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Open Letter to the Iranian Opposition Leaders

By Mohsen Moshfegh

These are indeed crucial days in our nation's history. If it's not already too late for them, the hardliners of the Islamic Republic have very little time to respond to the demands of our nation's democrats to drastically shift the center of power to the liberal factions of the government in order to survive. I seriously doubt, however, that these tyrants have any capacity to think and comprehend the dangerous situation that they're in. When push comes to shove in the next few weeks or months, they will most probably respond by a futile crack down, and as a result will lose all legitimacy and be left with no other choice but to totally abdicate power and bring this 25-year shame to a bloody end. Which means that the ! leaders of our opposition must seriously and urgently think about coming together to form a provisional government and save our country from certain chaos. There are three points that the leaders of our opposition should keep in mind in the days ahead.

1. It's about the future. This social movement, unlike the one that preceded it, is about the future, not the past. About hope for a successful reconstruction of our country, our economy, our national prestige, and our political culture, not about avenging all the wrongs that were done to our society in the past 25 years. There are numerous individuals in the existing system, particularly in the legislative branch of the government that will be indispensable for a smooth transition to a secular democracy. And although individuals who were directly responsible for criminal acts will have to be legally prosecuted for their crimes, the majority of the regime's off! icials should be pardoned in a blanket national amnesty. There are more important tasks that our nation needs to spend its energy on than preoccupation with revenge and bitterness. Our nation should have the gallantry and compassion to bury the hatchet and let bygones be bygones.

Being about the future also means that the qualifications for leadership should not be based on how long one spent time as a political prisoner, or how severe one was tortured in detention. Having spent time as a political prisoner, as admirable as it is, does not qualify anyone for assuming the responsibilities of leading a nation. Our country has been on automatic pilot under the leadership of a bunch of amateur politicians long enough. We need professional leaders with political savvy and proper vision for the future. We need people with know-how and experience at the key economic and financial positions of our new government, and people with the right temperament and unrelenting commitment to secular democratic i! deals in the political positions. And contrary to the prevailing misconceptions in our intellectual community, we do not suffer from a total lack of individuals with these characteristics. There are quite a few in the ranks of our nationalists, and what has come to be known as the Religious-Nationalist Front in Iran, who have the proper background, as well as flawless reputation and democratic credentials. Amir-entezam, Peyman, and Sahabi are but a few.

2. We need International allies. Every major struggle for freedom that has ever achieved success has been based on the democratic forces of that society to first and foremost rely on each other and unite around a common agenda, and then seek every possible assistance from the forces in the international community. The notion that seeking assistance from outside is treason, or would lead to sacrificing our national independence is ridiculous. This notion only helps the regime by limiting our options and undermining the forces of democracy, and will result in a longer and more violen! t period of transition to democracy. This attitude emanates from xenophobia and fails to see that there may be other countries that have common interests with our democratic forces and would like to see us achieve a successful implementation of a secular democracy in our land quickly and less violently. If we succeeded in totally isolating the regime in the international arena, the road to democracy would be considerably shortened.

Of course it doesn't take a genius to realize that any sane nation who takes the risk of assisting any other nation is first and foremost thinking of its own interests. That's obvious, but it should not discourage us in seeking allies in the international community. What our democratic leaders need to be aware of is a bit more than just that obvious and simple fact. They need to have a realistic assessment about the objectives that motivate a potential ally, and whether those objectives are consistent with our goals.

Let's take the two foreign governments that are undoubtedly important to our successful achievement of a democratic Iran. The first is the European Union. Although it has so far been reluctant to directly confront the Islamic Republic and has assumed a policy of "constructive engagement", I believe that when the internal opposition to the theocratic government mounts and becomes a truly viable option, the European Union will abandon this policy and will be more than happy to assist the democratic forces in Iran to replace the Islamic tyranny with a secular democracy. The European Union, more than any other entity, is driven by pragmatism. At the moment it doesn't see a viable secular opposition to the Islamic Republi! c and is betting that this government will continue to survive for the foreseeable future. Given this assessment, it prefers to continue its relatively lucrative, albeit limited and hampered relationship with the Islamic Republic. It is not that it doesn't see the limitations that the financial oligarchy of a few families of essentially bazzari background imposes on the benefits of this relationship. But as it sees it at the moment, there's no better alternative. So it continues to be content with its share of the loaf, as meager as it is.

At the same time, the Europeans know that if Iran's economy were liberated from the current monopoly and the enormous drain of non-productive state institutions, our country will enjoy a long period of rapid and unprecedented growth. The Europeans are pragmatic, but they're not stupid. They know math too. They know that the value of a smaller bite of a much larger loaf can be a lot higher than their existing large bite of a meager loaf. So, being as pragmatic as they are they will surely abandon their policies of appeasement and will be more than happy to support the secular democratic movement in Iran, as soon as they are convinced that there is a viable alternative.

