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The only viable way to confront Ahmadinejad

by SETAREH SABETY in Nice, France

30 Sep 2009 17:2220 Comments
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[ opinion ] Why would anyone be shocked by the so-called revelation that another uranium enrichment facility exists somewhere near Qom?

It amazes me how even Iranians of the Diaspora, who know the Islamist regime well, seem distressed by it all. I am not claiming to have known any more than anyone else about this, but I certainly never believed that the Iranian government was capable of being transparent about anything, least of all about its nuclear program. Deception is a form of negotiation. And transparency is as alien a concept to this regime as fairness and justice.

Some argue that it's Iran's right to acquire nuclear weapons. Israel acquired it through stealthy means, so why shouldn't Iran? Personally I am more sympathetic with the straightforward argument that Pakistan and Israel have nuclear weapons, so why can't Iran? What amazes and angers me though is that many people, especially Iranian Americans, even 'experts,' actually buy Iran's assertion that its nuclear program is purely for peaceful purposes.

Come on!

Mir Hossien Mousavi promised during the campaign to make Iran a law-abiding and tolerant member of the international community. He even challenged Ahmadinejad on this issue during their hugely popular televised debate. He told Ahmadinejad that he was dangerously isolating Iran in the world community with his behavior and wild assertions.

Two of the most prominent voices of the opposition, Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi and renowned filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf, have repeatedly criticized the West for not doing enough to voice outrage at Ahmadinejad's election rigging and violent human bashing.

In fact, Ebadi, the only Iranian and the first Muslim woman to be awarded the Noble Peace Prize, went so far as accusing the British of appeasing the Ahmadinejad government.

Makhmalbaf, a spokesman for Mousavi, just issued a statement discouraging negotiations with Ahmadinejad's "coup d'etat regime." He also declared that the opposition shares the concerns of the international community over a nuclear Iran.

Some Iranians of the Diaspora, especially those still shell shocked by the bellicosity of the Bush years, and the Israeli horrors committed recently in Gaza, are much wearier of Obama's recent statements threatening Iran than those in Iran. The opposition inside Iran,
having suffered the severe brutality of the Ahmadinejad government first hand, may welcome the West's new tougher stance. Many, in fact, expected this reaction from the West earlier, in response to the rigged election results and the human rights abuses that followed, but they welcome it now nonetheless.

Unlike neocon-weary Iranian Americans and highbrow liberal-leaning intellectuals, freedom-seeking Iranians who poured into the streets of Tehran and other Iranian cities to demand their rights, are probably more afraid of their own government than of Israel or America. They know that their leaders are liars because they are lied to on a daily basis. Transparency from Ahmadinejad would shock Iranians, not his lies!

Obama, Sarkozy and Brown are asking for compliance with existing laws, and an opening of the doors of Iran's nuclear facilities to IAEA inspection. Nothing new there in their demands, just a firmer tone. We are still very far from a war! And the Iranians know that if there is a military strike on Iran then the only one to blame is the faction in power in Iran. This is the same regime that kills civilians, rapes students and tortures journalists. I mean who can argue that if you deny the Holocaust repeatedly, especially when there is a Netanyahu in office in Tel Aviv; if you continue to flout international law; if you rig your own elections, even in the face of a rising young majority, even after carefully vetting opposition candidates; if you abuse and kill your own peaceful protesters in front of the whole world; when you make life very difficult, even for the handful of educated apologists on your side, then surely you are asking for it!

From the first time Ahmadinejad came to New York, it was apparent to me that he
was out to pick a fight. To take him up in that fight would be a mistake. Now, more than ever, this regime needs to divert attention from its failures. It wants nothing more than to sweep its heinous crimes under a carefully woven rug. Israel's callous repression of Palestinians helps Ahmadinejad like his Holocaust denial helps Israel's continued militarism.

