Posted by: Dave | March 28, 2010

Iran: The Silence is Deafening


While Iranian freedom marchers are being killed and beaten in the streets of Tehran and other major Iranian cities, the United States watches as a seemingly disinterested bystander.  Our administration should be seizing on these events to weaken an intransigent regime that continues to oppress its citizens, develop nuclear weapons, and threaten Israel on an almost daily basis. 

President Obama should steal a page from Ronald Reagan’s playbook.  During the rise of the Solidarity movement in Poland, Reagan played a key role in strengthening their cause through the powerful use of several tools at his disposal. He revamped Radio Free Europe, (which had been weakened during the Carter Administration) by installing stronger transmitters to beam a constant barrage of messages relating to the benefits of freedom and self-government across the Iron Curtain. Through covert operations, radio receivers, transmitters, and printing materials were smuggled directly to Solidarity movement organizers.  This equipment helped them to organize their movement, while the constant flow of encouraging information provided strength during extremely difficult and dangerous periods. Reagan’s messages gave them hope, confidence and courage.  Also using the bully pulpit of the Presidency, Mr. Reagan continued to extol the blessings of liberty, outwardly challenging the communist regime, and at one point, famously taking his message to the very gates of the Berlin Wall.

The result was an internal and largely peaceful revolution that grew from within the citizenry to overthrow the communist government, an event that most of us couldn’t have imagined during the difficult half-century of the Cold War.  Of course Reagan took many additional economic, military, and intelligence related actions, but members of the Solidarity movement agree that Reagan’s messages and support were critical to their success. 

Instead of negotiating with the Iranian government, our President should be challenging them to permit their citizenry to rule themselves.  The president is greatly admired by many in the Middle East and his words would have great impact.  He should question the legitimacy of the government due to last summer’s rigged elections, and, like Reagan, encourage the protest movement. Mrs. Clinton, as Secretary of State, should be “on message” with similar points. 

Additionally, covert assistance, capitalizing on modern technology, should be provided as additional aid to the dissident movement.  It is possible, and hopeful, that these activities may be occurring secretly today, but given this administration’s public distaste for these types of operations and the recent apology tours taken by the administration, it is unlikely.

Instead of encouragement, we answer with only silence, at least publicly.  And in what must be an incredibly frustrating move to the dissidents, we give credibility to the government by negotiating with them in the hopes that they will politely halt their development of nuclear weapons and play nicely with the rest of the world. 

Timid souls may point to Iran’s missiles and potential nuclear capability and the fear of what may happen if Ahmadinejad is threatened with losing power. It is indeed possible that he may strike out, but better to have that occur sooner, while they are still struggling with the new missile guidance and nuclear technology, rather than after it has been perfected after several more years of development, and launched from a position of strength rather than weakness.

The benefits of a peaceful regime change in Iran are huge.  A moderate Iran would no longer threaten Israel, export Improved Explosive Devices to Iraq or Afghanistan, and take its rightful place in the community of nations. Assuming we aided the movement, we would become immediate allies. Take away Iran’s bluster and you also have a weaker North Korea, because they have one less despotic ally.

That may be a Utopian vision, but it is indeed possible.  In the 1970s, who could have imagined that Poland or the Czech Republic would later become strong allies, or that East and West Germany would unite without firing a shot?

But this vision is not without its risks. It is possible that a more dogmatic regime would replace the one in power now and continue to oppress its citizenry. But a new regime, under those circumstances, would more likely be consumed with maintaining their own hide and consolidating power rather than destabilizing the Middle East and threatening to wipe out Israel. 

What a simpler world President Obama and the rest of us would live in.  We, along with the Iranian dissidents, are listening.

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