Empowering Iranians to Dislodge the Mullahs

After the fraudulent June 12, 2009 presidential elections in Iran, Iranians poured into the streets by the millions, chanting, "Where is my vote?" The thunderous protests were the birth pangs of the Green Movement. That was six months ago, and the movement has rapidly evolved into a massive force aiming to sweep aside the current regime. Street slogans have changed from "where is my vote?" to "death to the dictator," in direct reference to Ahmadinejad and the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei.

Longstanding slogans vilifying the U.S. and Israel have been drowned out by slogans against the supporters of the Islamic regime, such as Russia and China. The brutal Ahmadinejad-Khamenei gang has its back against the wall. Every major Iranian city, its universities, and many workplaces are festooned with graffiti against the leaders of the regime. The supreme leader, previously presumed above the law of the land, is now loudly proclaimed by the masses as a murderer who has lost the legitimacy of his office. In fact, the very office of the Supreme Guide and the Islamic Republic is soundly rejected by the masses clamoring for an Iranian Republic to replace the Islamic one.

All signs point to an early demise of the Islamic Republic -- and the establishment of a secular democracy completely divorced from Islam.

On December 27, 2009, the day of Ashoura, the world watched in amazement as the masses of brave, fed up people confronted the security forces and hired Basij members of the Islamic Republic and shook its very foundation -- an early indication of the people's determination to bring the mullahcracy to its knees.

It was a day of victory for the people of Iran over the fundamentalists who have had a stranglehold on them for more than three decades. The peaceful protest against the regime by millions throughout the land is a clear signal that the Islamic theocracy is in the midst of an irreversible downfall. The overwhelming majority of the people are no longer willing to settle for a vote recount or a less repressive Islamic rule. They are determined to establish a fully secular democracy with complete separation of mosque and state.

The Islamic Republic's response to the legitimate, peaceful demands of the people has been to implement an iron fist: beatings of the demonstrators (both men and women), arrests, torture and rape in secret compounds, and even shooting in the streets -- the standard stock of dictatorships, but also the surest way of swelling and solidifying the dissenters' ranks.

The recent uprisings of the people are reminiscent of the 1979 revolution that ended the monarchy in Iran. A fragmented state led by brutal yet indecisive men is suddenly faced by a fed up and determined opposition. To be sure, the regime still has all the guns and resources, along with unlimited ruthlessness, to prolong its life. Yet there is no question that the Islamic Republic's demise is a foregone conclusion. It is crumbling from within as well. The previously solid oppressive rule is solid no longer. Deep cracks are popping up in the system and among the contending factions.

Realistically speaking, there is perhaps 10-15 percent of the population that still supports the clerical system to various degrees. Many in this group are government employees, mullahs, and hired elements such as Basiji. Also, the regime has some backers among the poor, the less educated, and the deeply religious. Yet the alienation from the regime spans the entire spectrum of the Iranian society, with the intelligentsia and the university students leading the determined opposition. Ahmadinejad and Ali Khamenei are greatly despised by the overwhelming majority of Iranians. The two and their functionaries are in deep trouble with the masses, who are going to take them to task before very long.

It is noteworthy that the government exercises maximum brutality on the one hand and is forced to retreat in some respects in other areas. For instance, in response to the unrelenting pressure exerted by the people demanding accountability for the post-election atrocities, the government recently admitted to some of the crimes committed in various prisons by charging twelve jailers with torture and the death of prisoners.

This admission is hugely significant. The mullahs are retreating by punishing their own followers in the hope of placating the populace. It is not going to work. Unbeknownst to them, the admission reinforces the determination of the protesters and fuels their fire. It also serves to discourage their own followers from carrying out orders of torture and killing in the future. The perpetrators feel that they may be the next sacrificial lambs for the top echelons.

Another telling indication is the events in Qom during the funeral of the popular dissident Grand Ayatollah Montazeri. In spite of a huge effort by the various security forces to block access to the city, many thousands converged from all parts of Iran to honor him. During this ceremony, tens of thousands chanted slogans such as "death to the dictator" and "Montazeri lives, Khamenei is dead." Most telling was the throngs of people sporting green and using the occasion to express their aversion to the Islamic rule within the precincts of the holy mosque, something unheard-of before. It is a clear signal that the opposition movement is massive and determined, capable of exploiting any opportunity to disempower the regime. These unrelenting demonstrations against the regime are not limited to universities, the traditional bastions of political activism. They are spreading to every segment of the society, and they bode ill for the regime.

