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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Making Sense of the Moving Parts In The Aftermath of the Iranian Election

I generally agreed with the view of John Bolton regarding the election in Iran. As far as the U.S. is concerned, there was going to be little difference between the two candidates. The challenger, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, takes the identical view on Iranian nuclear ambitions as does Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In fact, I took the contrarian view and I believed that a Mousavi victory would actually wind up worse for the U.S. That's because his moderate tone and persona meant there would be more pressure to deal with him diplomatically. In other words, Iran could put someone out to the world that would symbolize moderation while all the while continuing with the exact same radical agenda. With Ahmadinejad, the agenda and the public face are one and the same. That makes it easier to put together a coalition to confront Iran. (if President Obama ever came to his senses that is)

Of course, the election "results" have spun all that on its head. First, anyone that still isn't sure that the results are a ridiculous farce only needs to know that in Mousavi's own hometown he supposedly lost. Furthermore, with about 85% of eligible voters voting, it's hard to believe that this massive turnout occurred as an affirmation of Ahmadinejad's rule. As we speak, there is great unrest.

The last time something like this happened was in Kenya. There too, an insurgent candidate had captured the imagination of a weary nation. There too, the incumbent had won in what was clearly a farce. Kenya burnt and many died for well over two months until the UN finally stepped in and restored calm. The election results were not, however, resolved.

This is likely a lot different. Kenya was a country with a government that barely was able to keep control. Iran is an authoritarian regime. It's a lot more likely that the Mullahs will quickly put down the protests. They'll bus in thousands for Ahmadinejad's speech and make it seem as though he is legitimate and backed by the people.

This is, unfortunately, the time that the U.S. could take advantage of years of cultivated relationships with dissidents, freedom fighters, human rights acitivists, and democracy groups both within and outside of Iran. That is if that had been our policy for decades. That would have required a policy of regime change for all these years.

In fact, this latest episode shows that ultimately regime change is the only policy we should have for any of the tyrants and despots in the world. George Mitchell recently sat down with Bashar Assad. That gave that tyrant legitimacy he doesn't need. Tyrants will eventually overreach and give the opposition an opportunity to bring the government down from within. Such opportunities also require well cultivated oppositions both within and outside the country. Right now, if the opposition were organized they could use this opportunity to bring the government down. We have no such organization in Iran. As a result, it's very unlikely that the government will be brought down now.

Instead, our government is actually saying they are ready to work with the new Iranian government, no matter how illegitimate they are.

The Obama administration is determined to press on with efforts to engage the Iranian government, senior officials said Saturday, despite misgivings about irregularities in the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad…

Engaging tyrants means that opportunities like this are missed. It's exactly the wrong move and moments like this are just one example of their uselessness.

Here is my plan to, in the long run, bring down the Iranian government from within.

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