So what now?


Iran was on top of the news again last week. There were some internal developments in Iran but as far as the Western media, most of the news we've been hearing about is from Washington.

The first big news came last Friday, when sources leaked information from the 9/11 Commission's report to Time magazine on Iran's involvement with terrorism. This leak consisted of revelations which Iran, “actively” helped up to 10 of the hijackers cross its borders prior to September 11th, by giving them passage and not stamping their passports. So you may wonder why all of a sudden this leak?

The timing had to do with the neo-conservatives knowledge that a major analysis was to be released on the following Monday by the Council for Foreign Relations recommending dialogue with the Islamic regime as the future U.S. policy.

What's Happening?

The debate on what to do with Iran has become more of a topic in Washington these days than at any other time. In addition, there is a very real split between the leadership of the Republican Party versus the leadership of the Democratic Party on a strategy for dealing with Iran in the future. And above all else, this is the election year which means, every debate is more personal and every policy a source of contention.

The Bush administration is again advocating a more hawking stance towards Iran. They are calling for more pressure, possible sanctions, and continued path of calling for regime change (which officially is not the U.S policy yet). On the other hand, Kerry and the Democrats are advocating a policy of slow re-approachment with Iran, the possibility of dialogue and a possible future diplomatic relationship as a tool for pressuring Iran to change its behavior.

This debate has been vocal in Washington, but even more vocal in the Iranian-American community, especially that of Los Angeles. In this regard, the Iranians in this city are becoming more like the Cuban-Americans of Miami, whom the Republican Party can easily count on many of them for future support.

The radical nature of Iranian-American Los Angeles politics stems from the large number of pro-monarchists who fled Iran in 1979 and a smaller number of other leftists and nationalist opposition members who are staunchly against the regime. To this group, any dialogue with the regime is equivalent of treason against the Iranian people as well as confirmation of legitimacy of the Iranian regime.

Meanwhile, in Washington, politicians are trying to form a coherent Iran policy for the near future. The Analysis, which was released on Monday by Council for Foreign Relations, was co-chaired by Zbignew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor to President Carter from 1977 to 1981 as well as Robert Gates, head of CIA during Bush Sr. time. It is an 80 page document available on their website. In it, they recommend an approach to Iran through dialogue and diplomatic channels and overall dealing with the regime as opposed to waiting for it to fall. In August, there is another major analysis and policy recommendation being released.

In short, the Brzezinski/Gates report recommends a policy similar to that with China, when in 1972, Nixon signed a basic statement of principles, named 1972 Shanghai CommuniquÈ. With this policy, the Chinese government continues to repress its people, at the same time, continues to develop and hold nuclear weapons. You must realize, with this view,  which is similar to Kerry's and the Democratic party, the Islamic regime will be here to stay.

On the other hand, the Bush administrations hard-line stance is one where many see leading to possible confrontation. Not necessarily militarily, but more likely economic. Many people believe that Iran's regime is unlike the dictatorships that collapsed in Eastern Europe. This view sites the revolutionary root of this regime and its continued presence within the masses (minority, but still a considerable). This is as opposed to Eastern European dictatorships where the regime was completely separate from its people.

In many ways, Iran's regime resembles Castro's dictatorship. Similar to Castro, Islamists rose to power through a popular revolution, and similar to Castro, they still have the capability of bringing the masses to the streets at will (although now numbering in a few thousands with the help of busload of poor lured to the scene as opposed to hundreds of thousands in the early 80's.)

With this view, Bush's hard-line stance will continue isolating the country even more. Making the population ever more poor and continue to fuel a base of radicalism for the right wing clerics to stay in power. In other words, with this view as well, the Islamic regime is here to stay.

So what now?

Iran's destiny lies with us. We are responsible for not having democracy in Iran and we are responsible to bring democracy to our country. America will always have its own interests above all others. Those who are American citizens can and should try to influence Washington as much as possible. But ultimately, the future destiny of our country will depend on the decisions we as Iranians make today. 

These decisions start with you and me. From the moment that you read this. It starts with your reaction and your response. It starts on the websites and in the chat rooms. On our TV and radio as well as our letters, our articles. We must convince ourselves first that democracy can happen in Iran, and then we must convince others. We must believe in it, picture it and talk about it. 

Our dreams for a democratic Iran must be written down as principles. Our principles should guide us into formulating our short term and long term goals. For each goal, we must devise a strategy. And within this strategy, we must put together a plan and an agenda.

Based on this, our pro-democracy organizations upon establishing their principles must formulate and present their short term and long term goals to the public. And for each goal, a clearly stated program and plan needs to be available for the scrutiny of the public.

In other words, we must be organized. We must get organized. And we must believe in ourselves. The future for democracy in Iran will not depend on “sanctions” or “dialogue”. It depends on you and me >>> Persian text

This piece was published in Amir Ali Fassihi's weblog,

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