Failing in their role as managers and leaders of Iran, the regime elite are hiding behind their role as the defenders of Islam and Palestinians against Israel. This may work with the neo-con hating Iranians of the Diaspora or the Islamists in the region but at home it does not work because there many people are actually pro-Israeli. I would bet that Iranians are less sympathetic to the Palestinian cause than any other Muslim nation for the simple reason that the regime is pro-Palestinian. Listening to the slogans of the recent Jerusalem Day protests amply reveals the general frustration of Iranians with their government's support of Hamas and Hezbollah: Na Ghazeh, Na Lebanon, Jaanaam Fadayeh Iran (Not Gaza, Not Lebanon, my life for Iran); Felestin kojaee, Kahrizak ra bebinee? (Palestine, where are you to see Kahrizak?) There was one video clip of young protesters tearing down the Hezbollah banner put up for Qods Day to the cheers of the crowd.

So what is to be done? Sanctions will benefit the regime because they thrive in a black market economy and are old hands at how to survive sanctions, which they faced from the very beginnings of their dictatorship.

A military strike would be a disaster, not just because the nuclear sites are too close to huge population centers, but because it would give the regime a freer hand to continue its brutal treatment of the opposition, on the grounds of treason and aiding the enemy. It would help the regime hide behind the lie, meticulously crafted, of their role as the champions of Islam fighting a crusading West.

The only hope of Iran ever complying with International law is for the opposition, who by most credible accounts was robbed of an electoral victory, to prevail and overthrow this illegitimate government. The opposition needs to be supported by the world. Unconditional support for the opposition in Iran, diplomatic sanctions and freezing of assets, as suggested by Shirin Ebadi, are the only real options the International community has. Appeasement would be wrong. But a military strike or harsh and people-targeted sanctions are what the government wants. G iving it to them is an act of appeasement.

The only way to make Iran safe for the world is to make her safe for her citizens.

Copyright © 2009 Tehran Bureau

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20 Comments

Your argument is based on the assumption that the West has Iran's best interests at heart. If that were the case, the whole landscape of Iranian politics would be unrecognisably different. The status quo that currently exists in the Middle East is beneficial for all the interested parties. As you mentioned yourself, Israel can continue to play the 'external threat' card to veil it's own atrocities. Iran is in a similar position to Israel. Meanwhile, Western nations can continue to arm the region to the brim while acting as the valiant peacemaker back at home. For example, it is no coincidence that the French recently signed a deal with the UAE to develop their nuclear programme.

This is an interesting article but we cannot waste time being idealistic. We must adopt a more realistic approach, I.e. change can only come from within. We must focus all our energy on watering the grass roots democratic movement in Iran and ignore the eternal chess game that is international politics.

Thanks,
Sam

Sam / September 30, 2009 6:25 AM

I love this article because it hits exactly at the heart of the matter. Right on the money: "The only way to make Iran safe for the world is to make her safe for her citizens" and I would not be surprised that the nuclear issue is at the very bottom of the list for the people of Iran who pour into the streets. There are many other issues that are far more important to Iranians protesting this brutal, evil and illegitimate government. How can we support Palestine or any other cause when our own citizens have very little freedom and no economic prosperity? I usually find myself very angry with the international community or the politicians of the West and other countries since the main focus has mainly been on Iran's nuclear program. MSNBC, since June elections, only covered the protests to a limit but has been covering Iran's supposedly new nuclear facility news continuously since few days ago and MSNBC is considered a more liberal news channel among the other mainstream ones. It is sickening. I think the western goverments and the countries around Iran do not care much about a free Iran. They prefer severe economic sanctions to diplomatic sanctions and support for the opposition in Iran is unlikely to happen by the goverments of the West or any other goverment and of course China and Russia are supporters of this regime due to their economic ties.

Since the aftermath of June 12 election fallout, I have said that Iranians are alone in this.


MM / September 30, 2009 7:13 AM

Obama, Sarkozy and Brown are asking for compliance with existing laws, and an opening of the doors of Iran's nuclear facilities to IAEA inspection.

As far as IAEA is concerned; Iran did not break any laws! They were not obliged to inform anyone YET.

Is Ahmadinejad a liar? OF COURSE! Shall we overthrow him, YES!

