What Can US and EU do for Iran
One of the reasons that world democracies are not able to deal properly with Iran's issue is because they change their analysis of Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) every hour depending on the latest pragmatic positions of IRI. IRI is not much different from Taliban (surely one is Shi'a and the other is Sunni), but the reason IRI *is* pragmatic both internally and externally, is because this government from its inception has had to work in a society that has been modernizing for over 75 years prior to IRI coming to power, and therefore IRI when trying to move back Iranian society to the world of 1400 years ago, has had to deal with a strong social resistance inside Iran. This is why from its first day till now it has not been able to work as easily as Taliban or Uganda's Idi Amin.
IRI is not just a Medieval state, it is a Medieval state working hard to push back a society that had already been on its road to modernization for a long time. This reality is even reflected in IRI's foreign policy and its position on issues from human rights to terrorism and atomic issue. Let's remember that a fundamentalist group working in a modern European society or in the U.S. cannot work the same way it can work in a backward Asian or African country. And Iran as a society has been a lot more advanced than many other countries in the Middle East. If Islamic Republic had come to power in Saudi Arabia or in Pakistan, it might have been able to act like Taliban a lot easier, without much flexibility or pragmatism.
Now understanding the above fact shows that hopes of changing behavior by IRI are pretty much limited. This is what the Iranian pro-democracy activists have known for a long time and they know that IRI's ideology and constitution are the basis of the real behavior of IRI, where the violations of human rights such as the killing of morteds, are not *unconstitutional* and the only reason for pragmatism and concessions of IRI is the strength of pre-IRI modern institutions and modern social behaviors that have still remained in Iran. IRI has tried very hard to destroy modern attitudes of the youth, and to force the modern institutions like schools and universities to retrogression, from its first days of coming to power, as cultural revolution, but it is not that easy to turn back the wheel of history. This is why the best obstacle to reactionary governments that have come to power in any society in the world has always been the reach and depth of the modern institutions and the modern social behaviors instilled in the populace, prior to such governments taking power.
Keeping the above in mind, it is obvious that until this theocratic regime in Iran changes, there is no basis to be hopeful for any fundamental change in the action of Iran's government, internally or externally, and the real rulers of Iran are the petrified ayatollahs who run the shorAye negahbAn, shorAye maslehat, majles khobregAn, valie faghih office, parliament, judiciary, and the other theocratic institutions of Iran. IRI's terrorism and violation of human rights are the result of this reality, because this government is trying to push the society backwards, and to deal with the resistance by pre-existing modern institutions and behaviours, it has to suppress them both internally and externally. Wherever it cannot easily use its police and guards, it has to resort to terrorism. If even this government is overthrown, its remnants will do more terrorist activities and throwing acid to women's face because they will no longer have the regular police and army to do the job for them and again it will be the modern thinking individuals and institutions, inside and outside Iran, that will have to resist their violence. This is what we are witnessing in Afghanistan after the Taliban lost their hold on the government. They are back to resorting to terrorism to attack the modern individuals and modern institutions like the schools.
The fact remains that the only force to counter IRI are the pre-existing modern institutions of Iran such as the remainder of the secular educational and scientific institutions and the forward-thinking individuals inside and outside Iran. A military attack will not solve the problem. Even in Afghanistan and Iraq the reality is that finally it is the internal forces that are facing the task of fighting the attacks of Taliban and Al Qaida, and to the degree that modern thinking individuals and institutions in those societies are empowered to do this, the goal will be achieved. In Iran, there is even a stronger resentment for foreign interference than Iraq or Afghanistan. The reason is not just the 1953 CIA coup. Iran is among a few countries in Asia that has never been colonialized. The same way that only two countries were never colonialized in Africa, etc. This peculiarity makes it more imperative that ending IRI has to be done by Iranian people ourselves, as I have extensively discussed on many occasions.
Beside military option that is not viable in Iran and will backfire by turning the progressive forces of Iran against the West, even sanctions will not work in Iran [http://www.ghandchi.com/319-IRISanctionsEng.htm] because Iranian opposition has never liked it. One cannot think that Iranians will be like Soviet dissidents. Soviet dissidents had no problem with sanctions against the Soviet Union and many of them even had no problem to work for CIA. Iranians look down on such relations. Iranian in the U.S. would work in the U.S. for non-binding corporate or government jobs but they frown on those who are considered agents of US. This is all the result of long history of resistance to colonialism that even in the highest offices of Iranian government, all thru the ages, this had been a motto. It is interesting that when Reza Shah fell from power, in 1941, those in the high echelons of power in Iran, who were *not* necessarily Iranian nationalists, were careful to make a kind of deal with the Allies which presupposed Iran's *independence*, and even this was their number one priority in any negotiations they had with the Allies, because they knew how critical the issue of independence is to Iranians.
