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Jewish World Review May 15, 2003 / 13 Iyar, 5763

Michael Ledeen

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Iran's Path: Stopping the mullahs in their tracks | The most reliable guide to the state of affairs in Iran is the regime itself, and the regime is clearly terrified at the signs that the Iranian people want liberation, American-style. A Le Monde correspondent in Tehran, writing in late April, quoted Iranians who were frustrated when the Marines stopped at the border, and described the people as eager for "a change of the regime with the help of the American Marines." A key adviser to President Mohammed Khatami confessed that "if one admits that the Iraqis are delighted with Saddam Hussein's end, one must also think about the possibility that maybe the Iranians would celebrate at the end of the Islamic Republic as well." Similar evidence about the Iranians' desire for freedom comes from the Canadian magazine Macleans in an article expressively entitled "Longing for America."

For the past five years many Iranians, and an embarrassingly large number of foreign diplomats and other observers, convinced themselves that Iran could accomplish a peaceful transition to democracy by changing the system from within. But no reforms have been accomplished, the clerical fascists who sit atop the Islamic Republic still make all the key decisions (and control the country's considerable wealth, often to their personal benefit), and the people no longer take reform seriously. In municipal elections in February, a mere twelve percent of eligible voters showed up at the polls, in a massive expression of no confidence in the reformists. On May 7, 153 deputies (out of 290) said the country was in a "critical situation," because the people had concluded that their votes were meaningless. And in recent days, more than a dozen deputies have resigned, only to be indicted by the Islamic tribunals for attempting to sabotage the system.

As the people's hatred of the regime becomes ever clearer, the leaders of the dreaded Revolutionary Guards issued a series of warnings to the people and to members of parliament. Ayatollah Movahedi Kermani, the Supreme Leader's representative to the Revolutionary Guards, snarled that "The (Guards) must control the action of the (parliament). They must know if (the deputies) are with the leader or against him."

Faced with American forces and expanding freedoms in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the mullahs have decided to go all-out to drive the United States out of Iraq, and convert that country into an Islamic Republic. To that end, no less than four Arabic-language radio stations have been set up, hundreds of Iranian-trained mullahs have been sent into Iraq's major mosques, and thousands of terrorists are operating under the command of top Iranian officers, including Sartip Pasdar Jafari, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards ground forces and its intelligence organization. Other top RG officers include Hamid Taqavi, from the intelligence headquarters in Qom, and Sartip Pasdar Seifollahi, the commander of the Nasr headquarters in Tehran. They have set up operational centers in Basra, Nassiriyah, Najaf, Khanaqin, al-Kut, and al-Amarah. They are all using cover names, and are dressed as Arabs and Kurds. All are well armed with machine guns, RPGs, and light weapons. They aim to turn Iraq into a "second Lebanon," hoping to repeat the rout of American forces in the 1980s after a series of terrorist attacks, kidnappings, and mass demonstrations.

Two early operations give a sense of Iran's priorities in Iraq - the domination of the majority Shiite community. The assassination of Imam Khoei at Najaf in the late stages of the war was a clear signal to Iraqi religious leaders who preached the traditional Shiite doctrine that holy men should stay out of politics, and mosque and state should be separate. Khoei was interviewed by Iranian radio an hour before he was killed, in order to be sure the assassins knew where he was. And then thugs from Iran's Badr Corps - the armed wing of the Supreme Islamic Revolutionary Council for Iraq whose leader, Ayatollah Hakim, just returned from 20 years in Tehran - surrounded the house of Ayatollah Sistani in Najaf. Sistani is from the same mold as Khoei.

Meanwhile, back in Iran, the repression continues. All draft deferments have been cancelled, in order to bring more young men under military discipline. The judiciary has created a special group to crack down on Internet use and shut down local sites. According to the student-news service, ISNA, special attention is being paid to Internet sites that make fun of religious and political leaders, and already one blogger in Tehran has been arrested. Reporters Without Frontiers has good reason to call Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei the leading violator of press freedom in the world.

