Why US Confusion on IRI?
Yesterday Colin Powell said "Iran was a democracy and President Mohammad Khatami had been freely elected". Has the US really suddenly become a believer in IRI Islamic "democracy" oxymoron, and forgotten that non-Islamic groups were never allowed in Iranian elections and even the Islamist candidates had to be approved by Iran's GC (Guardian Council which is made of a few Ayatollahs). Some say Colin Powell's statements are a reflection of difference of policies between the US State and Defense Departments that shows itself in contradictory positions of Powell and Rumsfield, reminiscent of early days of US-Iraq conflict. I think the reason for the confusion of US policy makers, with respect to the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a lot more fundamental than that.
The reason for the confusion is very complex but at the same time it is very simple. It is simply because the US is afraid of *uncertainty*. US politicians exactly had the same problem when the Soviet Union was ready to go beyond Gorbachev. They asked themselves who will be the replacement? It took them some time before even Yeltsin appeared and some more time before he was taken seriously by the West, and many were still dreaming of descendants of Romanovs, or thought Soviet Union was not going to go and tried making deals with various factions of the Soviet Communist Party.
The problem was that the policy makers had a hard time at that moment to accept the *uncertainty* of post-Soviet reality, and one day Nixon was an emissary by the US president to try to hedge with those who planned a right-wing coup against Gorbachev, and the next day they were thinking of some descendants of Romanov Tsar as a possible alternative. They could not accept that the reality itself was *uncertain*, yet certain enough that those were not the options.
In the case of Iran, one day some US analysts think of Reza Pahlavi as the post-IRI Iran, but when they see Iranians have no interest in the return of monarchy, they suddenly doubt the Iranian pro-Democracy movement for ending the Islamic Republic. Another day, they think of MKO cult, or the Aliyev's puppet Chehregani, as forces to unite with, to make a military attack on Iran, and when they hear that Iranians consider MKO a dead Islamist cult, and that Iranians consider Chehregani as a puppet of Azerbaijan's president Aliyev, and moreover Iranians do not support any US military attack on Iran, again they suddenly doubt Iranians' pro-Democracy movement to replace IRI with a secular republic, and suddenly they go back to the so-called "reformist" Khatami, who was not even a Gorbachev for Iran.
So one wonders why the US policy makers have such a hard time with Iran, and the answer is very simple. Iran's case is that of *uncertainty* and US policy makers are afraid of uncertainty. In Afghanistan, the make-belief Zaher Shah solution with the strong case of 911 became such a path, and worked even though this is not what it ended up to be, nonetheless in the interim the dream relieved the US anxiety over the uncertainty. In Iraq, when they had uncertainty in 1991, they ended up compromising with Saddam and in 2003, to avoid the same thing, when they could not count on anybody in the Iraqi opposition to be a viable alternative, they made a decision to have a US governor for 2 years, and this gave them enough certainty, and they planned accordingly and succeeded. Now in the case of Iran, they know that ever since 1953 CIA coup, any such policy in Iran, will be a suicide for the US and will backfire, so they know this is not going to be a solution for the *uncertainty*.
The reality of Iran is that the forward-looking maturity and modernism of Iranian opposition and its clarity on the need for full removal of Islamism is just like the resolve of Soviet people to remove Communism. The Chinese had reservations about the uncertainty themselves, but the Soviet people and most of the Eastern Block had no such worries about the uncertain future. Soviet people knew *what* they wanted, the free republic and an open society, but they did *not* know in advance *who* the next president was going to be and they did not mind about it either. In fact, all the genuine democratic upheavals in the world, such as the US Revolution itself, had the same *uncertainty* accompanying them, and nobody in advance had planned the next president and cabinet, but they had the clarity of the alternative state to be an independent and democratic republic. The same is true about Iran and Iranians.
So those who try to invent different governments and leaders for Iran, such as those in US policy-making circles dreaming to make a king out of Reza Pahlavi, are as much wasting their time, as those who are clinging back to some faction of Islamic Republic to escape the *uncertainty* of Iran. The reality is that for the US to best help itself and Iran, it should come to terms with this *uncertainty* and see that the main democratic opposition is *inside* Iran and knows *what* it wants, which is an independent and democratic secular republic, and has organizations such as Jebhe Demokratik with leaders like Tabarzadi and Hamidi, who have asked for complete removal of Islamic Republic. And organizations like Jebhe Melli inside Iran, which basically is disillusioned with Khatami and is seeking the separation of state and religion, and is calling for a secular republic. And the various youth groups inside and outside prisons in Iran, and Kurdish groups like Komala in Kurdestan, which is more of a forward-looking democratic group than a socialist tag it still carries, as well as various groups outside Iran including leftists, monarchists, nationalists and others. This is the reality of Iran which is basically directed for removing IRI and forming a forward-looking secular republic.