Thus although some smart sanctions against IRI officials' foreign holdings and travel, is welcome by Iranians, but anything more than that, will be frowned upon by Iranians. But the sad reality is that such smart sanctions will not do much to the IRI situation, as both IRI and the West know well, because any sanctions, short of sanction on oil, which is *not* welcome by Iranians, will not really have much impact on IRI. So just like the military action, sanctions will not be a solution to the dilemma of what to do with IRI.
Then the question is rightly asked by many Americans that what do Iranian pro-democracy people want from the West when we keep asking for the support of the West. We all know spiritual support to condemn IRI and its violations of human rights has been done so much to the level of some states even openly saying Iranian people are the hostage of the clerical regime, so what more can be said? At the time of the Shah, Iranian activists needed to do so much work of petitioning and demonstrations in the West, to get the Western states to do even a simple condemnation of human rights violations in Iran, but today all that is already done by those states without much efforts by Iranian activists. So the Western democracies rightly ask Iranian pro-democracy activists what else do we want from them?
In fact the West even asks surprisingly what else do Iranians want in support, especially when they see a financial help of $75 million to for Iranian democratic forces was proposed by the U.S. and many Iranian opposition groups and well-known Iranian political personalities, actually condemned receiving such assistance from the U.S. Nonetheless, the reality is that the biggest help the Western democracies can give the Iranian opposition *is* financial help, but Iranian political groups will not accept such help from any specific government, because that is viewed as some kind of dependence for the recipients, as I explained above, even when there are no strings attached. The way to make such assistance available to Iranian opposition would be by setting up an INTERNATIONAL PRO-DEMOCRACY FUND FOR IRAN managed by people like Vaclav Havel and Lech Walesa so that on one hand it would not have any bias of being associated with any particular Iranian opposition group, and on the other hand it would not be associated with any particular government with interests in Iran and the oil. In a way the entity to be something like the Nobel Committee, where no Iranian has any problem to receive assistance from it.
An assistance in the above form can help Iranian opposition a lot. Just look at Shirin Ebadi. Ever since she received her Nobel Prize, she has been able to do her activities many-fold, whether one agrees with what she does or not [http://www.ghandchi.com/308-IslamicDemocracyEng.htm], but the prize certainly has helped to boost her work. Other opposition groups and individuals have mostly been working in extremely tough financial conditions all these years. Especially the constituency of opposition abroad, contrary to the time of the Shah, is not well-to-do students studying abroad, but are poor refugees who themselves are not in a situation to be much of financial help to the movement. And those Iranians who are rich or have made it well abroad, even when they talk a lot of not liking IRI, basically after the experience of 1979 Revolution, avoid involvement with political action, and in case they make financial contributions, they do it to non-political charities that are mostly not even Iran-related.
All these years, individuals like myself who do not want to accept any money from a foreign government for my activities, have had it really hard all these years, relied on doing technical and journalistic jobs while being a fulltime activist, and had to sell my house and increasingly put financial pressure on my family an myself to continue. There is all this talk that Western democracies want to help Iranian pro-democracy movement but Iranians who *are* putting all their efforts in that movement, and *are* living inside these Western democracies, are at the point of breaking their back, when those who have compromised with IRI are able to do fine, because the Western democracies do not understand the reality of Iranian pro-democracy movement and its ethos. The reality is that until an international fund is created to help the independent pro-democracy Iranian individuals and groups, our lives will be heavily impacted by the finances of Islamic Republic, which is able to give proper support to its agents and lobbyists, and all the talk of the West about Iran's pro-democracy movement, at the end, will only be much ado for nothing.
Iranian dissidents will not compromise about being independence-minded and those who do, will lose credibility. West needs to come to terms with our mindset if they really want to help the change in Iran, and in the Middle East, or else not only the secular Iranians, but Middle East and the whole world at large will be defenseless in front of the onslaught of the Islamists worldwide. The way to end terrorism is to support secularism, democracy and futurism for Iran [http://www.ghandchi.com/500-FuturistIranEng.htm]. It is time to form an INTERNATIONAL PRO-DEMOCRACY FUND FOR IRAN as soon as possible. I hope the US and Europe to spend some time and efforts to make this a reality, as it may bear more fruits for the success of secularism and democracy in Iran than all the carrots and sticks with the IRI.
Hoping for a Federal, Democratic, and Secular Futurist Republic in Iran,
Sam Ghandchi, Editor/Publisher
June 10, 2006
Text in Persian