But, this hoohaa about Iran's nuclear energy, while pushing to the background the issues taht Iranians really suffer and care about: violation of human rights, derailing from constitution, and press restrictions, was not a helpful and useful move by the west!

Iran's given them the solution to save themselves out of hypocrisy: divest Israel of its nuclear arsenal if you want an end to the arm's race.

As an Ahmadinejad HATER, I fully support that!

Naj / September 30, 2009 10:50 AM

Brava,Brava,Brava...
Brava Setareh Khanoom,
Once again ,another good article and clever point...
Thank you,i'll share it.

Payandeh bad IRAN
MAZANDARAN

Mazandaran / September 30, 2009 3:35 PM

Sam, I believe you a re one of the few people reading these articles that sees things closer to the way they actually are.

Mo / September 30, 2009 7:50 PM

" Nations have no friends or enemies, they only have interest".
So! I will personally not expect any aid from outside of Iran to help abolish and contain the plight of freedom loving Iranians. They only calculate how to exploit the situation and have their own interest materialize (the governments I mean not the people).

But I don't expect the whole world to act as a grave detriment to the cause of Iranians freedom movement by falling into a trap well orchestrated by despotic, militarist and murderous regime in Iran either.

How clever of them (IRI)?
Right when the whole world is showing solidarity with the "Green Movement" in Iran, showing outrage because of mass murder, rape, imprisonment, torture, Stalinist style show trails en amass , force confessions and other barbarianism, the despots of regime come up with this well planed trick of unveiling a "Secret Nuclear Site" to redirect world attention from all the atrocities and genocide they are committing against their own people. Sad part is, they succeeded and majority around the world fell in this trap.

I personally concur with MM wholeheartedly that "Iranians are alone in this" and we will prevail.

Aryajet

Aryajet / September 30, 2009 8:57 PM

Unconditional support for the opposition in Iran, diplomatic sanctions and freezing of assets, as suggested by Shirin Ebadi, are the only real options the International community has.
Most of the world would love to give support to the opposition. But support of western countries to the opposition would be very useful in the regimes propaganda and probably have a reverse effect. Whatever the world outside Iran will or will not do to try to change the regime or their policies it is eventually up to the Iranians themselves to get their elected goverment.
The achievement of becoming a nuclear power I dont think Israel, USA, or europe will suffer but the Iranians themselves because this will strenghen the current regime.

Bart / October 1, 2009 1:23 AM

The author has a wise perspective, and the core of her analysis is absolutely correct: there is no question that the only realistic way for the international community to assuage their concerns regarding Iran is for the internal Iranian opposition movement to prevail in their struggle.

However, there are a few points on which the author is clearly mistaken in her opinion, namely, how Iranians feel about Israel, and the level of support for the Palestinian cause inside Iran.

Multiple scientific public opinion polls*, conducted inside Iran over the last two years via telephone by the highly respected independent American polling group Terror Free Tomorrow, have historically confirmed that a majority of Iranians (about 60 - 65%) actually support giving aid to Hamas and Hezbollah. This is no doubt linked to the strong dislike for Israel inside Iran -- revealed by the polls to be in the 70% - 80% range -- fueled not only by Israel's illegal behavior, but by constant anti-Israeli propaganda. The polls do show that there is one thing which 87% of Iranians universally dislike more than Israel; in fact, of all the topics covered, it is by far the most disliked thing in Iran: the suggestion of any return to government involving monarchy.

The good news from the Terror Free Tomorrow polls is that before the recent elections, about 60% of Iranians already opposed the current system of unelected religious government, while the government's hard-core supporters seem to comprise only about 20% of the population. Between 75% - 85% of Iranians wanted to be able to freely choose and replace the Supreme Leader, and all government officials, by a direct vote of the people. Opinions about democracy, free and fair elections, and a free press enjoyed similarly high marks. TFT has not conducted a poll since May 2009, but it would be a safe assumption that recent events have pushed Iranian public opinion further in favor of direct democracy.

