At the height of the anti-war debates that preceded the American invasion of Iraq a well-meaning but misguided friend argued that America's new strategy amounts to a U-turn from the 50 years of disastrous foreign policy that resulted in wining the Cold War but pissing off the majority of the planet's population!
My friend agreed that in her policies since the late 1940's, the United States has aborted many democratic and popular regimes and propped up puppet repressive regimes in Middle East, Asia, Africa and South America but that America is now trying to “make up” for past mistakes. He argued that the US move into Iraq is a new beginning, a mending of the past mistakes without the admission of wrong-doing and entirely aimed at empowering the people of Middle East!
Upon the end of the invasion phase for the Iraq project, which coincided with Iranian voters' refusal to continue taking part in Iranian rulers' reform charade by boycotting the city council elections, the speculations about the mullahs next move and the fate of Iran's ruthless theocracy flared up inside Iran and abroad.
All eyes have been on Iran's ruling clergy as well as the US administration, expecting critical and historic decisions on the future course of action with regard to dealings with the other side. Many activists, politicians and authors hoped and even preached for the IRI regime to take the wise course of turning to the people of Iran, respecting their wishes for freedom and democracy and at the same time guaranteeing the strong support of their own people as they face a certain foreign threat.
The speculation and uncertainty lasted no longer than a month after the military victory of US forces in Iraq. All through this phase our pie-in-the-sky optimist friends assured us that America will rise to the occasion and see to it that the people of Iran will not be sold out in a compromise with the mullahs. After all this is a nation who has always shown her fascination, respect and affection for America and all things American. A nation who, in the past 50-some years, has been betrayed by America several times.
The list is long and well publicized; 1953 overthrow of a democratically elected prime minister, shameful support of a dictatorial monarchy, instigating and actively supporting the Iraqi invasion in the aftermath of a popular revolution, shooting down a passenger airliner in what many independent observers interpreted as a stern warning shot to Khomeini's regime to end the war with Iraq.
But this is a new day. Upon the show of force from the Shiite clergy in Iraq, and the painful realization of the day to day challenges of occupation, the Americans and the Brits face the sad reality of their ordeal in controlling Iraq and step away from simply blaming all their ills on neighboring mullahs in Iran and recognize the fact that Shiite clergy hold some valuable cards here and they can't be just brushed away or branded as lunatics.
To put it simply, the Americans and Brits have apparently blinked in their stance against the Iranian mullahs! So, in a span of no more than a month, the mullah regime finds itself going from the battered underdog dictatorship “next on the list” to a curiously strengthened position as the big Shiite neighbor with considerable influence on the pesky Iraqi Shiite clergy and is suddenly able to deal and bargain with the occupying powers!
Domestically, the ayatollahs, faced with the defeat of their phony reform game, have decided to crack down on the defenseless people of Iran while pursuing a road to settlement with Americans abroad. All the while the mullahs continue to keep up the radical front to the extent that even the champion of civility and reform, President Khatami himself, travels to Lebanon and visits with the leader of Lebanese Hizbullah.
I have to admit that mullahs are masters of their game! Visiting the leader of Lebanese Hizbullah across the border from Israel while their representatives are having cappuccinos with Zalmay Khalilzad in Geneva, their soldiers lined up against American Marines on Iraqi border, and shouting anti-American propaganda from their media, is the kind of political tightrope that only a sleazy mullah could walk! But of course the simple fact is that keeping up the fiery rhetoric and foul mouthing the Great Satan is absolutely needed to maintain internal repression and postpone the inevitable.
And as for the Americans, the truth comes out again. Those of us who knew better had all along argued that the last thing on the minds of Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld is whether or not the policies coming out of Tehran, Damascus and Baghdad are made by a popular and democratic regime.
We kept arguing that as long as Tehran's regime didn't support the enemies of Israel and didn't use its oil to threaten the Western economic dominance, it didn't matter to Richard Perle if Iran's petro-dollars build schools and hospitals in rural outskirts of Zahedan through an economic reconstruction program or erects office buildings in Toronto by hoodlum sons of Hashemi Rafsanjani!
I don't have anything against peaceful dialogue between the two governments as long as the Bush Administration does not lose the sight of the fact that dozens of young Iranian journalists and authors have been arrested in the past 3 weeks alone and that repression and pressure on the people of Iran is ever-increasing.
Mr. Bush needs to remember that his dealings with the Iranian ruling mullahs and what happens next can and will cost America the respect and support of the Iranian youth in a time and region where America needs loyal friends more than ever!
Notice also goes out to the Iranian people. Expecting anyone to come from abroad and save them from Mullacracy is unrealistic and impossible. The Iraqi example has and will further prove that at the end the outside liberators are nothing but conquerors with their own interests and needs.
The only solution for the betrayed and forgotten youth of Iran is to take their destiny in their own hands and uproot the dictators once and for all. I realize that many needed elements such as leadership and organization are currently missing, but they will evolve and appear over time. The key is for Iranians to realize that no one from abroad, and certainly not George W. Bush, will solve their problems.
But as for the Bush Administration, my only plea to them is NOT to deal with the mullahs in Iran. Such a deal will delay and complicate the freedom of Iranians from dictatorship. Mr. Bush, don't sell out the people of Iran!