After years of underground opposition to the regime in Tehran, the Iranian people finally found and grasped the opportunity to voice its profound frustration and sent images of massive anti-government demonstrations that took many western media off guard. The myth about opposition having roots only in westernized and wealthy Iranians of northern Tehran has been shattered and within six months, the new Iranian revolution has reached, I believe, a point-of-no-return. However the unIranian regime of Tehran is going to resort to any unethical act to remain in power and is partly relying on the discord among opposition within Iran and in the Persian diaspora. I believe that 2010 can bring the end of the Islamic Republic if and only if Iranians unite and hence become more organized and efficient against the tyranny.
A century of political upheaval backed by thousands of years of history that make up our cultural fabric, galvanized by thirty years of national failures, treason, lack of transparency and many other social and psychological reasons naturally explain the political disagreements or even distrust shared by the opposition. I believe, however, there are sufficient common grounds to reach unity against the Islamic Republic leading to its removal. We should focus on what unites us and avoid any issues that can introduce discord.
The Iranian opposition should simply agree on three high level propositions:
1- Whoever believes the current regime of Tehran cannot be reformed and must be removed and replaced by a secular and democratic political system is part of the opposition regardless of his/her current or past political beliefs.
2- Opposition should focus on one single goal, which is the collapse of the current regime and may not choose any particular form of government for the future of Iran.
3- Upon the demise of the regime, a temporary government will allow all political factions organized in parties, to promote their vision of the future and familiarize the Iranian people with their ideas for at least a few months, before the Iranian people decide the future of Iran’s political system through a fair national election.
Ironically the Iranian opposition should learn from the tactics used in the 1979 revolution in Iran, which were extremely successful in bringing down the previous regime. All opposition groups united under Khomeini, set aside their profound differences and chose a common goal of toppling the Shah’s government. “What about the disastrous consequences of such evil connivance?”, you may exclaim. This new revolution is driven by a strong and clear quest for a secular democracy. Furthermore it is lead by a people much more politically aware and balanced rather than by a particular leader as was the case in 1979. On these basis, the future government of Iran will not be hijacked by one faction to the detriment of the Iranian people. Iran won’t have a communist dictatorship or an absolute monarchy. Every single day the Islamic Republic remains in power, more Iranians are harmed, more brain leaves the country and more disgrace is brought to the name of Iran. Let us not be afraid of unity, a crucial condition to free our homeland.
Focusing on common grounds such as the belief that Iran must become free and have a secular and democratic state also requires abstaining from bringing up issues encouraging more differences. This is not an easy task, since it might go against strong personal feelings nurtured and matured for tens of years. One such issue is the choice of the Iranian flag. Opposition groups and Iranians of all walks of life tend to disagree whether the tricolor flag should contain or not the shir-o-khorshid (lion and sun) emblem. This is one of those areas where one should compromise and postpone the legitimate debate to the second phase of the revolution and let the Iranian people eventually decide. I do understand that the flag is a sensitive notion and intimately linked to the Iranian identity but if it is a divisive factor, we should avoid it until Iran is set free. There is at least consensus on its colors and on removing the Islamic republic sign off of it. I personally believe our flag should carry the lion and sun emblem as it is not related to any particular royalty and is rooted in Iran’s bimillenary history but I would go with a tricolor flag for the moment until a civilized debate takes place in the free Iran at which point, I will passionately fight for the future of our flag via political means.
In practice, many Iranians have problems with the first proposition set forth above as soon as we talk about groups they disagree with. For instance, many believe that we should not ‘grant membership’ to anyone who at any time has belonged to the Mojahedin Khalgh Organization (MKO) on the basis they had sided with Saddam Hussein and participated in killing Iranians. I believe the Iranian people will be the judge and that we cannot discriminate anyone at this stage. Once the first goal, meaning freedom for Iran, is reached, any Iranian citizen should be able to take the Rajavis or whoever to a court of justice for any charges including those of crime against the interest of Iran or against humanity. At this stage of the game, we need to choose our battles and keep in sight our goal at all times and under any circumstances.
Instead of being cynical about other groups’ activities and accuse them of indirectly serving the interests of the Islamic Republic, we should give them the benefit of the doubt and use every opposition to the regime as one step towards the freedom of Iran. I am not being naïve and I certainly don’t think that all factions have noble goals, nor do I believe that foreign agencies are not involved in influencing the future of Iran and the region. What I am advocating is to use everyone’s help for our purpose and then be vigilant and smart in the second phase so the new revolution follows its popular path and does not get hijacked. I recently read accusations against National Iranian American Council (NIAC) claiming it indirectly supports the mollahs’ regime. I do not wish to judge this association at this point, but the head of NIAC, Mr. Parsi’s interview on CNN and other media outlets, in which he denounced the regime and defended the people’s revolution is enough for me to count NIAC as opposition. Another point of contention is the subject of Reza Pahlavi. Monarchists should accept him as an opposition figure rather than a king at this point and non-monarchists should welcome him in denouncing the regime and as an active political figure. Once we reach the second phase, monarchists have all the rights in the world to defend their political agenda and push for a constitutional monarchy in Iran just as others may advocate another republic.
How to feel about potential “foreign interferences” in the new revolution? We must distinguish between support for people’s revolution and actual interference in Iran’s future political system. I believe we should welcome any help we can get as we absolutely need it to remove the regime in Tehran. Foreign powers and agencies naturally act based on their own interests. That is the history of the world and we cannot change it. However if their interests coincide with those of the Iranian people at this stage, there is nothing wrong with accepting their assistance. The United States freed Europe from Hitler’s Germany and the Europeans certainly benefited from it. The regional rivalry between United Kingdom and the United States lead to American support for the nationalization of the Iranian Oil in the fifties. Again it will be our job to be smart and alert about any future interferences in the second phase of the revolution.
In my previous article, entitled ‘Imagine a Free and Prosperous Iran’, I set forth the idea that once free, Iran can enjoy fast economic growth thanks to its rich human resources. Unity is the necessary element, which will allow us to change the course of history and set Iran free.