Jewish World Review June 24, 2003 / 24 Sivan, 5763
Iran: Back the freedom fighters
Win or lose, democratic revolution has broken out in Iran. Even the fragmentary reports from journalists operating under tight regime control in very limited areas of the country show that the mass demonstrations now involve all classes and regions. This is no longer purely or even primarily a "student" movement, as it has been for the past four years -- although many of its leaders come from student ranks. People of all ages, from all walks of life, in every major city in the country, have taken to the streets every night for more than a week to demand an end to the Islamic Republic and the free election of a secular, democratic government.
For several years, many people have held out hope that the mullahs would be willing to have their absolute powers limited by a process of gradual, evolutionary reform, the symbol of which was the popularly elected president, Mohammad Khatami. But Khatami failed, and has become the Kerensky of the Iranian revolution. His day has passed, and the battle now is between the doubly old regime (both in tenure in office and geriatric status) and the people. The people no longer clamor for reform. They want freedom, now.
I believe we are at the beginning of the end of the mullahcracy that has oppressed and robbed the Iranian people and supported violent terrorists, from Hezbollah to Islamic Jihad, from Hamas to al Qaeda, all over the world. The demonstrators know that if they stop their struggle, they will be killed or tortured for years. The leaders of the regime fear a similar fate -- although I suspect the Iranian people would be delighted simply to be rid of them, without demanding the sort of punishment they deserve -- and are unlikely to go quietly.
Support for democratic revolution comes naturally to Americans, and we all thrill at the spectacle of brave people challenging corrupt tyrants in the name of freedom. Yet a surprising number of commentators and policymakers are fighting against the prospect of open American support for the Iranian revolutionaries. Their most recent argument is that open approval and, worse still, modest material support from the United States would somehow tarnish the purity of the Iranian uprising and even prove counterproductive.
This sort of argument is not new; we have heard it whenever we have had a president brave enough to speak the truth to tyranny. We were told that it would be counterproductive to denounce the gulag system and support the Soviet dissidents, that the Jackson-Vanik law (linking trade with the Soviet Union to freedom to emigrate for Soviet Jews) would be counterproductive, and that we must at all costs refrain from calling for greater human rights in the People's Republic of China. Yet every time another tyrant falls, his surviving victims invariably tell us that our words of support gave hope and strength to the freedom fighters and weakened the resolve of their oppressors. Bukovsky, Sharansky, Ginsburg, Walesa and Havel know the power of American support, as do Gorbachev, Jaruzelski, Milosevic and Marcos.
Crafty silence is simply another way to appease tyranny, and a tactical retreat in our life-and-death war against the terror masters. Those who are fighting against support for the Iranian revolutionaries have it exactly backward. The silence they advocate would be a demoralizing blow to the Iranian people, and to our democratic soul. President Bush has advanced our interests and our honor by condemning the wicked regime in Tehran and hailing the courage and sacrifice of the Iranian freedom fighters. His critics in and outside the government should be ashamed of their cowardice and betrayal of our best instincts and traditions.
Finally, there is the broader strategic imperative: We are now engaged in a regional struggle in the Middle East, and the Iranian tyrants are the keystone of the terror network. Far more than the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the defeat of the mullahcracy and the triumph of freedom in Tehran would be a truly historic event and an enormous blow to the terrorists.
Morally and strategically, the Iranian people deserve our support. Instead of looking for excuses to appease the terror masters, we should now devote our considerable energies and imagination to hastening the success of the Iranian revolution.
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JWR contributor Michael Ledeen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of, most recently, ""The War Against the Terror Masters," Comment by clicking here.
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© 2001, Michael Ledeen