Moving Iran towards Democracy: Renowned Iranian-American Scholar Discusses Options
Jose, CA - September 22, 2005 -- In a
program held by Bay Area Iranian-American Democrats (www.baiad.org), Reza Aslan, author of No god but God, argued that the U.S. has
“miserably failed” in its strategy to deal with Iran’s clerical regime. According to Aslan, the
method of sanctioning and isolating Iran has
in fact made “the clerical regime stronger and the democratic opposition
supported his assertion by highlighting inherent weaknesses in the isolation and
sanctions are intended to pressure subject countries into compliance by
crumbling their economy. In the
case of Iran
however, Aslan claims this economic damage has been offset by
trade relations with Russia,
isolation has allowed its government to “ward off any consequences from
continuing human rights violations”.
In addition, Iran has
taken advantage of “forced containment in an unstable region to foster the
clerical regime’s paranoia and to justify its repression of opposition and
pursuit of nuclear weapons”.
refuted the effectiveness of two other approaches as well. The first is the
notion of targeted military strikes, currently advocated by many in the
pentagon. The belief is that
bombing selected nuclear sights in Iran
draws attention to the weaknesses of the clerical regime. Once this weakness is
recognized, Iranians will rise up and tear down the system. According to Aslan, this method would
not work because there is a “long and deep sense of nationalism” amongst
Iranians that intensifies especially when there is foreign threat. An example of this is the Iran-Iraq
second strategy, currently pursued by congress, is to continue to provide
support to Iranian opposition groups.
The problem lies in figuring out which groups to support and Aslan says
assistance to some organizations makes matters even worse. One group for example is
MEK, a “fanatical religious cult”, outlawed in
their open support of Saddam
Hussein. While at one point this group was on
terrorist watch, now, it has suddenly become “the most supported group of
dissidents outside of Iran”. Other such groups are those
running the satellite television programs.
Their target is the youth living in
their purpose is to ferment revolution.
The problem however is that these stations have different agendas. A sense of competition for funds has
“fostered animosity between them” according to Aslan, weakening their unified
how do we create a freer, more democratic
Iran? Aslan believes that the only option left
at this point is “to put aside our ideological differences and truly engage the
Iranian government the same way we engaged the Soviets throughout the cold
war”. The idea is to force
become open to international communication by entering into inter-dependent
trade relations, removing economic obstacles and abandoning isolation and
sanctioning policies on Iran. The time for another revolution,
according to him, “has come and gone and the clerics are now more entrenched and
stronger than they have ever been”.
The only solution for stability now, as Aslan sees it, is to do the exact
opposite of isolation: it is to open up
international relationships, dialog and observation.
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