The polls also show that 73% of Iranians would gladly support a full and rigorous international nuclear inspection regime, and a guarantee not to develop and posses nuclear weapons, in exchange for Western trade and investment to create more jobs. From looking at the polling data about the support for the development of nuclear weapons inside Iran, it is clear that the hardliners cannot actually accept such an arrangement without greatly angering their base. Therefore, sending public video greetings directly to the people of Iran, offering this exchange, is the best way for leaders of Western countries to both achieve their goals, and help the internal Iranian opposition movement.

Many of the Iranian Diaspora correctly understand the core issues and complaints of the people in Iran, but misread the scale of public opinion on the ground about specific objectives and desires. This misperception can be attributed to the fact that the Diaspora’s social network of friends and family – both in and outside of Iran – consists mostly of people who already share their views. When Persian media outlets in the West use their airtime to promote a one-sided politicized agenda, instead of accurately reflecting the views of the Iranian public, the Diaspora find themselves in an "echo chamber", wherein they overestimate support for one particular position, while underestimating support for opposing points of view.

The chants and public demonstrations against Hezbollah the author refers to occurred at rallies inside Iran's urban centers -- Tehran in particular -- where support for conservative religious values is weakest. In any country, there is always a difference in popular opinion between people in urban versus rural areas, and Iran is no different. The natural ongoing rapid urbanization of Iran, combined with the increasingly youthful population, means that in the long 20 to 40-year view, a shift away from hard-line religious rule in Iran is inevitable.

But for today, the key to victory in Iran lies in the countryside.

Iran’s pious, religious and rural population is where the regime draws a great majority of it's baton-wielding enforcers from, and without this army of foot soldiers, there can be no repression by the hardliners of the IRGC. So the key to victory in the present moment, as many Iran experts know, lies not so much in the streets of Iran's cities, but the mosques of Iran's countryside. When there is outcry within those mosques that what the government is doing is against Islam, then there will be an erosion in the morale and commitment of individual foot soldiers. The people of Iran do not need to win the support of every member of the security forces; they need only to win the sympathies of enough men in each unit to sway the group psychology of that unit's morale in their favor. When that happens, security force units are rendered combat ineffective, and commanders begin to negotiate to preserve their own personal security.

This is how people's democratic revolutions succeed.

This raises the question: what can those of us in the West do to help this process occur? The answer, in a nutshell, is that one of the most useful things we can do in the West is to get the media messages coming from the Iranian Diaspora under control. The outcry from the mosques of Iran's countryside that must occur in order for democracy to prevail in the present situation will not happen so long as there are foolish members of the Iranian Diaspora, highly visible in the media, advocating the return of a form of government almost universally hated in Iran, ranting about their hate for Muslims, and angrily screaming for the death of the IRI and everyone associated with it. If I were a conservative Muslim, and I heard about these things, I would be scared to allow the people in the streets of Iran to have victory. I would clutch on tighter to my gun. I would be convinced to kill these protesters before they killed me.

It is important for us in the West to constantly challenge our assumptions and beliefs about Iran, and instead, seek out scientifically verifiable information about the full scope of Iranian public opinion. Only by doing so can we be sure that our policy ideas and communications strategies have been crafted with a strict respect for the actual realities on the ground, not the rumor-driven beliefs or fanciful wishes in our heads. Respecting the realities on the ground is the key to making any progress in reality. If we fail to do so, we will end up promoting policies and ideas that either waste our movement's time and attention, or worse, actually work against the efforts and interests of the citizens inside Iran.

Geoff Trapp


* P.S.: I invite everyone to download and read all THREE of Terror Free Tomorrow's Iran polls for themselves, at http://www.terrorfreetomorrow.org/template.php?section=PL . Please be sure to download and read all three polls, so that you can see the answer range for identical questions holds steady across all three of these scientific polls -- something that would not happen if randomly selected participants were lying about their true feelings. This observable fact, combined with an understanding of the described scientific polling methodology which was used, negates any arguments that these polls cannot be trusted.

