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Axis of democracy
The West should back Iranian Democrats and bring serious pressure to bear upon the Islamic Republic


January 30, 2006

Finally the folly of European appeasement of the Islamic Republic came home to roost. Having made faces at Washington for so many years and 'engaging in a diplomatic dialogue' with Tehran; the sheer shortsightedness of this policy was finally exposed.

Here was Jack Straw running around like a headless chicken a few days ago and claiming that both Russia and China (you know those enslaved countries run by those wonderfully cuddly Communist oligarchs) were on board with regards to sanctions against Islamic Republic. Two days and much bargaining later neither of the 'Board-on' people decided to lift a finger against the vile theocracy occupying the seats of government in Iran. Except of course for a few pathetic platitudes afforded the cameras about how serious the situation really is in the eyes of Russia and China.

If fate had to snigger at the sheer and outright folly of people like Jack Straw, Tony Blair, Jacque Chirac, Dominique De Villepin, Phillip Doust-Blazy, Joscka Fischer, Gerhard Schroeder and many other appeasers it would do so through a vile abomination by the name of Ahmadinejad.

So at what tally do the scores stand now? Things are decidedly critical for the West:

- The US can not back any diplomacy with the threat of force as politically it would not have any takers whether inside America or outside in other Western countries. The continuing insurgency in Iraq has put paid to that. Inside Washington itself there is no more stomach for a fight given the enormous costs of political capital already spent on Iraq and Afghanistan.

Every now and again some Washington ruling circle entices journalists with rumours of an imminent war. The aspiring hacks cotton on and then the rumours reverberate around media circles in Western Europe and it dies down immediately. This is part of the psychology of an imminent cold war between the US and the Islamic Republic which I have alluded to before in my essay called "(Hard) Reality check" on this forum.

- Surgical military strikes against selected targets are also a possibility. Quite frankly they have to be discounted as giving a publicity boost to the Mullahs at a time that public opinion in the West is much invoked against military adventurism. In terms of putting any kind of pressure on the Mullahs they have to be regarded as being fruitless. The I.R. is a regime which survives on secrecy and misinformation. What information do Military strategists in Washington or Tel Aviv have on nuclear sites in Iran? I do not know but I would suspect rather little.

- As we saw above China and Russia (the first presiding over an economic resurgence the latter a malaise) have been locked into an economic partnership by those crafty Mullahs. Both therefore refused it; and since when have economic embargoes ever worked against any regimes. The I.R. has had sanctions against it at the time of other crises but managed to weather them all. So this must also be discounted as a serious card to lay on table.

- Diplomatic engagement must now also be dismissed as fruitless given that the I.R. has quite cleverly bought itself time to draw back from it.

It would be very interesting to see if the likes of Straw et al would understand the extent of their strategic bankruptcy. One would have to ask what is it about this trite diplomatic strategy that whether it is dishonest and media friendly Charlatans like Khatami or obnoxious (yet honest) henchmen like Ahmadinejad, it is embarked upon come what may? Surely the same solution cannot by logical extension hope to apply to both situations which are diametrically opposed!!!

The question now is what can the West do to prevent an Islamic Regime from proliferating? There is one solution left to the problems of the West (and subsequently the world) that can offer a way out. It is by no means a sure bet and certainly not risk free but it is infinitely better than any of the above delineated and subsequently dismissed. Allow me to elaborate.

The trouble for the free world is that the normal rules of engagement do not apply as they did in Iraq for reasons delineated above. The West however does have potential allies. Those potential allies are the Democrats of Iran. An imaginative solution would be to put its political authority behind these Democrats and bring serious pressure to bear upon the Islamic Republic.

There are some compelling reasons why this may be an optimum strategy for the Western leaders: the Iranian people have caught the Democracy bug. They do not perhaps fully realise the extent of their welcome malady but they are likely to remain seriously bug ridden for the time being. All around them too there are Democratic elections (partly under the impetus of the American military presence) that are robbing the mullahs of much needed power sleep. The events of Lebanon and more recently Iraq are cases in point. This last one is a particularly troubling one for the Mullahs (I will come back to this).

If however this malady openly showed itself in 1997 in the election to power of the over pampered and lame duck Khatami; with the election of 'halo of light wearing' Ahmadinejad the illusions that the regime is the best guarantor of those democratic rights will fast dissipate. Already much Iranian capital (both Human and Material) has flown and nicely settled in the Gulf tin-pot states. For a proud, expectant and angry nation like Iran grappling with acute Economic difficulties this is likely to drive up the fever.

At exactly the same time that the Gulf countries and soon Iraq are embracing Free Market Economics the flat earthed regime of 'Halo-man' is embarking upon pathetic Command style economic policies that has nothing but failure to show for 27 long and laborious years.