Many Iran watchers believe that it is only a matter of time before the Iranian people rise up against their oppressors, and it could well begin on July 9, the date set by the student movement for a national strike against the regime. For the first time, the students have appealed to the Iranian diaspora for help, especially the very wealthy Iranian-American community in southern California.

One might think that all this would encourage the American government to find ways to support the impending democratic revolution in Iran, and there are many modest steps that would produce great gains for the anti-regime forces. There are several excellent radio and TV stations in California that broadcast directly into Iran. Due to limited resources, they are only on the air for a few hours a day. The Bush administration could accomplish a lot with a small investment in these broadcasters, who have many millions of Iranian listeners and viewers, and whose words carry an authority and an intimacy that no official U.S. broadcaster can hope to match. But so far, the administration has not done anything to support them.

Even without any active support, the administration could do a lot simply by vigorously enunciating our Iran policy as the president - six times since September 11 - has done. Last week, in his South Carolina speech, he remarked that "in the face of harsh repression, Iranians are courageously speaking out for democracy and the rule of law and human rights. And the United States strongly supports their aspirations for freedom." Yet a few weeks earlier, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage proclaimed Iran "a democracy," and the debate over the final wording of the long-delayed NSPD on Iran is still ongoing. It is past time for the president to insist that Condoleezza Rice's National Security Council produce a clear Iran policy that enables us to help the cause of freedom in Iran, and thereby strike a major blow against terrorism (the State Department's annual report on state sponsors of terror once again put Iran at the top of the list). To his great credit, Kansas Senator Sam Brownback (R.) is introducing legislation putting Congress on record in support of the liberation of Iran.

In so doing, the administration should be careful not to take sides. There are many Iranian political groups, ranging from constitutional monarchists to republicans. Some are religious, most are not (most Iranians have had their fill of mullahs for at least a generation). We should have no dog in this fight; it is up to the Iranian people to decide upon their form of government and their future leaders. But we most certainly have a compelling interest in the democratization of Iran. Without it, our enterprise in Iraq will be constantly threatened, and international terror including Iranian-guided Palestinian terror) will retain its most ferocious and lethal supporter. With it, the Middle East will take a giant step toward freedom.

Finally, looming over the entire issue, is the Iranian crash program to acquire nuclear weapons. A couple of months ago an Iranian team flew to China and traveled on the ground to North Korea, where the mullahs offered Kim Jong-il billions of dollars for nuclear weapons and technology. Shortly thereafter, top leaders of the Revolutionary Guards were informed by the National Security Council that Iran would "soon" have nuclear weapons.

One of the two Middle Eastern pillars of the Axis of Evil has fallen; are we prepared to cope with the other?

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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.


05/13/03: The Nuclear Axis of Evil: The people solution
05/08/03: Inside the Dark: Applebaum's ‘Gulag’
05/06/03: Tough Guy: Powell's curious priority list
05/01/03: Desert Shame Redux: Want a free Iran and a free Syria? We have to fight for it
04/25/03: Timing Is Everything: We have a narrow window in Iraq to win Shiite support
04/15/03: Political war can remove terror masters in Syria and Iran
04/07/03: The Others: We have miles to go in eliminating the Axis
04/02/03: French Lies: Take the foreign minister at his word
03/31/03: Why muzzle Saddam's foes?
03/28/03: The post-war terror threat
03/26/03: All Fronts: Military war, political war, psychological war
03/24/03: More Bad News for Daschle: Taking out terror of all nationalities
03/21/03: The Killer Pneu: Virus terror from China
03/13/03: Iran: Nuclear suicide bombers?
03/11/03: A Theory: What if there's method to the Franco-German madness?
03/05/03: The Iranian-Election Revolt: The people speak. The West won't listen
02/19/03: The willful blindness of those who will not see
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