So, what does all this mean? Are the Europeans motivated by their own interests? Of course they are. Given that, would they still make good potential allies for our democratic forces? Of course they would. Why? Because, although they are not motivated by any philanthropic concern for the destiny of our nation, our national interests in overthrowing the theocracy in Iran and their economic interests happen to coincide. And that's the only criterion for a good potential ally; parallel interests. We are not -or shouldn't be- looking for devote! d pals in the international community. We just want assistance in reaching our goals from states that happen to share common objectives with us. They don't necessarily have to share a common strategic and long-term vision of the future with us. We should wise up and acknowledge that all alliances at the international level are "marriages of convenience", and it is about time that we realized that fact and started using it to our advantage.

Now to America. In my opinion, the United States has a much more serious preoccupation these days than just money and financial rewards of a free and unhampered trade with Iran. This is not to say that the American capitalists care little about substantially lucrative opportunities that a democratic Iran under a free market system can offer them. But after the events of September 11 and the realization of its vulnerability to terrorism, the United States was painfully faced with two essential and very basic facts: first that money has no value when you're dead; and second that as long as the two issues of international terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear weapons are not effectively dealt with being dead is a very real possibility. Also, as the sole remaining superpower in the world, the United States does not only have the responsibility to deal with this problem, but is the only power with sufficient means and international reach to solve a problem of this magnitude. And solve it, it must. So, in my opinion, America's desire to eliminate the theocracy in Iran is based on much more fundamental motivations than money and financial rewards, and therefore, makes a much more dependable ally for our democratic forces than the European Union. Where Europeans are our tactical allies, the Americans can be considered our strategic allies in establishing a secular democracy in our country and propagating it throughout the region.

Am I claiming that the United States will never, under any circumstance abandon our secular democratic forces and make a deal with the Islamic Republic? No, not at all. We should not be na´ve about this, either. The United States is driven by nothing more than its own national security objectives. But that's just fine, because at this historical juncture the United States indeed "has no better friend" than a secular democratic Iran. Our success in establishing a secular democracy in Iran would eliminate one of the most potent sources of anti-American sentiments in the Middle East and one of the major forces of international terrorism, as well as one of the most significant obstacles to peace between Palestine and Israel.

So, given that the United States -like any other sane country- is driven by its own interests, would it still make a good ally for our democratic forces? The answer is, of course it would. We should not fear taking a helping hand from the United States, if offered. The Americans do not have any hidden agenda. They are crystal clear about their objectives and are not after our independence. A peaceful, free, and democratic Iran is big enough of a prize for them. Which brings me to my next point.

3. They need us just as much as we need them. As important as it is for our leaders to abandon their xenophobia and realize that we do not need to deprive ourselves from international support in order to protect our independence, it is just as important to realize that we do not have to give unreasonable concessions to anyone and "give the store away", so to say, in order to obtain international support. Keeping this in mind is particularly important for Reza Pahlavi and our patriotic monarchists, who are under suspicion by some of our intellectuals to be more apt to sacrifice our country's independence. We need our leaders to clearly and resolutely believe that a peaceful, free, and democratic Iran under a free market system has so much to offer the world that the international community should be more than happy to accommodate our aspirations of independence. And as long as our independence and sovereignty is not abused by our leaders to threaten the security of the world and/or abuse the human rights of our population and national minorities the world has neither the right, nor the ability, or in my opinion, the desire to suppress our independence. The fear to lose our national independence in an alliance is totally overblown in the current international climate by some of our nationalists, and is rooted in an outdated perspective of international relations. As far as the European Union is concerned, a free and independ! ent Iran can provide it with enormous opportunities for investment in almost every conceivable area, from modernizing our telecommunication systems, to the rehabilitation of our aging and outdated oil extraction and export facilities, to our automobile and air travel industry, and so on, and so forth. And as far as the United States is concerned, a peaceful Iran that abandons support for international terrorism, stops pursuing the development of nuclear weapons, and knocks off its threatening rhetoric and aggressive behavior in the region is big enough of a prize. Neither of these potential allies is looking for a dependent client state any more. The "dependent client state" model is at least 20 years old and belongs to a totally different era of international relations. We are living in a different world today. We must abandon our old fears and take advantage of new opportunities.

So, here are my concluding words to our democratic leaders, republicans and monarchists alike: look forward, be compassionate, be confident, do not sacrifice our national independence, and most of all, I implore with all of you to unite for a democratic Iran. Remember, the hopes and dreams of a nation are riding on you.

About the author:

Mohsen Moshfegh was born in Tehran in 1958. He has completed his Doctoral degree in Mechanical Engineering at UCLA in 1988. He lives and works in the Bay Area in a major construction firm.

... Payvand News - 6/27/03 ... --

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