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Jewish World Review Feb. 19, 2003 / 17 Adar I, 5763

Michael Ledeen

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The willful blindness of those who will not see | Iran holds all the records for sponsoring, harboring, fostering, and launching terrorism. It tops the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism, and it richly deserves its gold medal. When the Ayatollah Khomeini toppled the shah in 1979, he already had a terrorist organization in place: the Revolutionary Guards, who had been trained by the Middle East's master terrorist, Yasser Arafat. From that solid base, Iranian-sponsored terrorism metastasized, and now includes most all the leading elements of the terrorist galaxy, from Islamic Jihad to Hamas, al Qaeda, and, of course, Hezbollah, the worst of them all, and a direct creation of the Iranian regime itself.

There is no dispute over Iran's preeminent role, even among those experts who shrink from its consequences. Yet Western governments, even the Bush administration, have steadfastly refused to do the one thing that the facts demand: design and conduct a policy to help the Iranian people fulfill their desire for freedom, and bring down the murderous regime in Tehran. Unlike the war against Iraq, it doesn't require bombs or bullets, only the usual kind of financial and moral support we have given to so many freedom fighters in the past.

No one even wants to think about it. Indeed, the European Union has been busily trying to normalize trade relations with Iran, and its "foreign minister," Chris Patten, recently made warm gurgly sounds after meeting with Iranian parliamentarians who regaled him with stories of good government in the Islamic Republic. Or so he thought; in reality he was talking to imposters pretending to be elected deputies, and they had a god laugh afterwards at the gullibility of their celebrated interlocutor.

The United States is not free of similar impulses to appease the mullahs, and the Department of State is, of course, the headquarters for those who want to have better relations with our prime terrorist enemies. Were it not for President Bush's clear-eyed understanding of the true nature of the Tehran regime, we would no doubt have arranged a détente, in keeping with the vision of Policy Planning Director Richard Haass, who considers appeasing Iran and working out a deal with its tyrants an "historic opportunity." Not even the president's repeated denunciations of the Iranian regime have convinced Haass and such cohorts as Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage, who last Friday inexplicably proclaimed Iran a "democracy." Somebody ought to make him memorize the words of the (appointed) Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei, less than two weeks ago: "Today, those [in Iran] who spread slogans such as reform, liberty, democracy [and] human rights ... are fighting religion." Khamenei termed such ideas "demonic and colonialist."

That a famously tough-minded man like Armitage would buy into the fantastic notion that the Iranian clerical fascist dictatorship is somehow democratic is a breathtaking example of Western leaders' search for reasons to avoid coming to grips with Iran, even though they know they should do everything possible to liberate it. The most common excuse they give for their inaction is their belief that Iran will take care of itself, that the Iranian people - whose contempt for the regime is manifest - will eventually rise up and overthrow the mullahcracy. It's their country, after all, so why should we take the political risks involved?

It's a legitimate question, to which the proper response is another question: Why are the Iranian people less worthy of our support than the Yugoslavs under Milosevic or the Philipinoes under Marcos's two rotten regimes that did not threaten our national security, were not racing hell-bent to develop weapons of mass destruction, and did not harbor Osama bin Laden, his family, and his followers?

The current paralysis is eerily similar to the one that gripped Jimmy Carter's administration in 1979, as the fall of the shah became ever more likely. Then, too, it seemed imperative for us to act. Then, as today, the actions required were political, not military: We should have encouraged the shah to fight for his throne. Instead, we wrapped ourselves in the mantle of political correctness, warned him about the use of violence, insisted that his troops use rubber bullets, demanded that he permit freedom of assembly, and mumbled reassuring words about the Ayatollah Khomeini. Andrew Young remarked that he was, after all, "a religious man."

Then, as today, we told ourselves that it was their country, not ours, that the shah was fully capable of acting, and that he undoubtedly would. Why should we take the political risks involved in vigorously supporting him? In one of those fascinating historical moments when two sides are looking into opposite sides of the same distorted mirror, the shah reasoned that Iran was a major American concern, that if we wished to save him we certainly would, and if we wished him to leave he could not possibly resist. Why should he get his hands dirty by fighting the mobs in the streets? He was overthrown, we suffered a monumental setback, radical jihadism took root, and the Iranian people began 24 years of misery.

No doubt there are some events that occur because great historical forces have been unleashed, and men are powerless to reverse the tide. But these are very rare. For the most part, things happen because leaders and other brave people make them happen. The frightening facts about Iran, the odious nature of its regime, and the brave resistance of the Iranian people all cry out for Western action. While it is possible that the Iranians may eventually rid themselves of their oppressive clerics, it is also possible that the regime will prevail. Repression works, tyrannies endure, and a regime that is willing to kill anyone who challenges it - and the mullahs have not shown any unwillingness to kill, torture, and intimidate - can last a very long time. But both the Iranian people and the mullahs believe that American action would change the balance of power, and liberate the country.

The liberation of Iran would be the greatest imaginable triumph in the war against terrorism, as well as the fulfillment of America's mission to support freedom fighters against their tyrants. As in the war against Iraq, we have already waited far too long to get on with it.

Faster, please!

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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.


02/12/03: The Europeans Know More Than They Now Pretend? They choose to dawdle and obstruct
02/03/03: Monumental failure: Nelson Mandela had promise
01/30/03: Elevation: The president knows what it's all about
01/29/03: No Leader: France's Chirac is all about personal interest
01/28/03: The Axis of Evil Redux: Same place, a year later
01/27/03: The Return of the Ayatollah: Washington could afford a little more attention on Iran
01/13/03: How we could lose
01/09/03: Fish are Better than Women: Gauging U.S. priorities
01/07/03: The Shape of Things to Come: The terror masters are now waiting for us
12/20/02: A Prophecy for the New Year --- Faster, please!
12/16/02: Scud Surrender: The "W" factor
12/13/02: The Heart of Darkness: The mullahs make terror possible
12/12/02: The Real War
12/09/02: Tom Friedman's Reformation: His Iran
11/26/02: How Tyrannies Fall: Opportunity time in Iran
11/22/02: The Blind Leading the Blind: The New York Times and the Iranian crisis
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