Geoff Trapp / October 1, 2009 4:12 AM

It is my opinion that to assume the West has an interest in seeing a democratic Iran is somewhat idealistic. History does not give such assumption credence. It is my opinion that the West is much more likely to secure its interests no matter what happens to the Iranian people - young or old.

When are Iranians inside and outside of Iran going to learn to 'act' rather than 'react'? When are the Iranians inside or outside of Iran going to wake up and realize that there has been not one Iranian government, past or present, that comes even close in mastery of the chess game in which Iran has been a pawn? The Western leaders are old hats at this game. They know the Iranian - the country, the rituals, the beliefs, the culture. They know enough to have been able to throw the rope, sit and watch as the Iranian has picked it up, time and again and hung himself. Crocodile tears follow which then make way for the looting.

How is this related to the article here? This is one of the best essays I have read and yet it lacks one thing and that is the 'thorough' understanding of the Iranian mind and a wonderful optimism of the culture and the society of present day Iran. Are we absolutely sure of the courage and willingness of the people to take it upon themselves to protect the country and build it - this time under a new regime; IF this one is ousted? Does the track record support such?
Does that sound jaded and fatalistic? Absolutely. Do I wish I could see it another way? Absolutely.

I still have hope but that hope is for the Iranian to realize what he is up against - his own self. He is alone and he must act independently. Sanctions, military attack and other means of 'appeasement' will only be undertaken to benefit the West and NOT to free the Iranian. Ebadi would do much better to talk to her own people IMHO.

And let's just say that he is given freedom as of tomorrow morning. Would the Iranian know how to use it? Here we are in the west, many of us for decades - educated at the best establishments, living the best lives and yet unity eludes us. What makes us so sure that the masses in Iran would follow the next leader in unity and wholeheartedly? One thing is clear to me. The next leader, whoever it may be will need to apply discipline, regiment and bring order and he/she may have to do it by force.

So, let's brace ourselves for change. If it ever comes, there will be a price to be paid and it won't be small.

nasim / October 1, 2009 7:25 AM

Mr Geoff,
I have lived in the rural Iran you are talking about and I don't see it the way you do. If you read Eric Hoogland's article you will see that they are far from being all conservative Ahmadinejad supporters.Less than 35% of Iran's voting population lives in rural areas. Also, I think you are very wrong in thinking that the 'key' toppling this government lies in rural Iran. Again I urge you to read Hogland and check out his statistics. Iran is no Afghanistan nor Iraq!It is much more developed and much more urban. We have 24milion internet users, 60thousand bloggers, and a 60% of our university graduates are women! As far as your telephone polls I would not trust them. Gathering information in states that rule through fear mongering and amongst Iranians who traditionally tell the truth only inside closed doors and safety of family or tribe is even more difficult than in 'free' societies.

Your organization boast of members Mr. McCain whom we all saw singing jokingly about bombing Iran weakens your organization's stature in my eyes in this context. Your criticism of the Iranians of the Diaspora is confusing and irrelevant to what you are saying about rural Iran and to the uprising.
thank you for reading me I hope people in decision making positions like Mr. McCain read it and realize that harsh sanctions and bombs are not going to work against Iran.
I think it is extremely arrogant for organizations like your to think that they could conduct accurate polls in places so far away and so far removed from your linguistically and culturally.

Setareh Sabety / October 1, 2009 4:29 PM

Setareh:

Good Journalistic work overall, I enjoy your energy and hard work.

I can not agree with you more on your final conclusion:
“The only way to make Iran safe for the world is to make her safe for her citizens”

I think this is so true, not only about Iran, about the entire region as a whole.

I do not believe your statistics on Israel are accurate either, giving the past 30 years of the regimes propaganda machine on this issue, people are tired of marching / demanding freedom for the Palestinians when they are not free themselves in their own backyard.

AO,Boston

AO / October 2, 2009 5:03 AM

One of the best articles I read and so many good comments. Thank you.

To Nasim: I agree with you completely that Iranians with all their education, intellect, economic prosperity, etc. do not have enough unity and they need a leader, if a change occurs in Iran,that applies a lot of discipline, regiment and order and brings different groups together. Any kind of change even at a very small scale has a price.

