America and Iran

America and Iran
: L. Bruce Laingen, who was charge d’affaires at the U.S. embassy in Tehran when it was seized by Iranian hostage-takers, writes a column arguing that we shouldn’t get involved in Iran and that it’s not ready for revolution. I wonder what the Iranian bloggers have to say about that; it’s one matter to debate America’s support of the Iranian democracy movement and quite another to debate the existence of that movement.

Regime change in Tehran is inevitable. But it must come from within. Iran is not Iraq. It is big; it is populous: 70 million and counting. It is overwhelmingly Shiite. Its people are culture-proud and intensely nationalistic. The current student unrest is symptomatic, but there is little evidence of a burgeoning public movement sufficient to press revolutionary change. A quasidemocratic process and an evolving civil society work to keep political agitation largely under control, with the Basij and other militants put on the streets to curb student unrest. After the climactic events of the revolution and the eight years of devastating war with Iraq, there is little public readiness for institutional upheaval. Nor is there any evident alternative leadership of any stature among the students or other opposition.

Change will come, but it can and should be “soft” change.

  • Dave

    Sounds like a Brent Scowcroft, “don’t upset the applecart” type who would rather see stability in lieu of a change that brings inevitable uncertainty.
    He is right, however, that change should come from within. The only drawback to the whole Iraq affair is that the Iraqi people did so little of the fighting for themselves and hence a freedom earned rather than a freedom granted.
    Hopefully this won’t make a difference in the end as in Germany and Japan. But with Iran, the students and other liberals will have to ask themselves eventually: “Am I ready to die for freedom?” Frederick Douglass freely admitted he was not when John Brown was. Time will tell if Iran is at the tipping point.

  • “Am I ready to die for freedom?”is the world going forward or backward?

  • Nima

    Absolutely true. He’s the first American who seems to have authentic information about Iran. I don’t know him, but he must be someone that you, Americans, can definitely trust if you’re looking for better information on Iran.

  • There’s no question the “democracy movement” is very strong and viable in Iran. What confuses some in the west is that the movement completely rejects the idea of a “revolution” but favors a gradual and deliberate shift from theocracy to democracy.
    As I wrote in my response to Michael Ledeen, the chief hawk of “revolutionaries” within this administration:
    “We may both be seeing the same tumor growing within and taking over the body of a patient that is Iran today. Your solution is to cut open, dig deep and remove it at earliest possible chance. Others like me see how the tumor has attached itself to other vital organs and effectively controls parts of the brain, heart and other essential appendages. We believe its sudden removal is not only unhealthy, but may in fact put the patient

  • Nima

    Last night CBC has an interview with one of Iran’s most notable authors and political dissidents both before and after revolution, Reza Baraheni. I strongly recommand watching the interview. Here’s the address:
    The news starts with Canadian national news but World View starts after a few minutes. World View’s host, Brian Stewart, runs the conversation with Reza Baraheni.

  • visitor

    I agree with Nima that L. Bruce Laingen is among few Americans who have authentic information about Iran.

  • If there is anyone Americans must hear out on the issue of Iran, it’s Laingen. He’s paid his dues, to be sure.
    And we’ll see a lot on and after July 9 with regard to the changes that happen in Iran from within.
    But there is a matter of urgency facing us now that we didn’t face in 1953, when the shah was restored to power: terrorism.
    If Iran wants to hand over to the U.S. (or U.S. allies) every single member of al Qaeda in its territory; if it wants to dismantle its official state sponsorship of international terrorism; if it wants to unplug its nuclear weapons program, then we can wait for “soft” change in Iran. If not, then every option has to remain on the table in the White House.

  • Jerry in Jersey

    Why should they turn over Al Qaeda members to U.S.? They are citizens of Saudi Arabia, etc. and U.S. has not filed a claim in any international court for their extradition from Iran. As of the moment, Iran is negotiating their turn over to Saudis.
    If a few of us hot headed people in the west let the process take it’s normal, legal and logical course, Iranians better than anyone else know how to take care of their own situation. Why don’t we listen for a change?

