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Jewish World Review July 2, 2003 / 2 Tamuz, 5763

Michael Ledeen

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Looking Toward July 9: Independence Day in Iran? | The demonstrations that shook Iran for the better part of two weeks have died down, but the aftershocks continue to unnerve the mullahs in the run-up to the general strike called for the 9th of July. Even today, the Shiite storm troopers at the service of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and ex-president Mohammed Hashemi Rafsanjani prowl the campuses and go door to door from one youthful leader to the next, arresting and imprisoning all those believed capable of mobilizing a national uprising against the failed regime.

From this distance it is impossible to predict what will happen in the next ten days, which is another way of saying we do not know the political consequences of the demonstrations. There are those, like Columbia University's Gary Sick, who describe the demonstrators as "a rag-tag bunch" who were merely upset at the prospect of having to pay college tuition. Sick and others of his ilk were not impressed by the repeated calls for an end to the regime, and the remarkable tenacity and courage shown by the demonstrators in the face of the lethal violence unleashed upon them.

The mullahs were more impressed. The government itself now admits to having arrested 4,000 demonstrators, of whom some 800 were students. The student movement says the numbers were even higher, and the actual number could well be upwards of 6-7,000. Many were killed. Iranian websites carry the piteous cries of parents whose college-age children have disappeared without a trace, as well as reports from students who describe being thrown into cells of incredible crowding, and then subjected to psychological and physical humiliations.

Regimes do not react this way to a rag-tag bunch. This is the reaction of a regime that fears its days may be numbered. Look at its own numbers: less than a quarter of those arrested were students. The rest came from other walks of life. In other words, the demonstrations were not restricted to a single sector of Iranian society, but were, for the first time, a truly national protest, both sociologically and geographically. No major city, not even the holy city of Qom, was free of demonstrators. And, perhaps most menacing of all, there were reports of angry confrontations in the oil fields, and rumors of sabotage. I cannot confirm them, but the stories themselves have circulated widely, and are symptomatic of the national mood.

Meanwhile, some of the things I have been reporting and predicting for more than a year have been confirmed by the regime in recent days. The most interesting of these is the admission that al Qaeda leaders have been in Iran for some time. Of course, the mullahs do not say it that way. They suddenly announce that they have arrested hundreds of al Qaeda terrorists, refuse to identify any of them, but promise that if any of them are identified they will be sent back to their country of origin.

This is rather like the old joke of the woman accused of stealing a neighbor's pot. "I never took it," she protests. "And anyway it was a very old pot," she continues, "and I gave it back in better condition than I found it," she concludes. Thus the Iranians, who first denied there were any al Qaeda personnel in Iran, then claimed they were in fact in jail, and then promised to return them (with the usual provisos that would protect any Egyptians - like Osama's right-hand man, Zawahiri - from extradition).

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And in Iraq, the mullahs' offensive continues unabated, to the apparent indifference of the leaders of the Bush administration. The newspapers are full of stories about Iran-based religious fanatics calling for an uprising against the Coalition. At least ten Iranian-run radio and television stations are broadcasting anti-American and anti-Semitic venom throughout Iraq, while we have yet to organize a single radio or TV there, to our great shame. And the Iranians brazenly sabotage our reconstruction efforts, as in the case of the monster water treatment plant in southern Iraq, which was dismantled and carted off across the border, or the several factories that were broken up and either smuggled into Iran or sold to them.

And am I the only person to smell a connection between Tony Blair's call for the civilized world to support the democracy demonstrators one day, and the murder of seven English soldiers the next?

This administration clearly has no stomach for any sort of campaign against the mullahs, at least for the moment. But it can no more avoid the showdown with the mullahs than it can cause Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein to surrender; this is a fight for survival, and they will not permit us the luxury of setting the timetable at our convenience.

That means there must be regime change in Tehran. In their hearts, or perhaps at a somewhat lower level, our leaders know that. Even the admittedly limited information in the hands of our intelligence community shows the pattern of Iranian skullduggery, and it is only a matter of time before the mullahs pull off some murderous assault large enough to compel us to act. They still fondly remember their glory days in Lebanon, when they killed hundreds of Americans in a single suicidal stroke, an event incautiously recalled by Bashar Assad in the first days of Operation Iraqi Freedom. That is what undoubtedly awaits our fighting men and women if we do not move first to support the freedom fighters in Iran.

But even if Iraq were peaceful and flourishing and headed towards democracy in the near future, indeed even if there had been no September 11 and thus no war against the terror masters, our refusal to call for regime change in Tehran would still be a disgrace. Blair and Bush have warm words for the demonstrators, but no Western government has called for an end to the Iranian tyranny. Heck, they haven't even called for the release of the thousands of political prisoners or for the release of the many journalists rounded up during the demonstrations of the past two weeks.

July 9 is coming soon. Nothing would encourage the Iranian people more than a clear declaration that the United States is with them, and against their oppressors.

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.


06/24/03: Iran: Back the freedom fighters
06/17/03: The Iranian Revolution, 2003: Regime change in the air
06/05/03: Academic Standards: A Middle East scholar has his way with the truth.
05/28/03: The Moment of Truth? U.S. policy could determine Iran's destiny
05/15/03: Iran's Path: Stopping the mullahs in their tracks
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