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Iran’s Riots are Not About the Election

Doctor Krauthammer today makes a great point [1]about Obama’s response to the Iran situation:

Doctor Charles Krauthammer [2]

Doctor Charles Krauthammer

…. this incipient revolution is no longer about the election. Obama totally misses the point. The election allowed the political space and provided the spark for the eruption of anti-regime fervor that has been simmering for years and awaiting its moment. But people aren’t dying in the street because they want a recount of hanging chads in suburban Isfahan. They want to bring down the tyrannical, misogynist, corrupt theocracy that has imposed itself with the very baton-wielding goons that today attack the demonstrators.

This started out about election fraud. But like all revolutions, it has far outgrown its origins. What’s at stake now is the very legitimacy of this regime — and the future of the entire Middle East.

This revolution will end either as a Tiananmen (a hot Tiananmen with massive and bloody repression or a cold Tiananmen with a finer mix of brutality and co-optation) or as a true revolution that brings down the Islamic Republic.

The latter is improbable but, for the first time in 30 years, not impossible. Imagine the repercussions. It would mark a decisive blow to Islamist radicalism, of which Iran today is not just standard-bearer and model, but financier and arms supplier. It would do to Islamism what the collapse of the Soviet Union did to communism — leave it forever spent and discredited.

Those repercussions would also include pointing to the downfall of Saddam in Iraq at the hands of George W. Bush. Long time readers will know I’ve been downright brutal at whiles with Bush on various topics, but the war wasn’t one of them.

It was that act of ousting Saddam, which started this desire for democracy on the part of the people in the middle east, in Iraq certainly… but now Iran, as well. Do not make the mistake of thinking the two situations so isolated from each other. Being neighboring countries with less than well-protected borders, news of what’s changed for the better in Iraq has doubtless started filtering across the border, person to person.  Look at the map, here.

sw_asia_pol96 [3]

Islamic Extremism is being pushed to the edges of this map. Consider the changing and rather ironic dynamics here.

For all the animosity built up on the Iran- Iraq war and before, the degree of social isolation in Iraq because of Saddam, was actually a boon… a protectant against the influence of the rest of the world, from the point of view of the Iranian regime.  Similarly, Afghanistan, run as it was by the thugs, also provided Iran with Isolation they couldn’t have purchased with any price of arms or money.

That’s important for this reason: Have you ever seen a dictatorship where isolation wasn’t part of the mixture that made it possible? I’ve suggested in the past that this was part of the reason for going into Iraq in the first place; to start that ball rolling. The momentum of history has changed as a result of that act of Bush in Iraq. It has spread to Iran, now, and best the Iranian regime can hope for is to delay it for a while, regardless of how this situation works out in the shorter term. The genie is out of the bottle, now.

Word about what is possible under a greater degree of individual freedom is hardly information that will be passed between the Iran Iraq and Afghanistan that existed as little as a decade ago.  Pakistan, now finds itself in a  fight for it’s life with the extremists, but it does seem one they’ll win.  Syria, on the other end of this map,  is now isolated from other extremist states,and will be increasingly unable to aid the cause of the extremists in any significant way. Eventually the pressure there will build to the point where it has in Iran, and freedom will take root there, as well.

As The Doctor says:

It would mark a decisive blow to Islamist radicalism, of which Iran today is not just standard-bearer and model, but financier and arms supplier. It would do to Islamism what the collapse of the Soviet Union did to communism — leave it forever spent and discredited.

In the region, it would launch a second Arab spring. The first in 2005 — the expulsion of Syria from Lebanon, the first elections in Iraq and early liberalization in the Gulf states and Egypt — was aborted by a fierce counterattack from the forces of repression and reaction, led and funded by Iran.

Now, with Hezbollah having lost elections in Lebanon and with Iraq establishing the institutions of a young democracy, the fall of the Islamist dictatorship in Iran would have an electric and contagious effect. The exception — Iraq and Lebanon — becomes the rule. Democracy becomes the wave. Syria becomes isolated; Hezbollah and Hamas, patronless. The entire trajectory of the region is reversed.

Go and read the article for his full comments.

Meanwhile, back here, in the states, we have what passes for a leader under the name of Obama. As I said in last night’s Ramble… Obama’s choice to remain near silent in all of this will cost a lot of Iranian lives on the way to that freedom, however. Thus the question for us as a nation, is how we will be remembered by the Iranian people and indeed the rest of the world, once that shift to freedom takes place. As it stands now, I can’t see it being the world’s perception of us not supporting freedom in this case, being a good one. They’ll remember an entire generation of Iranian freedom fighters getting washed away by these thugs… while, under what passes for leadership by Obama, we stood by and refused to help.

And at the risk of seeming petty, there’s another issue that I’ll broach and leave hanging, not having fully thought it through;

What does it mean to all of Obama’s anti-Bush rhetoric when by virtue of Bush’s actions Democracy inexorably spreads through the region as now looks to me to be the case? Is it too much to suggest that Obama may actually want this revolution… and that in reality is what it is… to fail so as to prevent the hated BUUUSSSHHHHH from looking… Obama rhetoric not withstanding… like he had it correctly all along? What possible reason might Obama have for wanting to see the Middle East’s bid democracy fail, or at least minimize the connection to the actions of  George Bush?