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.