Amir Taheri on regimechange in Iran

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Amir Taheri, a noted expert on Iranian affairs, has written a superb article for Commentary magazine regarding the possibilities of regime change in Iran. He is skeptical toward those who have called for engagement with the regime.

Historically, when diplomatic efforts are extended to dictatorial regimes such efforts have led to concessions that are pocketed, are considered as signs of weakness, and lead to further extremism on the part of these regimes. Moderates that might oppose these regimes from within are demoralized and weakened, since they feel they have no strong allies outside the nation to help them.

Taheri points out the long history of American and Western efforts to diplomatically engage the Iranian regime and how these have been manipulated and ultimately rejected by the Iranians. He  then lays out why the regime is now seen as illegitimate:

* The coalition of forces that brought down the Shah can no longer be relied upon and now have either been driven into exile or have become active opponents of the regime;

*The "elections" and "referenda" that provide  a patina democracy are now perceived as being rigged—embittering the populace;

* Iranians at one time believed  that the regime was dedicated to "social justice" and would bring about the end of poverty. This has been an empty promise. As Taheri notes,

[T]oday, more than 40 percent of Iran's 70 million people live below the poverty line, compared with 27 percent before the Khomeinists seized power. In 1977, Iran's GDP per head per annum was the same as Spain's. Today, Spain's GDP is four times higher than Iran's in real dollar terms. As the gap between rich and poor has widened to an unprecedented degree, the corruption of the ruling mullahs, and their ostentatious way of life, have made a mockery of slogans like 'Islamic solidarity.'

He then points out some dynamics within Iran that may offer hope for those wishing for regime change:

* Signs are emerging of major splits within the regime. Former Khomeinists have distanced themselves from the regime;

* Alternative sources of moral authority are emerging (including religious leaders in Iraq who tend to resist religious involvement in running of governments);

* Iranian leaders  outside the ruling clique abhor the regime. These include intellectuals, trade union leaders, clerics, feminists, and students;

*  In the last two years, the value of the Iranian currency has plummeted, unemployment has soared, inflation is skyrocketing, businesses are failing, and ethnic unrest is roiling the nation. He concludes that the time is right since "

He concludes that the time is right since:

A more robust and coordinated American posture on the economic, diplomatic, political, and moral fronts would create forceful pressure on the current leadership and inspire new courage in its opponents. There is no denying that the mechanics of regime change are a delicate and often highly chancy matter, and that the historical record offers examples of failure as well as of success. But there is also no denying that the game is worth the candle. Accelerating the collapse and replacement of this aberrant tyranny, a curse to the Iranian people and to the world, will strike a blow against anti—Western and anti—democratic forces all over the globe, safeguard America's strategic interests in the Middle East and beyond, and add another radiant page to the almanac of American support for the cause of freedom.

The entire essay is well—worth reading.

Ed Lasky  11 3 06

Amir Taheri, a noted expert on Iranian affairs, has written a superb article for Commentary magazine regarding the possibilities of regime change in Iran. He is skeptical toward those who have called for engagement with the regime.

Historically, when diplomatic efforts are extended to dictatorial regimes such efforts have led to concessions that are pocketed, are considered as signs of weakness, and lead to further extremism on the part of these regimes. Moderates that might oppose these regimes from within are demoralized and weakened, since they feel they have no strong allies outside the nation to help them.

Taheri points out the long history of American and Western efforts to diplomatically engage the Iranian regime and how these have been manipulated and ultimately rejected by the Iranians. He  then lays out why the regime is now seen as illegitimate:

* The coalition of forces that brought down the Shah can no longer be relied upon and now have either been driven into exile or have become active opponents of the regime;

*The "elections" and "referenda" that provide  a patina democracy are now perceived as being rigged—embittering the populace;

* Iranians at one time believed  that the regime was dedicated to "social justice" and would bring about the end of poverty. This has been an empty promise. As Taheri notes,

[T]oday, more than 40 percent of Iran's 70 million people live below the poverty line, compared with 27 percent before the Khomeinists seized power. In 1977, Iran's GDP per head per annum was the same as Spain's. Today, Spain's GDP is four times higher than Iran's in real dollar terms. As the gap between rich and poor has widened to an unprecedented degree, the corruption of the ruling mullahs, and their ostentatious way of life, have made a mockery of slogans like 'Islamic solidarity.'

He then points out some dynamics within Iran that may offer hope for those wishing for regime change:

* Signs are emerging of major splits within the regime. Former Khomeinists have distanced themselves from the regime;

* Alternative sources of moral authority are emerging (including religious leaders in Iraq who tend to resist religious involvement in running of governments);

* Iranian leaders  outside the ruling clique abhor the regime. These include intellectuals, trade union leaders, clerics, feminists, and students;

*  In the last two years, the value of the Iranian currency has plummeted, unemployment has soared, inflation is skyrocketing, businesses are failing, and ethnic unrest is roiling the nation. He concludes that the time is right since "

He concludes that the time is right since:

A more robust and coordinated American posture on the economic, diplomatic, political, and moral fronts would create forceful pressure on the current leadership and inspire new courage in its opponents. There is no denying that the mechanics of regime change are a delicate and often highly chancy matter, and that the historical record offers examples of failure as well as of success. But there is also no denying that the game is worth the candle. Accelerating the collapse and replacement of this aberrant tyranny, a curse to the Iranian people and to the world, will strike a blow against anti—Western and anti—democratic forces all over the globe, safeguard America's strategic interests in the Middle East and beyond, and add another radiant page to the almanac of American support for the cause of freedom.

The entire essay is well—worth reading.

Ed Lasky  11 3 06