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15th June
2009
written by Sean Noble

Iran is in meltdown.  Iran is the new frontlines of democracy and expanding freedom.

Which is it?  For days after the latest election in which Ahmadinejad claimed victory, the Western press largely ignored the budding protests in Iran.  These protests are essentially demonstrations by what we could call the grassroots of Iran saying that their voices have been stifled by an unfair election process. 

It’s also kind of a big deal that the U.S. is officially not recognizing the election of Ahmdinejad.

Here is a link to a youtube video of thousands of people marching through the streets of Tehran.  Here is a series of photos from flickr.  Amazing stuff.  Can you imagine this happening even ten years ago?

This is a direct result of policies of George W. Bush and his vision of spreading democracy across the world.  You can’t tell me that the protests in Tehran and other parts of Iran aren’t part of a growing freedom movement there.  And this will not be the last time we see these kinds of events in countries that have been less than free.

Hopefully, this will provide some clarity to the Obama administration on foreign policy posturing.

One of the best analysis of the situation in Iran is here, on CBS News, by a friend of mine, Ben Domenech.  Here are some excerpts:

There is only one conflict in Iran today, to paraphrase Viktor Yushchenko — and it is between the regime and the people.

You wouldn’t know that from watching the news channels on TV in America today, or from reading sites like CNN World, featuring lonely wire service stories on what’s going on in Tehran. But news and images streamed in all day from Facebook and Twitter with reports from individuals on the ground — reports of students standing up to the onrushing military and police forces, of rocks and fire and tear gas, and even of clerics protesting the election’s result. Taken together, the scene appears to be the most violent protests in Iran in decades.

Many of these reports are unverified, as everything from within the fog of war tends to be. But the images and videos coming through are not. And Agence France Press has reported that at least ten leaders of two Iranian reformist political groups have been arrested. And throughout the day, access to means of communication were restricted.

***

Unfortunately, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s opponent, Mir Hossein Mousavi, is not exactly the paradigm-shifting reformist the Western press has made him out to be. The reason neoconservatives like Daniel Pipes have professed support for the current president is that Ahmadinejad’s extremist statements exposed the blatant radicalism of the Iranian regime, ruled by Spiritual Leader Ali Hoseini Khameini (the president is merely his flunky in Iran’s system of rule). Even if given the presidency, the reform-minded Mousavi will not have any real impact on nuclear policy or other areas that threaten America’s interests in the Middle East.

Yet this does not make him any less important. At the moment, Mousavi has become a symbolic expression of the disenfranchisement of the populace, his victimhood the fuel for a social uprising that resembles in so many ways the Tiananmen student movement whose anniversary the world marked just days ago. Supreme Leader Khameini has officially endorsed the Ahmedinejad victory, meaning that the revolt going on in Iran at this moment is not a revolt within the system, but against it. Mousavi is no longer just another politician, but he has by his actions become an enemy of the Islamic Republic — a republic in name only — and the protesters today have joined with him in this action. This is not the sort of thing that the ruling authorities will forget or forgive. There will be consequences, and they will almost assuredly be bloody.

Secretary of State Clinton has voiced her concerns about the election result, while the White House reiterated its offers of dialogue with the Iranian regime. It is a strikingly disturbing thought that President Obama would do such a thing, in the wake of the events of the past few days — granting legitimacy to the Mad Hatter of Tehran — but this is obviously his decision. Let us hope someone will call the president’s mind to a higher purpose, to catch hold of a moment when his support for freedom has the potential to have a very real impact.

“Any system is inherently unstable that has no peaceful means to legitimize its leaders. In such cases, the very repressiveness of the state ultimately drives people to resist it, if necessary, by force. While we must be cautious about forcing the pace of change, we must not hesitate to declare our ultimate objectives and to take concrete actions to move toward them. We must be staunch in our conviction that freedom is not the sole prerogative of a lucky few but the inalienable and universal right of all human beings.”

Ronald Reagan said it nearly 27 years ago. The world needs to say it today.

Solid stuff.

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11 Comments

  1. Chad
    15/06/2009

    If Obama and the Dems hadn’t spent the last 8 years trashing Bush for bringing democracy to Afganistan and Iraq, he’d have a mighty big stick to wield against the mullahs.

  2. Kenny Jacobs
    15/06/2009

    Interesting opinions about the Bush effect during this current round of Iranian Presidential elections. Question: how do you account for the fact the previous Iranian Pres. election took place AFTER the Jan. 2005 Iraqi election but the Iranians elected Amahdinejad running on the anti-Bush platform?

