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Perils of impatience
Any U.S. intervention, including enthusiastic support for the student protesters, would be disastrous

By Reza Zaheri
June 30, 2003
The Iranian

There has been no more urgent time to take action than now! As the U.S. continues to gain unprecedented power in the Middle East, its eyes and those of the world are focused on the situation in Iran.

As the Bush Administration works to decide on what course to take with regards to Iran, some in Washington have been adamantly calling for increased isolation and economic sanctions, as well as support for exile groups in an attempt to achieve "regime change."

Also, the U.S. government has stated that military intervention against Iran, in response to its alleged nuclear program, could not be ruled out. Just as alarming, a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll has revealed that a majority of Americans would support a U.S. attack on Iran.

If these people believe that any of those actions would improve the lives of our families suffering in Iran and help to bring about a democratic government there or increase security here, then they are sorely mistaken. Any U.S. intervention, including enthusiastic support for the student protesters, would be disastrous to the only real, homegrown democracy emerging in the Middle East.

America's threatening of Iran and open support for the student movement play into the hands of hard-line clerics who use the threat of U.S. intervention as justification to carry out their brutalities as a matter of national security. The only way the clerics can dismiss the protests is if they attribute them to outside forces rather than internal problems.

In addition, isolating Iran through sanctions allows for the consolidation of power by the hard-liners, just as sanctions on Iraq increased Saddam Hussein's stranglehold over his people by making them weak and dependent on his regime's handouts. The European Union sees the folly in this and is already looking to open economic and commercial relations with Iran, despite objections by the U.S. and some Iranian groups in exile.

It is easy for these exile groups to call for regime change, because they would not have to pay the price if the situation became worse afterwards, as would likely happen. Calling for regime change and democracy is one thing, but implementing it in a state of anarchy with multiple factions fighting for control in the ensuing power vacuum is another.

Even members of the Bush Administration have admitted that they have no idea who might replace the current regime after its overthrow. Therefore, it would be extremely irresponsible to risk worsening the situation for those still living in Iran just because those of us living outside have grown impatient with the pace of reform.

What Iran needs is government reform and transformation from within, something no group in exile can provide. For there to be long-lasting and true democracy there must be a continuation of the political evolution that is currently taking place in Iran. There must be a continued progression of the political sophistication of the country's youth. Only this will bring real change, not the sprinkling of democracy from outside-for this is not democracy at all.

The United States did not become the "beacon of democracy" by outside intervention. It came about as a manifestation of the will of its own people. And how many years after its revolution did it finally become a "democracy"? Certainly more than two decades.

Progress is being made in Iran, though it may seem slow when viewed in the time-frame of our own lives. Just recently 166 members of parliament expressed outrage at the "brutal treatment" of students by vigilantes and some of the attackers were even arrested.

Also, Ayatollah Khamenei's status as a revered figure is openly being criticized by some in parliament as being tantamount to idol worship. For even more progress to take place, additional sectors of Iranian society need to join alongside the students. Outspoken U.S. support, and the subsequent accusations by clerics that the protesters are American stooges, make it less likely for this to occur.

It is hard for us to tell those who are being beaten and imprisoned to not, in desperation, seek outside help in any form. But we must not give them the false hope that if the U.S. were to intervene, it would relieve them of all their troubles-because it won't. To achieve freedom they must direct their own destiny.

The best way that we here in the United States can help the democratic movement in Iran is to let lawmakers in Washington, D.C. know how we feel on this issue.

As many of you may know, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a non-profit, non-partisan organization based in D.C. has begun a letter writing campaign to the White House and members of Congress.

NIAC's goal is to provide Iranian-Americans with the tools to make our voices heard, whatever our position on an issue. Therefore, participants in the letter writing campaign can choose from three different letters (or write one of their own) expressing whether or not they feel the U.S. should intervene in Iran.

Also as each letter is sent, it will contribute to the first nationwide poll on the Iranian-American community. Already over 73% of letter writers have been against U.S. supported regime change. So far over 400 letters have been sent in. But to be effective they need to number in the thousands!

So please take a few short moments and go here and do your part in furthering democracy.

The students in Iran are risking their lives for the very freedoms we take for granted each day. We should use the power that we possess to help them!

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