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Jewish World Review Nov. 22, 2002 / 17 Kislev, 5763

Michael Ledeen

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The Blind Leading the Blind: The New York Times and the Iranian crisis. | There are none so blind as those who will not see, and the New York Times refuses to see what is going on in Iran. Just two days ago, as protests spread from college campuses into the streets of all major Iranian cities, the newspaper's editorialists bloviated "Iran's pro-reform bravely pushing back," and then pretended that the massive demonstrations were simply aimed at a "redress (of) the balance between the popularly elected government and the self-appointed religious establishment," mainly through restraining "judicial extremism" and "religious extremists." The Times ended by calling on parliament to pass two reform bills. Get it? We have our Ashcroft, and they have theirs.

The students now risking their lives in Iran are not calling for new legislation; they are demanding an end to the regime of the Islamic republic. Each time the thugs of the regime charge onto University land, the students chant "Death to the Taliban, in Kabul and Tehran," not "pass the laws, pass the laws." And as the demonstrations have grown larger, from old women marching in Tehran to workers striking in several cities around the country, they repeatedly demand a national referendum on the entire political system.

The demonstrators don't want reform at all; they want revolution, and the frightful violence with which the regime is responding shows that the Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei, fully understands the situation, despite his widely rumored recourse to abundant quantities of opium to keep his spirits up. He sees his authority under lethal assault, and not just from young students. On the 12th of November, for example, a 21-year-old man was hung from a crane in the holy city of Qom - the stronghold of the country's religious authorities - and the body was left in public view for a full ten hours. It was the first time in years that such a thing had happened, and was clearly intended as a warning to the religious leaders of Qom, many of whom have been openly critical of the regime.

The tempo of public executions is increasing daily, along with brutal beatings, mass arrests, and other forms of intimidation, suggesting that this regime is prepared to kill anyone who stands in its way. But there are also signs that the mullahs' will to power may be beginning to weaken.

The catalyst for the latest demonstrations was the remarkable sentence handed down in Western Iran against a history teacher named Hashem Agajari. He received a death sentence, a prison sentence, and a sentence to 74 lashes, a punishment so preposterous that it made the judiciary a laughingstock. In the face of the protests, Khamenei suggested that the sentence might be reconsidered if Agajari appealed the decision.

It was the first time the regime had blinked under pressure, and Agajari refused to give them a convenient way out: He will not appeal. They will have to make their own decisions. He will die rather than ask that his sentence be reconsidered.

Days after the protests swept the country, our secretary of state, who had been shamefully silent about the evils of the Iranian regime, quietly bemoaned the refusal of the mullahs to listen to the voice of their people, and expressed the hope that relations between the two countries might improve if the regime were more responsive to the people's wishes. Powell's words were reiterated on Wednesday by departmental spokesman Philip Reeker, who noted that the Iranian people "are sending a message that they're looking for a change in the way they're being governed, and an opportunity for a different or a better life."

An understatement worthy of the New York Times.

Meanwhile, the administration has decided that it's time to junk the Farsi-language broadcasts of the Voice of America, and it's going to be replaced with something called "Radio Tomorrow," featuring popular music interspersed with occasional news items. One cannot imagine more unfortunate timing. We should be increasing our substantive broadcasting to Iran, not diminishing it. And we should support the Iranian people in their desperate struggle for freedom.

National Security Adviser Rice has spoken of a democratic transformation of the Muslim Middle East. Iran is the key country in the region, and it is bubbling with democratic desire, but this administration is responding with carefully chosen diplobabble and resolutely refuses to engage in the real battle. To what end her excellent words, if she cannot get serious action out of her colleagues?

The war against the terror masters - of whom the most-lethal govern the Islamic Republic of Iran - is a war against tyranny, a revolutionary war whose main component should be political. President Bush understands this, but he has so far failed to insist that his administration take concrete steps to accomplish it.

We are gearing up for a military campaign against Iraq, which, even if it is necessary is only a part of the strategy for the broad war in which we are engaged. Iran can be liberated without firing a shot, dropping a bomb, or risking the lives of American soldiers. It is everything this country should stand for, even without the background of September 11 and the constant threat of renewed terrorist attacks against us and our allies.

Faster, please. A free Iran will change the world.

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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.


