August 12, 2007
Iran's Restive PopulaceBy Nicole Sadighi
We now have a much better picture of the Iranian people's political attitudes, thanks to a poll sponsored by the Center for the Promotion of Democracy and Human Rights. Popular discontent with the mullahs' rule has created an opportunity for regime change, if we have the wit and the will to exploit it.
This survey has some degree of credibility. The study hired students in Iran to carry out face-to-face interviews, and questioned some 600 people from Tehran, Isfahan, Tabriz, Shiraz and Mahabad, with a gender divide of 320 males and 280 females. A long list of experts, activists, labor union leaders, , lawyers, journalists, women's groups, economists and ethnic minority leaders were consulted in planning it. But as the study itself cautions,
The study does give a reasonably clear picture of the strengths and weaknesses of the Islamic Republic inside Iran. The questions were geared toward issues such as regime change, nuclear development, the possibility of war, and various domestic and international policies.
Division on Nuclear Issues
On the nuclear issue, 78% agreed that Iran should possess nuclear technology and 72% said "Yes" to military nuclear technology. Interestingly however, the sentiment is not shared when asked if the present regime should possess military nuclear technology: 47% answered "No", 46% "Yes", and 7% "Don't know".
A staggering 88% shared the West's belief that the regime wishes to acquire the nuclear bomb. Even the Iranian people aren't buying the regime's assertion that it is only seeking peaceful nuclear energy.
A surprisingly large segment of the sample, 43%, said that they would support military action directed solely at nuclear plants. Only slightly more, 47%, said "No." An even larger percentage, a solid majority of 58%, would support military action for the purpose of regime change., while 39% would not.
A much larger majority of 67% said they would be in support of regime change through a "Velvet Revolution." But only 45% believe a "Velvet Revolution" is possible.
Two thirds of those surveyed said that if they could turn back the clock they would not support the Islamic Revolution!
Before the Islamic revolution of 1979, Iran produced over 6 million barrels of oil per day. Since the gas and oil industry has been politicized, today they are hard pressed to produce fewer than 4 million. In the meantime, the population has doubled in size. Whilst there is economic hardship, high unemployment, gross depreciation of the currency (the Rial) and high inflation, the Revolutionary government is hammering its finances to develop weapons of mass destruction, to fuel violence and thus nourishing all elements of instability for their own survival.
So it comes as no surprise that an overwhelming 92% believe the Islamic Regime's regional role is not a positive one.
Israel and the Jews
Almost two thirds of Iranians (65%) do not believe that President Ahmadinejad is right about the Holocaust and 78% do not agree that Israel should be destroyed. Over half of those interviewed do not advocate the policy of support for Hamas and 61% disagree with the Iranian financing of Hezbollah. Accordingly two-thirds do not consider the Islamic Republic a political system that satisfies the needs of the Iranian people and more significantly a plurality believes that even a "Reformed" Islamic system will not satisfy the needs of the Iranian society.
Europe and America
While over half think that Western Europe will accept a nuclear Islamic Republic, two thirds believe there will be war to stop the Islamic Republic's nuclear activities. A whopping 82% do not believe Europe will participate in such a war.
America's efforts to promote democracy have gone virtually unnoticed. 62% were not aware that the U.S. allocated $75 million to promote democracy, whilst over half admitted to approving the American decision to finance the promotion of democracy in Iran. Again only just over half believed that the West is interested in the promotion of democracy in Iran.
In the past it has often been expressed that in order for there to be any western intervention to provide assistance to the Iranian people in their struggle for regime change, the Iranian people must first express their dissatisfaction.
The CFPD survey was accompanied by an Executive Summery, detailing a breakdown of the specifications. It is very clear that the overall conclusion of the study is especially damning to the Islamic regime and illustrates that the Iranian people do not trust the regime and do not believe in their claims any more than the West does. Iranians are all the more disheartened by the silence of the west.
The one crystal-clear conclusion we can make from this study is how vastly out of touch the outside world really is from the Iranian people. Not only is there a great chasm between the Islamic Regime and the Iranian people, likewise there is a growing gap between the international community and the Iranian people.
Nicole Sadighi is a researcher for the Center for the Promotion of Democracy and Human Rights.