I recently read with discouragement but no surprise a recent op-ed in the Washington Post titled “,” in which the author went on about the crazy Hitler-like leader of Iran and his marching “nuclear weapons” down the streets of Tehran.
As a typical Iranian-American whose family left Iran in the 1980s to escape the regime in Tehran for freedom in America, I am amazed by the ignorance and hype which is greeting Mr. Ahmadinejad and his recent comments by the Western press.
History does indeed repeat itself! In fact, it appears to do so very quickly. Sure, it has been over fifty years since Hitler, but it has only been several years since the fall of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. Nevertheless, it seems the West has learned nothing from these very recent, and geographically adjacent, experiences. It will not be the first time that a bloody, repressive dictatorship has gone un-noticed and even reconciled with until Western interests seem only directly threatened. Unfortunately, the costs of dealing with such a situation are clearly greater than had the so-called “rouge regime” been dealt with earlier. Iran's regime is soon to become another example for the West.
While I agree with the writer's general warning on Iran's newfiery (some would say ultra-fundamentalist) president, it comes much too late in my opinion. Moreover, the viewpoint from which it originates is classically shallow in scope and demonstrates exactly why the warning arrives with such delay!
Over 8 years ago millions of Iranians turned out in massive numbers to vote for reform-minded and pro-democratic Mohammad Khatami. It had been the first time since the Islamists gained complete control in Iran that Iranians had been given somewhat of a choice, and they chose Khatami- a man who called for the “Dialog of Civilizations” and who argued against “slogans of death” but instead called for the rule of law, free press, and a civil society. While the West was supportive of Khatami, they stood idly by and watched the unelected fundamentalists and militarists in Tehran crush any advances toward democracy and human rights in Iran over the last 5 years.
The Europeans, lead by Jack Straw and the Italians and Germans, shuttled back and fourth to Tehran signing massive economic deals without any conditions being tied to these and the increasingly repressive policies in Iran. Nor does it seems did the Bush administration ever come up with a comprehensive and informed policy of trying to encourage freedom in Iran. Rather it seems that the American right wing was too busy trying to pass measures like those that limited Iranian scientists from publishing in American journals or detaining clearly secular Iranian-Americans on immigration charges.
Now finally, only after a nearly-nuclear armed Tehran regime calls for “Israel to be wiped off the map,” do they awaken to look at this regime and sound the alarms. I must say, gentlemen, where were you when the regime murdered dissidents, imprisoned and tortured pro-democracy students and journalists across Iran, when it killed Canadian-Iranian journalist Zahra Kazemi, starved Akbar Gangi, or forcefully cleared out the reformists from its parliament and presidency through farce elections?
Did you not realize that this was the road on which the regime was headed? Had you not heard the all-powerful Supreme Leader's numerous speeches about Israel and the “internal enemies” (aka pro-democracy elements)? Do you not realize that when Mr. Ahmadinejad says that the regime's standing on Israel has not changed, he is telling the truth? Do you not see that Mr. Ahmadinejad is simply the chosen representative of the same unelected mullah mafia in Tehran and not that of the Iranian nation? Did you ever stop and think that perhaps the desire of the majority of Iranians is not the destruction of Israel but rather having a peaceful environment in which they can feed their children?
Sadly, many analysts in Western governments appear blind to the forest and only see a tree or two, and that only when it is pained orange and glowing with uranium! While fanatics within Tehran’s regime wouldn’t mind destroying Israel, the real power-base in Tehran is nothing but a power-mafia who has grown very wealthy and wants to retain this power.
They know that the only way to do this is to destroy democracy at home, ensure the regime's survival (not Israel's destruction) by obtaining nuclear weapons, and giving venue to their violent and loyal constituents the likes of Ahmadinejad) every once in a while when their hold on power appears to be weakened. When mullah light (Khatami) and the lax hejab policies aren’t enough to keep things quite in Tehran, you’ve got to bring in the big guns, and that is what this whole Ahmadinejad and nuclear policies are aimed at.
Do they not stop to reflect that Iran is a vibrant nation of seventy million with a history that dates its founding by Cyrus the Great, who freed and aided the Jews of Babylon? Iran is a wealthy and politically mature (despite Mr. Ahmadinejad's apparent immaturity) and its contribution to global cooperation and peace can be as powerful if not greater than its danger to security appears to be today.
In the end, what I am arguing for is for more informed and rational analysis by Western media and governments on regimes like Iran's and for a greater commitment to human rights across the globe. It is equally important not to further isolate or condemn the entire nation by drawing Armageddon-like images of anti-Semites and by punishing her with sanctions, but rather to adopt penalization policies that specifically target those in power and strengthen democratic forces within a repressive society.
Whoever it was that said democracies do not go to war with other democracies was clearly right. Without doubt, the surest measures against terrorism and nuclear armament will come with more democracy in the Middle East through logical policies, and Iran is no exception.