11/13/02: The Temperature Rises: We should liberate Iran first --- now
11/05/02: End of the Road: Iran's Mohammed Khatami, on his way out
10/29/02: The Angleton Dialogues, Contnued: What George Tenet doesn’t know
10/24/02: The Iranian Comedy Hour: In the U.S., the silence continues
10/16/02: Sniper, Saboteur, or Sleeper? Channeling James Jesus Angleton
10/01/02: The real foe
09/27/02: The Iranian String Quartet: The mullahs get increasingly nervous
09/25/02: The Dubya Doctrine
09/23/02: Intelligence? What intelligence?
09/12/02: America's revenge: To turn tyrannies into democracies
09/10/02: Iran & Afghanistan & Us: We'll have to deal with the mullahcracy, sooner or later
09/04/02: Iran, according to the Times: All the nonsense that's fit to print
08/21/02: Life and death of Abu Nidal tells us a great deal about our enemies
08/08/02: Can You Keep a Secret?: The media silence on Iran
08/06/02: Fantasy Reporting: The latest disinformation from the Washington Post
08/02/02: Propping Up the Terror Masters: Europe's Solana on tour
07/16/02: Bush vs. the Mullahs: Getting on the side of the Iranian freedom fighters
07/12/02: The State Department Goes Mute: It's official: State has no message
07/09/02: History being made, but the West appears clueless
06/05/02: Is George Tenet endangering peace in Israel?
06/03/02: Ridiculous, even for a journalist
05/20/02: So how come nobody's been fired yet?
05/14/02: Open doors for thugs
04/20/02: Iran on the Brink … and the U.S. does nothing
04/16/02: It’s the war, stupid … someone remind Colin Powell
04/08/02: Gulled: In the Middle East, Arafat doesn't matter
04/02/02: Faster, Please: The war falters
03/26/02: The Revolution Continues: What's brewing in Iran
03/18/02: Iran simmers still: Where's the press?
03/05/02: We can't lose any more ground in Iran
02/14/02: The Great Iranian Hoax
02/12/02: Unnoticed Bombshell: Key information in a new book
01/31/02: The truth behind the Powell play
01/29/02: My past with "Johnny Jihad's" lawyer
01/21/02: It's Munich, all over again
01/08/02: What's the Holdup?: It's time for the next battles in the war against terrorism
12/11/01: We must be imperious, ruthless, and relentless
12/06/01: Remembering my family friend, Walt Disney
11/28/01: The Barbara Olson Bomb: Understanding the war
11/13/01: How We're Doing: The Angleton Files, IV
11/06/01: A great revolutionary war is coming
10/25/01: How to talk to a terrorist
10/23/01: Creative Reporting: Learning to appreciate press briefings
10/19/01: Not the Emmys: A Beltway award presentation
10/15/01: Rediscovering American character
10/11/01: Somehow, I've missed Arafat's praise of the first stage of our war on terrorism
10/04/01: What do we not know?
09/28/01: Machiavelli On Our War: Some advice for our leaders
09/25/01: No Room for the U.N.: Keeping Annan & co. out of the picture
09/21/01: Creative destruction
09/14/01: Who Killed Barbara Olson?
08/22/01: How Israel will win this war
08/15/01: Bracing for war
08/09/01: More Dithering Democrats
08/02/01: Delirious Dems
07/31/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit, cont'd
07/19/01: Be careful what you wish for
07/17/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit
07/05/01: Let Slobo Go
05/30/01: Anybody out there afraid of the Republicans?
05/09/01: The bad guys to the rescue
05/07/01: Bye-bye, Blumenthal
04/20/01: Handling China
04/11/01: EXAM TIME!
04/05/01: Chinese over-water torture
03/27/01: Fighting AIDS in Africa is a losing proposition
03/14/01: Big Bird, Oscar, and other threats
03/09/01: Time for a good, old-fashioned purge
03/06/01: Powell’s great (mis)adventure
02/26/01: The Clinton Sopranos
02/20/01: Unity Schmoonity: Sharon is defying the will of the people
01/30/01: The Rest of the Rich Story
01/22/01: Ashcroft the Jew
01/11/01: A fitting close to the Clinton years
12/26/00: Continuing Clinton's shameful legacy
12/21/00: Clinton’s gift for Bush

© 2001, Michael Ledeen