    Absent empirical evidence, imho, I think Obama’s Cairo speech (and his brand of diplomacy) is more significant to the current situation in Iran. I also think the Iranians (again, absent accurate data) found the ability to reject a failed administration much like we did when Obama beat McCain, if you accept many voters took McCain for the Bush stand-in.

    I remember Pres. Bush trumpeting the success of the 2005 Iraqi elections during the State of the Union address and don’t forget all the US politicians displaying their ink-stained finger. Five months later the Iranians rejected Bush policies by electing Ahmandi.

  3. Kenny Jacobs
    16/06/2009

    Chad, that is just bizarre. But anyway, care to comment on the timeline I detailed or will you be provided only knee-jerk statements? Perhaps you have something to offer on Iran or some context?

  4. swimordie
    16/06/2009

    “Amazing stuff. Can you imagine this happening even ten years ago?

    This is a direct result of policies of George W. Bush and his vision of spreading democracy across the world.”

    Sean, this did happen ten years ago. The student revolt was the beginnings of the freedom movement that was underway in Iran which was completely destroyed when Bush lumped Iran into the “Axis of Evil” speech. Years of progress towards freedom and democracy in Iran were literally destroyed in a few moments by the reckless speech given by Bush. There’s been whole books written about this so… Careful with the partisan view 🙂

  5. Zach
    19/06/2009

    A whole book? Well, if someone took the time to write a book they undoubtedly were completely impartial, objective, and nonpartisan.

  6. Tom
    20/06/2009

    You haven’t provided any evidence at all for your claim that Bush’s policies contributed somehow to the current situation in Iran. Sure, Bush talked about freedom in the Middle East, and wanted to see it happen. So did a lot of other leaders, long before Bush became President. But did Bush really do anything other than talk tough on Iran? We know that the ruling conservatives in Iran used Bush’s actions in other parts of the Middle East and his words to stoke nationalism and strengthen their own hold on power during the last 8 years, so one could easily argue that Bush’s policies actually postponed reforms in Iran.

    On the other hand, there is plenty of solid evidence about what is really behind the current unrest in Iran: For most of the 1990’s and the first half of this decade, Iran was moving in a reformist direction, with more personal liberties. They elected a reformist President (Khatami). The crackdown against reform began not in 2009, but in about 2003. Iran has a history of protest and revolt. They have a fairly well-educated population, a very young population, a population very much interested in reform and personal liberties. This reform movement has been growing for at least 20 years, often overtly, but always bubbling under the surface and growing. Even during Ahmadinejad’s term as President there have been protests.

    So, the real cause of what is going on in Iran today is the 20 year movement towards reform, fueled now by Internet communication which allows those wanting reform to take action and get the word out to other reformers, even in the face of a government crackdown.

  7. John
    20/06/2009

    Actually it happened 30 years ago. It was called the Islamic Revolution and was led by students. Look this issue in Iran has nothing to do with Bush’s “freedom on the march” or “democracy” in Iraq (Incidentally Iraq isn’t a democracy, but I don’t have time to get into that).

    This is a small minority (tens of thousands in a country of tens of millions) that want or thought their guy should have been elected. None of the protesters reject the tenants of Islam, none are calling for a change in Iran’s constitution, none are asking the Imam, the Religious Leader to be removed. The Religious Leader has control of the military, the military backs the state, the state backs the election so what is the logical result here?

    Please read up on the history and politics of the region, and figure out the definition of democracy before you spout off again.

  8. Zach
    22/06/2009

    How do you define democracy? People like Nobel Prize laureate Jose Saramgo claim there is no democracy in the West. Do you share this view, John?

  9. swimordie
    22/06/2009

    Democracy can have various definitions but, in essence, it’s majority rule. Wiki: Democracy is a form of government in which the right to govern is held by the majority of citizens within a country or a state.

    From that definition, there really are very few “true” democracies in the world. This is mostly due to the American experiment. Our representative republican form of government is so successful, most of the Western world has adopted some variation of this.

  10. Zach
    23/06/2009

    So are you saying that the United States is not a democracy?

  11. swimordie
    01/07/2009

    Yes, that’s right. The United States is NOT a democracy. It is a representative republic: every person is sovereign, every state is sovereign and the republic is sovereign. It’s actually ingenious.

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