Now in this atmosphere, there is the *certainty* of the *what* which is ending the Islamism and IRI and starting a secular republic, but at the same time there is the *uncertainty* of *who* of the next state and which group, etc will be dominant, etc. What can US do? I think it should come to terms with this *uncertain* reality, instead of one day assuming Reza Pahlavi or MKO to be leaders of the next state, and another day seeing its falsity to fall back on some factions of IRI again, trying to subjectively end an uncertainty which is part of this development. Iranians do not want to return to monarchy and the MKO is basically a dead Islamist cult, and IRI so-called reformists and other factions of IRI are at their end of life. If the US be resolutely against the IRI, which is expiring fast, it will cause hardline bastions of IRI, to hesitate to commit more atrocities, the same way the Soviet coup makers in the last days of Gorbachev, got the message and stopped to commit more murders.
Iran's students movement, even if suppressed, will not die, contrary to China, and it will only become a bloodier confrontation and a revolution if suppressed. Why? Well, if Chinese people after the experience of Soviet fall, got scared of early devastations of free market, and became less resolute to end Communism, on the contrary, the Iranians after the experience of Afghanistan and Iraq, have become *more* resolute to end Islamism in Iran, and Iranians politically are more advanced than the people of both Iraq and Afghanistan. So US should not think Iran will go the Chinese way. Iran is headed the same way Soviet Union was headed at the end of Communism. Iran will fully eradicate Islamism. Iran will not settle with any partial formulas of the IRI reformists, which are supported by mellimazhabis like sAzmAne enghelAbe eslAmi and other past followers of Shariati (like Aghajari) and some of the leftist. These groups just like many US policy makers are not grasping the ideals of movement for change in Iran, which is a fully forward-looking secularist republican movement.
So in this reality, if US and European states give a clear message to Iran hardliners, that they will be facing crimes against humanity charges if they hurt the protesters, and also the money the families of Rafsanjani and Tabasi and other leaders of IRI have sent abroad, can be claimed by Western states in case of conviction on crimes against humanity, then such hardliners will think twice to suppress the pro-Democracy movement of Iran, just like the ones who were trying to make a right-wing coup against Gorbachev, stopped and thought twice when they saw the solidity of the Western support of pro-Democracy activists.
Should such a gesture be accompanied with supporting Khatami? No. US should support the pro-Democracy movement of Iran and anybody who says that is just bunch of university students, has no understanding of Iranian current movement. Although on the streets one sees the students, all Iranian opinion leaders inside Iran support this movement, and when the regime collapses, one will see the real magnitude of this movement, and I can assure the US and European policy makers, that Iran will not lack any Waclav Havels to run for various offices and parliament of the coming secular republic.
One service that IRI did to Iran is that it caused the flourishing of a Renaissance in Iran in the last 24 years, was to enrage the Iranians in opposition to IRI so much that people read more books and have produced more forward-looking writers, poets and thinkers, a huge number relative to Iran's population, a number more than any other nation in this period, and this was the main reason for chain murder killing of Forouhars and writers. Books that criticize every social aspect of life, not only critic of Iranian society, but also critic of social mores of the Arab countries of Saudi Arabia and Persian Gulf, where women are still subject to all kinds of cruelties. Such books, even under the strong IRI censorship, have been in abundance in Iran of the last 24 years.
I just hope US policy makers get to understand Iran's developments and not try to subjectively end the *uncertainty* they see, or to get afraid of the uncertainty and end up in supporting one faction of IRI against another, which has been the wrong policy of most European states, and of many US policy makers in the last 24 years. The US support should go only to Iran's pro-Democracy movement, with all its components, especially the Jebhe Demokratic and Jebhe Melli, and the various forward-looking secular republican groups, that form the main body of this pro-Democracy movement in its reality, and not in some nostalgic words of those using the metaphor of pre-IRI days to show their frustration of the life under IRI.
Sam Ghandchi, Publisher/Editor
July 4, 2003
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