Bringing Down Iran

Matt Gurney is a columnist and editor at Canada’s National Post. Follow him on Twitter: @mattgurney


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February 11th was the 32nd anniversary of the Iranian revolution, marking the fall of the Shah and the rise of the Islamist theocratic regime that survives to this day. While the world was understandably focused on the unraveling of the Egyptian regime of former president Hosni Mubarak, in Iran and around the world, demonstrations were held to both support and oppose Tehran’s mullahs. On Monday, after a relatively quiet weekend in Iran, protesters and security forces clashed violently, with security forces reportedly using tear gas and paintball guns to disperse anti-government crowds. There have been some reports that protesters were killed; the veracity of those claims, and the body count (if any), is not yet known. So far, this seems a far more muted response by the regime than the lethal tactics and brutal torture it employed against protesters in 2009. But one has to keep in mind that there is so much we do not know about the extent to which the vicious Mullahs barbarize their own people.

Iran’s crackdown this time around drew swift condemnation from Western powers. The European Union condemned the reports of violence by security forces. The Canadian foreign minister attacked Tehran’s “hypocrisy.” Surprisingly, President Barack Obama joined his allies in speaking out in favor of the Iranian protesters. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, the president also called out the Iranian regime for its hypocrisy in celebrating the fall of the (anti-Iranian) Mubarak regime in Egypt while simultaneously using force against its own restless population. “I find it ironic that you’ve got the Iranian regime pretending to celebrate what happened in Egypt, when in fact they have acted in direct contrast to what happened in Egypt by gunning down and beating people who were trying to express themselves peacefully in Iran,” said Obama.

Obama also expressed his hopes that the Iranian people will be allowed to continue to peacefully protest for more rights and a representative form of government, and condemned the reports of violence in the streets of Tehran. His words have been chosen carefully, to avoid giving the mullahs any excuse to portray the protesters and reformers as puppets of Washington, but it is clear that the United States supports the people of Iran in their struggle against their oppressive government. The Iranian regime was not long in responding, attacking the West for offering support to the anti-theocracy.

Anything that raises the ire of the mullahs in Tehran is to be applauded, and it is especially noteworthy given recent history. Two years ago, the president drew criticism from all sides for his refusal to utter a word of support for the reformers battling the regime’s thugs in the streets of Tehran. The silence was baffling. Though the president did eventually comment on the violent suppression of the protests, he did so far behind other major countries, and in his own words, America “joined” the chorus of international criticism, rather than leading it. Given the long-standing animosity towards America expressed by the Iranian regime, and America’s traditional commitment to democracy and human rights, for a U.S. president to stay silent while brave civilians took on the might of a brutal autocracy was inexcusable.

Hopefully, the Obama administration has learned a lesson in this case, and has correctly applied it here. Indeed, not only has the president shown that he has learned from his mistake from two years ago, but his administration is also acting as a coordinated diplomatic team, offering a coherent message on Iran no matter which member of the administration is speaking. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has spent the last several days reading from the same play book as the president, stating her support of the Iranian protesters and their goals, and also condemned Tehran for its lack of political freedom, demanding that it enact reforms. As before, Iran swiftly responded, dismissing Clinton’s comments as confused.

“Confused” would indeed have been a fair way to describe America’s diplomatic response to the recent collapse of the Egyptian regime, which saw the administration seemingly advocating every position simultaneously, with the latest view depending on who was speaking into a microphone. Secretary Clinton declared the regime in Cairo stable mere days before the military was forced to seize control of the country, and Vice President Joe Biden suffered another of his legendary gaffes when he declared that Hosni Mubarak was not a dictator two weeks before calling on Egypt to give its people democracy. On Iran, at least, the administration has found its footing and taken not only a consistent stand, but the right one.

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  • Bert

    I remain very skeptical of Obama's sincerity on Iran. He seems to offer the bare minimum response to avoid the image of obvious support of the Mullahs. There were reports that Obama was in touch with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt early on and he followed up with pressure for them to be included in the new government. There is no equivalent pressure from Obama in the case of Iran to include the Iranian reformers in their government. And all this with the background of Obama seizing more undemocratic control right here in America.

  • Jim C.

    Bert, surely you must realize that being too vocal in support of ACTUAL Iranian reformers can lead to a twofold trap. 1. As is the case with so much of the Middle East, "Be careful what you wish for–you just might get it." In other words, you might be supporting suppressive theocratic rule under a different name. 2. I am well aware there are legitimate democratic reformers in Iran; but I would also worry that if it were preceived that those reformers had U.S. backing, there would suddenly be a lot of dead bodies all over the place.

    If we have learned anything about monkeying in Middle Eastern affairs, it is that it is always a much wiser position to support democratic reform in general terms, rather than specific terms–and let the people in that country figure out the specifics and do the heavy lifting.

  • BLJ

    I trust Chairman O about as much as I do the mullah's that run that place. Chairman O does whatever his boss (George Soros) tells him to do.

  • Jay

    It would not be wise for Obama (or any other President) to lead criticism of the regime in Tehran. The Islamists (with some justification) portrayed the Shah as a puppet of Washington and like to dismiss internal dissent as CIA backed propaganda. As much as I disagree with this President on many issues, I hope he continues to engage this situation delicately.

    • USMCSniper

      Yes, we must not have the Mullahs upset with us now must we? They already hate western civilization and want to destroy it, and Iran is the prime sponsor of and trainer of terrorists that include Hamas, Hezbolla, the Palestinians, the Taliban, and elements of al Qaeda. the clandestine Muslim Obama will spread buttock cheeks and press lips to hemmorioids of the Muslim Arab world in private while he spew forth words of mild condemnation publically for public consumption that the mainstream media will slurp up with adoring eyes like the lap dogs they be.

  • waterwillows

    Maybe another Wikileaks might inform the public of what was really said from the WH?
    That might just be the only way we could get an accurate account from this dense, cloudly administration.

  • Marmaduke

    Be careful. stage one was to allow all these third world countries to become independent after 1948, that is with our CIA Ford Foundation installed dictators approved and aided by our British allies. We kept out the Communistis and faced down the Islamists. Maybe we are selling freedom and democracy to get them to now colapse from the inside as we ran out of foriegn aid money to buy peace and protection. These third world countries don't know that this first world country is beyond broke and borrowed out but also this free country has more police agencies than any country in the world. The US can be restored with the right people.

  • felsen_stark

    During the protests of 2009, students, mostly students were openingly chanting anti-Islamic slogans. Discussions of discarding their Arab originated names were common… they refused any foreign support, saying they would view offers of support as acts of wars, they were confident they could oust the mullahs alone and they were of course mistaken. We have nothing to lose by openingly and vigorously supporting them now and neither do they.

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