However, Iranians should be very proud of themselves for this uprising. There are number of countries with similar oppressive governments (maybe worse) but have you ever seen their people rise up like this?: Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, etc.

We should give ourselves a lot of credit.

MM / October 2, 2009 7:04 AM

dear setareh,i enjoyed your article emensly,nicely done,we iranians inside and out side of iran need to wake up and take matters into our own hands and organizations.we need to unite behind the green movement regardless of our poltical affiliations.i do not see that yet.
we must learn from the jews and be more cohesive in our ideas and opinions.
unfortunately many people would like to take advantage of the crisis right now and push their
political views.MOK AND the ROYALIST.THIS is a new iran we must go forward and think of a new democracy for iran.
good job and i pray for a free and democratic iran.

fay moghtader / October 3, 2009 6:27 AM

I totally agree with Geoff Trapp that Iranian Diaspora usually misreads the public opinion of Iranians and project their own ideals as those of the majority of Iranian. This is a problem shared by many circles inside Iran where everyone is in contact with like-minded people and generalizing their sentiments to the whole population. Iran is a complex, sentimental, and to a great extent hypocrite society where it is difficult to read one's opinion and mind.

Hassan / October 4, 2009 2:26 AM

Dear Ms. Sabety:

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my comments. I'm always interested in new raw information, and I read Hoogland's article as you suggested. If you had similarly read Terror Free Tomorrow’s independent polls (instead of dismissing them off hand, like most Iranians do), you would have seen that TFT’s scientific research actually supports Hoogland’s conclusions. As I said originally, I agree with the main point of your commentary about the need to support the Iranian people, and a great way for members of the Diaspora to do this is by helping groups like English Translations of Persian Articles گروه ترجمه ی متون فارسی به انگلیسی (it would be great if there was a group to translate English back into Farsi too).

In the mean time, I will attempt to respond to your thoughts.

First, I'm not a member of Terror Free Tomorrow, so it's not "my" organization, and I pray you won't punish TFT's independent scientific work on the basis of your opinion about me, or my thoughts about strategy or the Diaspora. I am merely a private American citizen who is reading everything I can about Iran. But since TFT's polls from Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Nigeria and Indonesia are all considered to be accurate enough that all the major media and key leaders around the world -- including President Obama -- are reading them in their entirety (and quoting from them), I thought it would be a good idea to actually read them in their entirety too.

Second, John McCain is not a "member" of Terror Free Tomorrow either, nor does he participate in any of TFT's work. TFT is a completely neutral non-profit organization that finds out why people support or oppose extremism. It does not promote military attacks or sanctions against Iran; in fact, its polls ask many questions about the possible outcomes of peaceful, constructive options regarding Iran, including engagement. Mr. McCain merely sits on TFT's "Advisory Board", along with other U.S. political figures who disagree with Mr. McCain's political views. I called TFT to ask about this, and it turns out this "Advisory Board" is largely ceremonial; its real function is to lend credibility to TFT's work, and help it fundraise. Such ceremonial "boards" are quite common amongst non-profits in America, and TFT is merely stocking theirs with a diversity of well-known figures from across the American political spectrum.

Third, in terms of your feelings that TFT does not know anything about Iran: if you will fully read the same page where you saw the information about Mr. McCain, you will see that one of the actual members of TFT is an Iranian citizen, who works under an assumed name to protect the safety of her family who still live in Tehran and Isfahan. You might also be interested to know that the actual polling calls were conducted in Farsi, by native Farsi speakers, working for a social science research company located in the region which has won multiple awards for the quality of their work (this is all explained in the "methodology" section of each poll).

As for your declaration that polls from Iran are never reliable because of government repression, not only did TFT understand and design its polls to deal with that concern going in, but top experts and leaders inside and outside of Iran, respected social scientists, and members of the media worldwide simply disagree with you; they are all saying that the results of TFT's Iran polls stand out as transparent and highly credible.