  • Quite a few of the “infamous” famous names mentioned no longer have citizenship in those countries from which they came, having been stripped of same. Those countries have already declared they are personae non gratae!
    Where else to send them if Iran wishes to rid itself of them? What better place to send them than the USA, who suffered grievous injury due to their nefarious activities.
    As to those other pesky problems that the current regime in Iran poses for the USA…time is NOT our friend. Waiting for the docile, cowed, and quite controlled citizenry to effect changes through “democratic” means is not a luxury we can afford.
    We’ve tried being “soft”…look what it got us. There are times when “no more Mr. NiceGuy” is the only route left.

  • Jeff,
    I cannot find a word in his comments to argue about or put in a better way now except pride towards culture. Let’s say something like Iranians are the French of the region.

  • D2D

    When Iran has nukes the mullahs will be undefeatable. Also bin Laden’s second in command Zahwiri(sic) is an Eygptian.

  • REZ

    Is that you or the Voice of Israel?
    BTW, Iran Issues are Iranian business and not anybody elses. The lesser you Israelis-Americans “HELP” us, the sooner we will get rid of that regime. We don’t need your help.

  • T. Hartin

    Iran’s continued support of terrorism in other countries and terrorist groups that have attacked the US means that “Iran issues” are not purely “Iranian business.” If they want us to get our thumb out of their eye, they should do what civilized nations do and cease tolerating and encouraging the killing of civilians in other nations.

  • REZ

    Don’t kid yourself.You are as guilty as Iran regime in killing civilians.
    Civilized Nations? You are not talking about yourself, are you? You are not the angels you claim you are, however, you are just not smart enough to learn from history.
    And, continued support of terrorsim, is the business full time business.Continued support of the Israeli government is the most clear example, of course to wise people. Supporting supressive regimes who have always remained in power by brutality against their own people, are other clear examples, once again, to wise people.
    So, let civilized people talk and not those with the history of uncivilized behaviours.
    Having said all this, Once again getting rid of Iran regime is Iranian business and hopfully we will accomplish that without the help from Uncle Sam.

  • michael ledeen

    First, wasn’t Bruce Laingen one of those who failed to foresee the revolution of 1979? If so, why should we assume that his gifts of prophecy have improved in the past 24 years?
    Second, it is getting tiresome to be accused of something I do not believe and have never said. I am wholeheartedly in favor of peaceful change in Iran. But changing the polity from dictatorship to democracy is revolutionary, isn’t it? I mean, by definition? Many peaceful democratic revolutions have succeeded in recent times, beginning with Spain after Franco’s death, continuing with most of Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, and parts of Africa. It may well happen in Iran. I hope so. I wrote a whole book about this process–“Freedom Betrayed”–and lamented that American presidents had abandoned many democratic movements after the end of the Cold War.
    The word “revolution” does not have “bloody” or “violent” automatically attached to it.
    Third, I entirely agree that our freedom to defend ourselves against a terror network–with Tehran at its center–cannot be limited by the pleasure of the Iranian diaspora. Did you see the latest poll, conducted by the mullahs themselves, in which 45% of the people said they wanted regime change even if it required foreign invasion?
    Now nobody in Washington at least to my knowledge is talking about invasion or any other kind of military action, but that 45% number suggests that large numbers of the people inside feel differently about American support for regime change than some of the political philosophers sitting outside.
    The prisoners in the Nazi camps wanted the Allies to bomb the camps. The slaves in the Gulag wanted NATO to bomb the Gulag. Please keep these things in mind–and do not tell me I am advocating bombing or military action. I am not. I am trying to help you think it through.
    I find it disgusting that the world is silent when thousands of demonstrators, along with journalists, are rounded up and thrown in jail. It would be encouraging to see some of the bloggers take up this cause, and unleash a torrent of emails and letters on the mullahs demanding the release of the political prisoners, and the enforcement of civil liberties.
    And freedom for the Iranian people.

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