Wednesday, May 24, 2006

An Open Door to Iran

Iranians have protested repressive measures by their hard-line government for sometime. A state pogrom conducted against liberal reform targeted supporters of the reformist measures of the previous president, Katami. As Kaveh Ehsani noted:
In the past four years, more than 100 independent publications have been banned, and many editors, publishers, writers and translators have been persecuted. Intellectuals, lawyers, academics, pollsters and social scientists have been jailed and mistreated, while student protests against these repressive measures have themselves been violently put down.
A reappearance of disatisfaction with the fundamentalists in Tehran has just manifest itself:
Two of the Iranian capital’s main universities were rocked by protests and clashes between students and police overnight, press reports said on Wednesday. Forty police were lightly injured by stone throwing in front of Teheran University dormitories....
Calling the protesters "troublemakers" belies the crux of the outburst, which was spurred by the forced retirement of some professors at Tehran university and the heavy-handed replacement of top university officials with partisans more amenable to Tehran's hard-line Islamist position. Protesters could be heard saying,
We don’t want the Islam of the Taliban.
If Washington really wants regime change in Tehran, just as the large population (some 2 million) of students apparently do, this is what they should be supporting rather than threatening yet more illegal military attacks.

Of course, Rice requested a big boost in money for such efforts a few months ago, despite some Senators noting that, every time an election happens somewhere lately -- especially in the Middle East -- the results are generally not favourable to the US. There is a good reason for this, though, which the Senators don't seem to want to acknowledge: the US has not historically supported democratic movements or governments elsewhere. This is especially true in the Middle East, except Israel. But given that Iranians appear to be rather discontented with the Islamist hard-liners in charge, now would be a good time to give that ol' democracy thing some sincere support. This would still not likely result in a "pro-US" government as most Muslims are extremely distrustful of US-backed policy, but it certainly would have to result in a better, more moderate government than the one there now. Contrary to what you will hear in the mainstream press in the United States, the Iranian population is quite moderate, something that is not reflected by their government right now. Of course, the exact same thing can be said of the United States.

I don't generally have faith that the Bush administration has any real concerns about supporting democracies. Their rhetoric about spreading freedom is often just wrapping around a "regime change" agenda and they know enough to realise that actual democratic elections in Arab or Muslim countries in the Middle East won't lead to overly friendly governments. But a sincere effort to support such a movement in Iran would be the best strategy toward the long term establishment of normative international relations between the US and Iran.

This could be a win-win for the both countries and the larger region. However, the Bush administration is far too entrenched in the Manichean dialectic of win-lose and us-them so don't look for them to seize the opportunity. Because with Dick Cheney at the foreign policy helm, it is most certain that such an opportunity will be ignored.


Post a Comment

<< Home