy mullahs to use the allegations as bartering chips in negotiations – it also detracts from the international focus on the indigenous social unrest.

Iranians are ready for regime change and are capable of finding their own way. They just are up against thugs and need some support to scare the opponents into playing fair. The U.S. should provide that kind of support, no more, no less. She should put enough pressure on the regime and force her reluctant European allies to do the same, so as to minimize bloodshed.

To put pressure on the clerical regime to respect the human rights of its people when they protest against their government is the surest way for the U.S. to fortify her newfound popularity with Iranians who came out on the streets recently because in many ways, since September 11th and George Bush's "Axis of Evil" speech, they depend on the U.S. to stand by her rhetoric.

The U.S. need not attack Iran militarily and the days of covertly backed coup d'etats are over, but she should not stand back so far that the people she has encouraged to take to the streets, are left alone to be imprisoned or eliminated. If this regime is simply kept from using violence against its own people, its days are most certainly numbered.

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