The pressure, led by university students and notably women, is not subsiding. Rather, it is gathering more force. Yes, the end of the IRI is definitely coming. It could use a significant nudge from the U.S., Israel, and all others who are willing to bring it down -- not only from a sense of humanitarian altruism, but also from the vantage point of their own best interests.

So far, the mullahs' regime has chosen a containment strategy: releasing Basij militias to beat and intimidate the protesters while arresting many, including a significant number of its former loyalists. Meanwhile, as the regime continues its brutal treatment of the opposition, more and more members of the security forces are resenting their role as oppressors and tormentors of their own people, and they may even look for an opportune time to turn their guns on the regime itself.

The mullahs presently ruling Iran are faced with monumental threats. Internally, the great majority of the populace is against their misrule. Labor unions, teachers associations, student groups, religious and ethnic minorities, journalists, and many others have suffered and continue to suffer inordinate hardship under the heavy-handed mullahs and their frontmen. Externally, they are engaged in brinksmanship with the United States and Israel, while trying to wrestle the mantle of Islamic leadership from the Sunni Saudis and their Wahhabi cabal.

Sadly, President Obama is intent on making deals with the inveterate mullahs, moving along the same treacherous path of his four predecessors who accomplished nothing, other than prolonging the lives of these Islamist miscreants.

The politically on-the-rope mullahs are also facing horrendous economic problems created by their three decades of mismanagement, larceny, neglect of domestic needs, and allocation of funds to Hamas, Hezbollah, Iraqi troublemakers, and the Yemeni insurgency. Inflation, unemployment, and underemployment are fraying the society's financial base. Capital flight is siphoning development funds, and foreign investments are drying up, while the mullahs are relentlessly pursuing the expensive nuclear weapon program.

Further eroding the mullahs' reign is the populace's ever-increasing distrust of the propaganda they receive. It is common to hear the Iranian people say that you can find truth anywhere except in the IRI-controlled media and its mercenaries in the U.S.

A thorny issue of great concern to Israel and the U.S. is the mullahs' gallop to join the nuclear club and use the bomb as a bludgeon over the head of any nation, near or far, that stands in their way. And it is here that some advocate a preemptive action by Israel, the U.S., or both to postpone, if not prevent, the mullahs from achieving their objective.

For example, attacking the Bushehr nuclear facility alone would be a nightmare, releasing radiation into the atmosphere. "To attack Iran's nuclear facilities will not only provoke war, but it could also unleash clouds of radiation far beyond the targets and the borders of Iran," Elias Tuma of the Arab Internet Network told the Federal News Service last March. In addition, it is almost certain that Iran would retaliate by hitting Israel's Dimona nuclear complex.

It is by far more prudent for the U.S., Israel, and all other concerned nations to cooperate on imposing effective and immediate sanctions on the mullahs' regime, even though the unscrupulous Chinese and the devious, duplicitous Russians will not participate, and they might even do what they can to exploit the situation to their own economic advantage.

In my view, it is a bad idea to even think about bombing Iran's nuclear facilities. An Israeli unilateral military action is a horrible idea. Israel will never see peace if it attacks. Why not implement effective sanctions and support the Iranian opposition to disarm and dislodge the mullahs? Why this foolishness of being trigger-happy and shooting from the hip? Let us be realistic. How much success did Israel have in punching into Lebanon nextdoor to crush Hezbollah? All the lives that the Israelis lost failed to achieve the objective of eliminating Hezbollah.

The best strategy, the one that stands the greatest chance of success and entails the least risk of starting a cataclysmic chain reaction, is for a "coalition of the willing," to borrow a phrase, to rally behind the Iranian opposition. It is the democracy-seeking secular Iranians who are thoroughly capable of dislodging the tyrannical mullahs. The call of the opposition should be resoundingly answered by President Obama and all other nations and leaders -- not only for humanitarian reasons, but in furtherance of their own national interests.
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