The Bush administration's post-cold war policy of 'promoting democracy' in Iran may be ascribed to America's strategic concerns for energy and security; however, Iranians' struggle for a modern and democratic Iran can be traced to as far back as a century ago, beginning with the Constitutional Revolution of 1906. At every crucial moment in their long and ongoing struggle for an independent democratic state, Iranians have had to engage varying foreign powers, each of which attempting to serve its own interests either unilaterally or in conjunction with others. Perhaps the most unfortunate of these events, the global reverberations of which are even felt to this very day, was the overthrow of the democratically-elected government of Dr. Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953 by means of a coup planned and carried out jointly by Britain and the United States (US). Having set the stage for the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, the coup was also partially responsible for furthering anti-American tendencies throughout the Middle East.
It is now the year 2006 and the US is at it again, hoping, once more, to alter the course of Iranian history. The Bush administration hawks, aware of the Iranian nation's urgent desire for change, have, to a great extent, set the political and psychological ground for what appear to be the beginning stages of violent regime change in Iran. Ignorant of America's long-term interests and unconcerned about their disastrous failure in Iraq, the hawks have succeeded in forcing the Iranian regime into a confrontational position, whereby even the slightest move by the Islamic Republic does seem like a serious threat to the West. Unfortunately, the hawks' exaggeration of the threats posed by the Iranian regime has so baffled public perception worldwide that even the horrifying revelation of a possible nuclear attack on Iran does not seem capable of provoking any significant moral outrage. This, of course, can also be partially attributed to the Iranian president's rhetorical remarks as regard Israel's existence a few weeks ago, in which he threatened Israel with annihilation.
Consequently, assessing the future prospects of Iranian democracy from the above perspective, it becomes all too clear that US' military threats against Iran cannot but dampen such prospects, if only because threats of the sort simply frighten and thus incapacitate the very people who are supposed to be the harbingers of such a democracy. Recent reports coming out of Iran give sufficient credibility to the idea that the mere likelihood of a US attack - let alone a nuclear attack - has already greatly debilitated the once nascent student and human rights movements inside Iran. Recent arrests by the government of student and trade union organizers, ethnic minority leaders, and attorneys representing political prisoners - often labelled as foreign agents and thus threats to national security - are all indications of such debilitation.
In all, for democracy to flourish in Iran, the US must, first and foremost, shun military threats altogether, especially of the nuclear kind. Such behaviour will reassure ordinary folk in Iran that the US is not out to steal their future. Second, doing away with the military option should not discourage the West in pursuing other routes in dismantling the Iranian regime, for any sort of an unscrupulous compromise by the West or the US with the Islamic Republic will necessarily embolden the regime vis-à-vis democratic forces. To this effect, the notion of yet another cold war, only this time with the Iranian regime, would not be such a bad idea. Lastly, the US, by valuing the cooperation of the European Union - especially cooperation offered by Britain, France, and Germany - and avoiding the use of force, should seek to put added pressure on the Islamic Republic to respect the democratic and human rights of the Iranian people. This, in turn, shall, most definitely, pave the way for internal dynamics of all sorts.
About the author:
Jalal Alavi is a sociologist and political commentator residing in Britain.
... Payvand News - 4/24/06 ... --