Next four years
President Bush to support the establishment
of democracy in Iran
January 18, 2005
On January 20, President George W. Bush will take
the oath of office on the steps of the US Capitol for the last
day will mark the beginning of his second presidential term, a
four-year period full of new opportunities for the advancement
of liberty both at home and abroad.One of these opportunities is
a golden one involving Iranians and their campaign for a secular,
at peace with
its neighbors and accountable to nobody but the Iranian people
As millions of Eastern Europeans, Georgians, Afghans
and Ukrainians have learned over the past three decades, freedom
is never achieved without a price. And Iranians of all ages, genders,
classes, and faiths have been paying a very heavy one now for more
than a quarter of a century. The list of atrocious crimes committed
by the ruling Shia clerics and their supporters against Iranians
and others is far too long to include in this piece. But that does
not mean that they have been forgotten. It is these unforgivable
acts committed in the name of God that have led millions of Iranians
to use whatever channels available to express their desire to breathe
finally the fresh air of freedom.
Ever since the election of Mohammad Khatami as president
of the Islamic Republic in 1997, Iranians have repeatedly proven
willingness to use non-violent methods to effect meaningful change.
However, after having voted for "reformists" in a
series of non-competitive elections (parliamentary, municipal and
presidential) and having received nothing substantial in return
(in terms of political and economic freedoms), they realized that
reform within the current regime was and is impossible. And voting
in these sham elections is not the only method to which they have
Over the past years, Iranians have peacefully protested
in the streets, staged sit-ins, boycotted elections (such as last
February's parliamentary election), participated in strikes
(such as the teachers'union strike that was violently disrupted
during UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's trip to Tehran
in 2002), gone on hunger strikes, and been in and out of prison
(including the infamous Evin Prison). And not once did they receive
the moral support they deserve from the international community.
To the UN there is no such thing as a freedom movement
inside Iran. And the European triumvirate of France, Germany, and
Kingdom is much more interested in preserving and expanding its
role in Iran's energy sector than in facing the current
realities inside the country ñ that the vast majority of
Iranians despise this authoritarian regime, that it is well on
its way toward acquiring nuclear weapons (if it has not already
done so) to secure its own power, and that it is the hub of terrorism
in the world.
President Bush has made a few comments supporting
the pro-democracy movement in theory, but has done little to
show for it. This is unfortunate because many Iranians, particularly
the younger generation, took his words to heart and believed
him even when he did not take action.
To many it was a hopeful sign to have finally a
US president who was willing to take a firm stand against terrorism.
action followed the words of the president in the cases of Afghanistan
and Iraq. Yet, the issue of Iran quietly moved to the shadows.
The president decided to let the triumvirate work it out for him.
But work out what? What have all these meaningless agreements with
the mullahs achieved in the end? Nothing. They have only contributed
to a creeping sense of frustration and hopelessness for Iranians
and their just cause.
If President Bush actually meant what he said in
his 2002 State of the Union address ("'We know their true nature"),
then he should abandon support for the game currently being played
by the Europeans and the mullahs and begin to extend genuine moral
and political support to the people of Iran. He should also ensure
that the Iranian people understand that the US government is unified
on this issue and will not "cut a deal" with the mullahs
that would let them remain in power. This would help assuage any
fears that President Bush might abandon the people's cause
and ignore their enormous sacrifices for a democratic future.
A secular and democratic Iran at peace with her
neighbors and fully integrated in the world economy would be a
useful ally not only
in the "war on terror," but
also in the "war for democracy" in the Middle East. The dramatic
transition from an Islamist state to a democratic one would inspire democrats
throughout the Muslim world. And it would be a huge blow to all those, whether
they be Shia or Sunni, who were first encouraged by the Ayatollah Khomeini to
promote the cause of jihad around the globe.
That is why it is important for
President Bush to support the establishment of democracy in Iran, perhaps even
more so than in Iraq because it is the Iranian mullahs who are desperately
trying to derail the democratic process in Iraq by supporting terrorism.
Freedom does indeed have a high price. Everyday
hundreds of brave Iranians, Iraqis, and American soldiers are paying
for it at the hands of the clerical dictatorship
in Tehran. It is for these courageous individuals that President Bush, as leader
of the free world, must show the necessary moral and principled leadership
during his second term, for the path to greater freedom in the
Middle East now runs