Crocodile Tears for Iranians
07 Jul 2009 04:03
By MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles | 5 July 2009
Elections in Iran, whether presidential, parliamentary, or even for city councils, are always preceded by great debates over a simple issue: to vote or not to vote. The typical turnout in Iranian elections is around 60% of eligible voters. Turnout has never exceeded 85%, which was attained in the presidential election of June 12, 2009. (One exception is the April 1979 referendum right after the revolution, which holds the record for turnout. Iranians were asked to cast a vote either in favor of the continuation of the monarchy or an Islamic Republic, which was not defined.) So, the vote-or-not debates are generally aimed at encouraging or discouraging the 20% of eligible voters who decide to vote on certain occasions (as they did last month, and also in 1997 and 2001, the two times in which Mohammad Khatami was elected president).
Iran's presidential election of June 12 was no different. But that debate in Iran was practically settled as soon as Khatami announced several months ago that he would run for president. Huge crowds greeted him everywhere he went. After Khatami announced that he would withdraw in favor of Mir Hossein Mousavi and threw his support behind him, the same huge crowds began greeting Mousavi, which gave rise to the Green Movement. A great majority of Iranians came to reason that by voting they could remove Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from the presidency, and hence create a possibility for a better future.
The situation was different outside Iran. A part of the exiled opposition (if they can be called such), which included hard-core royalists, supporters of the Mojahedin-e Khalgh, and a group of politicians and journalists who emigrated from Iran in the past few years, called for boycotting the election. Given that the MEK is nothing more than a terrorist cult, I will not discuss them any further. The royalists, who are after regime change in Iran, and others, who were vehemently opposed to voting, argued, as they always do, that elections in Iran are not meaningful, and that it does not matter whether the people vote or not. But after the surge in the popularity of Mousavi, they mostly fell silent.
Among the War Party in the United States, made up of those Republican and Democrats who favor a militaristic approach to foreign policy, the debate about Iran's presidential election was, up to 2005, always the same. Prior to Ahmadinejad becoming Iran's president in 2005, and particularly when Khatami was president, the neoconservatives, the War Party and others always mocked him for being powerless. On the eve of Iran's presidential election of 2005, George W. Bush declared that in Iran power is held by "an unelected few," meaning that elections were inconsequential. But after Ahmadinejad was elected and began using his incendiary, but inconsequential rhetoric about the Holocaust and Israel, the War Party and the Israel lobby transformed him into the most powerful man in Iran, even comparing him to Adolph Hitler.
It is well known that Iran's president, while influential to some extent, is not the ultimate decision maker when it comes to foreign policy. But, regardless, the War Party, the neoconservatives, and the Israel lobby transformed Ahmadinejad into the most powerful man on earth, a mad man who, if he got his hands on a nuclear weapon, would not hesitate to use it against Israel. They even prayed that the U.S. would attack Iran, even though there is no evidence that Iran is interested in making nuclear weapons.
Two weeks before Iran's June 12 presidential election, the War Party and the Israel lobby began to worry about the possibility that Mousavi may be elected president. They worried that his victory would take away from them their main propaganda weapon against Iran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They have always considered Ahmadinejad "Israel's greatest asset," and wanted him to win re-election. Many neoconservatives and Israeli politicians stated explicitly that, from their point of view, it would be better if Ahmadinejad won a second term.
They had good reason to worry. During his campaign Mousavi accused Ahmadinejad of using rhetoric against Israel and the West, as well as exhibiting such inflexibility in his nuclear policy, that have hurt Iran's national interests and security. In his one-on-one debate with Ahmadinejad, Mousavi criticized his stance on the Holocaust and the conference on the same subject that he sponsored in Tehran in December 2006. He promised that if elected, he would pursue a sober and flexible foreign policy that would not only preserve Iran's vital interests, but would also enable it to reach an accommodation with the West that would bring it out of its diplomatic isolation.
Mousavi's principled stance against Ahmadinejad, as well as his promise for a better foreign policy, was not what the War Party and the neoconservatives wanted to hear, since for years their goal has been convincing the public that there is no solution to the confrontation with Iran but a military one. Thus, about a week before the election, the War Party, the neoconservatives and the Israel lobby, demoted Iran's president to a powerless man again! In concert, they began emphasizing that it does not matter who Iran's president is, since all the important decisions regarding foreign policy are made by the life-appointed Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khemenei.