Contrary to what the West thinks the Iranian people are a pragmatic lot. I would actually say they are pragmatic to a fault. They have had to be; they embarked upon a disastrous revolution from which they are still paying the price. They know that their nation under any regime has long term Economic and Defence needs which they can ill-afford to neglect. No wonder that some are under the illusion that the proliferation activities of the regime is to be supported.

More importantly however for a nation that understands its defence vulnerabilities it can equally understand how costly the embarking upon another (mis)adventure can be. Already some of the otherwise gung-ho and influential newspapers in the West (some of whom supported the invasion of Iraq) such as the Sun newspaper in the U.K. have cottoned on to that. The Iranians have acted with caution and moderation. For the duration of the time that the halo-man's victory is misunderstood as a democratic mandate in the West the complex reality behind these issues is overlooked.

Contrary to what many on this very same forum ( argued; Iraq will not become an Islamic Republican satellite. Already we have seen that the Pro I.R. candidates have fared badly in the latest election results. We have also seen that the Shiite candidates hold at least 10 seats short of the overall majority (must have 138 seats out of a possible 275) to form a government. The Sunnis have done better than was expected given their ethnic size and are now engaging the Democratic process. The Kurds have done worse than expected but are at any rate on board.

There are already talks that some of the Shiites might rally behind the Sunni candidates to thwart any remaining threat from theocrats in the Shiite block. Add also the fact that with Kerbala gaining further prominence at the expense of Qom in securing its revered place in the Shiite religious hegemony and you will see how much the Tehran clergy have to lose. At any rate in a democracy it is very difficult to tamper with the sovereignty of nations. Iraq is no exception and the Islamic Republic with its odious theocracy is highly unattractive.

Let me contend this premise that the world would not have given two hoots about Islamic Republic's alleged proliferation had it been a democratic regime open to the language of reason and responsibility. In fact a Democratic or even quasi-democratic regime could- for all I know- have exploded a test bomb and the Mushroom clouds covering the screens of Western TV will have prompted no more than a passing commentary. With the passage of time the Iranian people will come to realise this more and more as the continued and unjust pariah state that the regime has earned them and the perspective behavioural change that the world expects of Iran is palpably felt inside the country.

There is an active Referendum movement both inside Iran and outside her borders which is finding a voice across the political spectrum and though not quite strong yet it is likely to grow as it is advocating pragmatic and non-violent change. This not only puts a historical mission on the shoulder of the Iranian people which they will understand; when backed by the moral and political support of the Democratic governments of the West it will also boost the courage of the Iranian people.

With the prospects for Democracy beginning to look good in Iraq and the Referendum movement gaining ground in Iran a blue print to which Iranians can fashion their discourse will develop. There will of course be worries for them to contend with; namely the federalism of Iraq which is not very popular in Iran but which may gain momentum. This however may not matter as much in the end. If any thing it can act as a greater catalyst for the Iranians to act in order to prevent such an outcome materialising.

In short Western moral and political support for the quest of the Iranian people towards Democracy can propel this struggle in the world media and confer the same moral standing to it as the Anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa. This may be the most logical and pragmatic solution left for the West.

The sceptics may argue that the Iranian opposition and the students have failed to harness such People power to a national uprising what would be so different now? The Old Iranian opposition at the time (and to be fair a section of it still) were too divided along embittered factional lines. This is now becoming increasingly untenable as the regime appears stabilised.

On the other hand the deception of a faction of the regime with pretensions to democratic discourse have been laid to rest. The victorious Ahmadinejad has quite rightly spelled out the incompatibility of the regime with Democracy. Quite ironically people otherwise hostile to him are beginning to have more respect for him than for the so called Reformers and pragmatics.

Finally and most importantly for the duration of the time that there was a glimmer of hope that the regime may finally get back to the bosom of the world community aided by the EU-3 appeasers the people may have rested their hands. The higher and more vocal the calls across borders for Regime Change through civil disobedience the more the Iranian people will feel the hand of destiny weighing on their shoulders. The effect would be tantamount to putting pressure on the Iranian people to put pressure on the regime. This is the language that the regime will understand; not the language of diplomacy but FORCE.

The Iranian Democrats are starved of funds but this problem as Mr Aryo Pirouznia has argued on another forum can be overcome in the form of turning frozen Iranian assets locked under the regime of economic sanctions over to the Democrats. The high profile support for the Democrats and its reflection in the dissident exiled media can also act as a further spur to galvanising support both inside and outside Iran.

I will conclude this letter of appeal to pragmatic Western leaders by reciting the old English adage that 'where there is a will there is a way'. The avowed aim of the Blair government at its inception was an Ethical Foreign Policy. President Bush has also claimed that he will stand along side the Iranian people for obtaining their just demands. If there ever was an ethical foreign policy this must be it. If there ever was an opportunity for systematic and effective support for the struggle of the Iranian people it is now and this way. If there ever was a rational option in amongst a dearth of options this is it. The courage to take it is what is needed for that it takes the sort of imagination that only a true visionary can exhibit. Over to you now; the choices are simple.      

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Kia Atri


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