Furthermore, many of the opinions expressed by Iranians in all three of TFT's independent polls were actually critical of the government, which contradicts the logic behind your off-hand dismissal of the results. For example, a consistent majority of Iranians expressed disapproval of the current system of religious government. That's exactly the kind of thing Iranians would not be saying if they were lying out of fear.

In fact, one data point from TFT's poll taken three before the June 2009 election (which was not published in the results, but was expounded on later by TFT's president) is that 86% of those who told TFT they supported Ahmadinejad also choose free elections and a free press as their most important priorities for their leaders -- data which mirror's Hoogland's observatons, and speaks to the scale of the rioting that occurred.

Additionally, as I explained in my original comment, TFT has done three independent polls in Iran over the last two years, with many identical research questions in each. If Iranian respondents were truly lying, then the scientific methods used in the collection and sampling of these polls would have resulted in answer rates to identical questions that were randomly inconsistent across these three different sample groups. If you take a few hours, and actually read and reflect upon all three of these polls in their entirety, you'll see that the answer rates for identical questions is not randomly inconsistent; on the contrary, it holds relatively steady. From a scientific methodology standpoint, this completely blows the "they're lying" argument out of the water ... unless you're going to dispute the core fundamentals of social science, or argue the rules of science don't apply in Iran.

I can't speak to the credibility of other polls, but the science behind (and outcomes of) TFT's independent polls strongly indicates that the results are credible. In fact, these polls have a margin of error of only +/- 3.1%, at a 95% confidence interval.

These polls are accurate, and Iranians need to be reading them, accepting the results as accurate, and keeping these results in mind when they are crafting their political and communications strategies. If Iranians would just read the polls in their entirety, I think they will actually be quite delighted with many of the questions, answers, and conclusions!

The core point I was trying to make is that I hear a lot of noise that is misinformed or counterproductive. On Persian TV, in Western media, all over the Internet and at protests, I hear people lashing out at Ahmadinejad and regime "supporters" (and at Muslims in general), as if these people are the enemy, when the polls (and post-election rioting) show that at least 86% of Ahmadinejad "supporters" are potentially opposition supporters, if people will only stop attacking them and the Islamic Republic they support, and instead, and start wooing them on the basis of the common aspirations for greater democracy that so many Iranians hold.

There are a lot of Iranians who need to be willing to challenge the "facts" they think they "know" about Iran, and reassess the situation from a neutral, scientifically verified viewpoint.

Perhaps my view on this has been unduly skewed by the particular demographics of the Diaspora in my home town (Los Angeles). Perhaps I am using the word “rural” where “suburban” would better apply. I might be wrong about my strategic analysis on where the key to success lies. It could be that other strategies are the way to go, and I will gladly listen to any strategy that is formulated on solid scientific data about Iranian public opinion.

But change will not succeed until the day comes when security forces finally stop shooting the people who are trying to bring change about. Since the regime is reportedly "busing in" a substantial portion of not just supporters, but security forces into the major cities from "outlying areas", it therefore seems strategically logical to me that popular public opinion in these "outlying areas" plays a crucial role in the regime's base of power, and its ability to maintain its security apparatus.

If we in the West misunderstand the opinions of "regime supporters" -- or worse, if members of the Diaspora are sending media messages which actually disrespect, frighten or anger them -- then in my view, we're not contributing to a solution in Iran, we're hindering it.

Sincerely yours,

Geoff Trapp / October 4, 2009 6:22 AM

I'm a political moderate, but I do not believe that the so-called green movement represents the majority in Iran. (See the WPO poll taken early last month.) There may in fact be a "silent majority" in Iran that supports the establishment. (According to the poll, it is over 60%).

This "silent majority" is similar to such conditions prevalent in the United States during the antiwar/civil rights demonstrations during the 1960's and early '70s.

As such, expectations from the diaspora of Iran's masses supporting an overturned regime are highly unrealistic.