Writing in the New York Times, for example, Elliot Abrams, the neoconservative deputy national security advisor to George W. Bush, declared that, "The power of a putative reformist [an Iranian president] is illusory." Others, such as John Bolton, the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, said the same thing.
But neither the exiled Iranian "opposition," nor the War Party in the U.S., could predict that the conservatives would commit fraud on such a grand scale to keep Ahmadinejad as president at all cost. Of course they were not the only ones who were cut off guard.
The fraud however provoked large-scale demonstrations and a violent crackdown on peaceful protesters, and the arrest of more than 2000 people, among them many important reformist leaders, journalists, human rights advocates, university students and others. In particular, the cold-blooded murder of Neda Agha Soltan, the beautiful 27-years-old woman, shook the world.
So the same Iranian "opposition," who had called for boycotting the election, began exploiting the situation. Suddenly, many "leaders" emerged instructing people on how to continue their protests and demonstrations until they had recovered their rights, including annulment of the elections and holding a new round of elections, the same elections that were not meaningful up until June 12. The same people who had said that elections in Iran were inconsequential, suddenly discovered that elections do in fact matter; they could result in the election of a moderate and enlightened man, such as Khatami (even if he was not successful); or Ahmadinejad, who has presented an extremely negative image of Iran, not to mention has also wrecked the economy with his dismal performance, and ruthlessly repressed people at home; or result in a vast fraud against Mousavi, which reignited and invigorated the democratic movement.
Reza Pahlavi, the same man who had called for boycotting the election and repeatedly called for sanctions against Iran, sanctions that hurt only ordinary Iranians, and in many cases, such as we saw in Iraq, have eventually led to war, suddenly started shedding tears for the demonstrators, the voters whom he had done his best to discourage from voting.
Mohsen Sazegara, the man who had opposed voting until the day before the election, was suddenly giving people "instructions" on how to resist the fraud. Others, mostly on the left side of the political spectrum, suddenly discovered the power of angry voters. Some even claimed that these protests were not on account of fraud or even Mousavi.
Just to make sure that I am not misunderstood, let me emphasize: The violent crackdown on peaceful protesters, which resulted in the murder of at least two dozen people, must be condemned internationally. No one with any conscience can be indifferent to the cold-blooded murder of Neda Agha Soltan and others like her. No one can be indifferent to the fact that the hope of a great majority of the Iranian people for a better future was extinguished. Let there also be no doubt that the arrest of so many people, particularly innocent protesters, as well as the harsh censorship imposed on the press, must be condemned in the strongest way possible.
Some Iranians living in the U.S., who support Ahmadinejad because they believe that he has stood up firmly to the U.S. and has succeeded in setting up Iran's uranium enrichment facilities, believe that international condemnation of what has been happening in Iran would be tantamount to interfering in Iran's internal affairs. Not so.
Condemning what has happened in Iran and expressing solidarity with the Green Movement would not be interference in Iran's internal affairs, because what is being condemned first and foremost are violations of fundamental human and civil rights of the Iranian people, and respect for such rights, and condemning their violations, are universal values.
Just as all peace-loving people condemn the carnage committed by Israel against the Palestinians, by George W. Bush and his cabal against the Iraqis, by Russia against the Chechens, by Saddam Hussein against his compatriots, by the Taliban against the Afghan people and especially Afghan women, and by the government of Sudan against the people of Darfur, they must also condemn what is happening in Iran.
But, for the condemnations to have any credibility, the condemners themselves must have credibility. Thus, in my opinion, only the condemnations of the truly antiwar activists, those who stood firmly against any sanctions or unprovoked attacks on Iran, and true believers in the universality of human rights, not those for whom human rights are a baton to hit the opposition, would be credible. If people like Pahlavi and Sazegara want to condemn what is happening in Iran, and their condemnation is welcome, they must first be honest enough about what they were saying before the election. In particular, Pahlavi must denounce his stance on sanctions against Iran. Otherwise, in the author's opinion, the good people of Iran need neither Pahlavi's tears, nor Sazegara's "instructions."
At the international level, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights, Federation of Human Rights Societies, Reporters without Borders, and the United Nations Human Rights Council have credible track records of defending human rights. Thus, they can credibly condemn what is happening in Iran, as they have. They must continue doing so.