See:
http://uskowioniran.blogspot.com/2009/09/silent-majority.html

Mark Pyruz / October 4, 2009 12:15 PM

I agree with Sam and would add this: Let's forget about the "international" community help; that "community" is not (so far) interested in a democratic Middle East and it's MAIN allies there are all totalitarian regimes (Arab allies) and repressive systems (Israel)...let's avoid be illusion ed and focus on our own work from within....

Bij / October 4, 2009 6:17 PM

The best way that the US and its allies particularly Britain, France and Germany can help the development of a popular 'democratic' movement is to take a hands off approach. Firstly, these countries themselves are less than 'democratic' with many citizens rights being eroded or undermined since 9/11 and secondly they are mostly the sponsors of other oppressive and undemocratic regimes in the Middle East. In fact their meddling undermines the independence and credibility of the 'reformist' movement. Iran has a very large politicised young population and the highest rate of literacy amongst women in the Muslim world. The combination of youth and literate women is almost a guarantee of the eventual success of reformist ideas. The reform movement should concentrate as Mousawi seems focussed on doing on getting a broad alliance of religious and secular (but patriotic) together and going direct to the people as much as possible. Some of your commentators opposition to Islam per se will actually undermine and lead to failure of the movement. Because when all is said and done, at grassroots level Iran is still a traditionally religious and conservative society as most Muslim societies tend to be. North Tehran or the rabid royalists or leftists of the diaspora do not reflect the hinterland and let's face it that even if Ahmedinejad and his friends rigged the election by 11m votes that still leaves him net votes of 13m which works out at about 33%. This is a respectable achievement by Western 'Democratic' standards for even Obama in terms of percentage of popular votes only achieved a percentage around that.
The 'reformists' should use all non-violent methods available to protest against constitutional abuses and human rights violations in defiance of Islam and the Iranian constitution. This is more likely to give them the results they want but support of Western govts could lead to another Iraq style situation.

rezvan / October 6, 2009 4:03 PM

Yet another super analysis on the current situation that is painting the Iranian political situation. My take is that Iran is entitle to their uranium enrichment program, why the double standard if comparison is made to Isreal, Indian etc, but I have serious doubt that it is for peaceful purposes. I totally agree that Iran is a old hand in working around the sanction system which it has already proven, has little impact but yet, people of Iran is suffering. Military strike is also not an option as we can't afford anymore blood shed, so the international community has to be united with the Opposition to bring the regime down. Excellent article!

The Cat / October 11, 2009 6:36 AM

First let me say this, i am an Iranian that holds citizenship only in Iran. With that said, I know my comments is so astounding to the pious Iranian that they will surely believe I am an agent of Israel.
I want to bring up this qoute
"still shell shocked by the bellicosity of the Bush years, and the Israeli horrors committed recently in Gaza,"
What horrors were committed?
I mean recently there were two explosions in Iran that has killed 40+ people, and the Iranian gov't is ready to react, and go inside Pakistan and get the culprits. Now if the culprits use civillians for their gain and Iran would use force, than noone will dare say anything about such "horrors."
My point is this, over 6000 missiles have flown into Israel before Israel had waged war.
Would Tehran show that much patience?
Thats my first point.
My second is about these same pious muslims who believe Iran should have Nuclear Technology.
If you believe they should, than you know nothing about Iran and the people that control it. Its simple, the gov't does not care about its own people, they have arabs ( hard line clerics from Iraq like Sadegh Ardeshir Larijani who inspire to get pleasure from sentencing persians to death in the stone age acts of their judicial executions and turning Iran as much of an Arab indentity as possible ( Just read some of the Sharia laws that have robbed the persian people of their indentity and culture and most importantly their most basic human rights which ironically was given to the world by a persian named Cyrus the Great) So with that written, how could you believe those oppressors and tyrants with the chants of destruction at every prayer meeting, now I dont believe Iran is a threat to Israels superior technology but i do believe the hardliners believe they are/ Its just infuriating to hear these propaganda type blogs that only achieve medocrity. But the blog writter must be mediocre in nature because with this blog it seems like they are the regimes mouth piece. A mediocre and common mouthpiece at that.

good god / October 24, 2009 3:36 PM