When the post-election protests erupted in Iran, the situation became even tougher for the War Party and the neoconservatives. They recognized that Ahmadinejad will apparently be Iran's president for four more years, even though a great majority of the Iranian people everywhere (including the author) consider his second term as illegitimate. So, how should they react?
Clearly, they could not make a 180-degree turn in less than a week, and declare once again that Ahmadinejad is the most dangerous man on earth and bent on destroying Israel and the U.S.! That would be too ridiculous, even for this crowd, although I must say that nothing that this crowd does surprises me. This crowd never tires of trying to start a war against Iran.
So, the War Party and the neoconservatives decided to do the next "best" thing, namely, shedding crocodile tears for the Iranian people, but also using the tears to prepare the public for a future war. A war would kill at least tens of thousands of Iranian people, the same people for whom they are shedding tears. In particular, they began attacking President Obama's sensible policy of condemning the violence and crackdown on the protesters, but refusing to take sides.
The Iranian people do not forget the positions of the same people who are now shedding crocodile tears for the good people of Iran. They do not forget that Senator John McCain who now sheds such tears, is the same man who said "bomb, bomb, bomb" Iran, and the same man who has consistently supported the illegal invasion of Iraq and the escalation of the Afghan war by the Obama administration, which has resulted in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people. The decent people of Iran do not need, nor have they asked for, the Senator's support. He should shed them for selecting a running mate such as Sarah Palin.
Let us not forget that William Kristol, the neoconservative with crocodile tears in his eyes, is the same man who was a major force behind the invasion of Iraq and did his utmost best to provoke George W. Bush to attack Iran. He now criticizes President Obama for being "resolutely irresolute" about interfering in Iran.
Just to see how much Kristol understands Iran, consider the following: He likens Mousavi, a pious man with an impeccable track record for being uncorrupted, to Boris Yeltsin, the corrupt drunkard who sold out Russia to the Mafia-like Russian oligarchy. There is a reason he is called the "little Lenin" of the neocons!
In the author's opinion, Iranians do not need Senator Joseph Lieberman's crocodile tears, the turncoat who had no loyalty even to his own Democratic Party, the man who supported the invasion of Iraq, who did his best to start a war with Iran, and who has been the sponsor of so many Senate resolutions against Iran. He now "greatly admires the courage and principle of the Iranians."
I suppose the Senator fantasizes that if the democratic movement succeeds, Iran will become a U.S. client state again so that he would not have to push for bombing Iran.
Iranians know that Danielle Pletka has been a long-time hard-liner on Iran at the American Enterprise Institute, the same institution that provided the "theoretical foundation" for the invasion of Iraq, and was home to such Iran "experts" as Michael Ledeen and Reuel Marc Geretch, who did their best to start a war with Iran. She also sheds crocodile tears for the Iranian people who, in her opinion, will suffer "the consolidation of power by a ruthless regime." But, remaining true to her real colors, she also provides clues as to how the problems with Iran must be handled by saying, "That Iran [under Ahmadinejad's second term] neither needs nor wants accommodation with the West," meaning diplomacy should not be pursued.
Finally, everyone knows that Richard Perle, the "Prince of Darkness," was the "brain" behind the Iraq invasion and the man who has been trying to pick for Iranians their future leader by coming up with an Iranian Ahmad Chalabi. Shedding crocodile tears for the Iranian people, Perle blames President Obama for what has been happening in Iran, because according to him, "When you unclench your fist it benefits the hardliners, because Obama appeared to be saying we can do business with you even with your present policies." Since he is bothered by Obama's supposedly unclenched fist, one can conclude that his crocodile tears are only for justifying a future war with Iran.
The Iranian people do need moral support, and need a lot of it. They can handle the rest by themselves. But, they do not need the crocodile tears of the warmongers who, for years, have done all they can to start a war with their country, or impose sanctions that would only hurt the common people.
In a message to the Iranians in the Diaspora, Mousavi said, "I am fully aware that your justified demands have nothing to do with groups who do not believe in the sacred Islamic Republic of Iran's system. It is up to you to distance yourself from them, and do not allow them to misuse the current situation." That is the right message, regardless of whether one is for or against the Islamic Republic. Anyone who supports Iran's democratic movement should heed Mousavi's call and support him as the movement's leader. The movement does not need a leader living in exile.