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If It Is Time For Regime Changes In The Middle East, Where Should We Begin?

By Kam Zarrabi, Intellectual Discourse


Is there even a single state in the Middle East that should be excluded from the list of candidates for regime change? Such candidacy is, of course, contingent on several factors, such as: Does the regime enjoy the support of the majority of its own population? Is the system based on the democratic principles that safeguard the rights of the minorities from the rule by the majority? Do the regime's human-rights standards mesh with the accepted norms in the modern world? Is the regime in peace with its neighbors, or is it viewed as a threat or a destabilizing factor by other states in the region? Is the regime viewed with respect and sympathy around the globe, or are there legitimate reasons for the international community to be concerned about it. And, how does the regime treat the international media, journalists and observers and their access to, and broadcast of, negative events occurring in the country?


Well, I cannot name a single state in the Middle East that should be excluded from that list.


The problem, however, is in evaluating and judging which state is the worst of the worst that should draw global attention for regime change considerations. Which state should be the first one to be isolated and put under international sanctions, economic and diplomatic pressure, and even military threats, in order to submit to the will of the international community?


Which state is the greatest violator of United Nations Security Council resolutions, has committed the most heinous atrocities, including war crimes, against its neighbors, bans media reporters and broadcasts from the scenes of its atrocities on a routine basis, has threatened and continues to threaten other nations, has armed itself to the teeth, has horded weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons and means of delivering them, and where not all citizens of the state share equal civil rights and privileges under the law? 


You only have one guess as to the name of this staunchest ally of the Unites States, which is referred to as the only democracy and the symbol of Western values in the Middle East!


Now let us go to some other friendly allies of the United States, those moderate Arab states that toe our line as required and, in exchange, continue to benefit from our support. When was the last time there were open political rivalries, debates or street rallies and peaceful anti-regime demonstrations in, say, Egypt or Saudi Arabia? What is the percentage of women in these countries who receive higher education, are involved in politics or hold positions of authority in the affairs of state or the private sector?


Next, we go to the supposedly more Westernized and friendly Islamic country of Turkey, another American ally, with aspirations of being admitted into the European Union. What are the real numbers of casualties among the Turkish citizens, including Kurdish dissidents and anti-regime traditionalists, who were targeted by the Turkish military using American made weapons in violation of American laws that forbid the use of those weapons against the country's own civilians - hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands?


None of this, of course, is meant to vindicate Iran's style of governance or make it appear as a model of liberal democracy and progress, even though in comparison with its neighbors and rivals in the region, it does shine as perhaps the best of the worst.


Now the question: Why all this nonstop coverage of the demonstrations and clashes in the streets of Tehran in literally every major news network or, I should say, infotainment media, here and equally in England, going on for over two weeks? Had it not been for the Rock legend Michael Jackson's death now saturating the airwaves, the Iranian "insurrection" would continue to be a source of entertainment for the American audiences. Where did all these "experts" on Iran and "senior correspondents" specializing in Iranian affairs suddenly crawl out of? And above all, why all the spin and disregard for opposing perspectives that do not support the prevailing portrayals of the events? A return look at Mexico's 2006 presidential elections and the New York Times coverage of that event creates an interesting contrast to the extraordinary coverage of the Iranian elections by our "infotainment" media.


Another pertinent question should logically follow: Who stands to gain from this media frenzy and anti Iranian regime sentiments?


The immediate or kneejerk response to this question is to say that the dissent movement as a whole should benefit from the support and encouragement from such publicity and saturation coverage by the Western media. Demonstrators who brave the harsh treatment by the crowd-control police and the militia would welcome encouragements from any source to keep the momentum alive, regardless of what the true motives behind such encouragements might be.


Naturally, without moral and even material support, and in the face of strong reaction from the security forces, the opposition movement would lose momentum and fizzle out, either to disappear or to go into a lengthy hibernation to reappear at some future time.


Looking at it from another perspective, such excessive media coverage and foreign propaganda frenzy, especially by agencies such as the BBC, which has been blamed for not only interfering, but actually masterminding political events in, among other places, Iran, could taint and discredit a genuine movement and weaken its legitimacy in the eyes of the Iranian people. Simply look at the Palestinian movement and the support Mahmood Abbas has been receiving from the friends and supporters of their arch nemesis, Israel. Clearly, support for Mr. Abbas and his so-called Palestinian Authority has been aimed at weakening the real representative of the Palestinian resistance against the Israeli occupation, Hamas. Divide and conquer continues to be the time-tested modus operandi, allowing any unwanted social movement to self-destruct.


If Mr. Mousavi, now supposedly the champion of the opposition movement in Iran, becomes adopted as a foster child of the United States and Great Britain, the reform movement in Iran could suffer the same fate as the so-called Palestinian Authority, not as a viable alternative to improve the lot of the Iranian nation, but as a divisive ploy to weaken Iran as a challenger to the designs of the superpowers in the Middle East - and that includes Israel. For the Iranian opposition movement to avoid this fate, it is essential to keep it indigenous, clean and unadulterated by foreign influences.


It was indeed sad to see Reza Pahlavi, in an interview with an Israeli paper, seeking the support of the Israeli regime for the Iranian opposition movement, even though he did warn against direct military action by Israel. I don't know what the hell is the matter with this guy!


As I watched his press conference at the Press Club last weekend, I couldn't help but mentally tune out his crowd pleasing sophomoric utterances and, instead, wondered how Iran's image in the global media would fare if its president looked and spoke more like the handsome Reza Pahlavi or the always authoritative Bibi Netanyahu!


One clear and unabashed beneficiary of this two-weeks-long media frenzy has been the government of the Israeli hardliner, Netanyahu, whose winning ace-up-his-sleeve to defeat his rivals was his anti Iran rhetoric as the greatest existential threat against the Jewish state. He has already vindicated himself by pointing to the results of the Iranian presidential elections as proof that any rapprochement with Iran would be en exercise in futility.


We also have the rightwing hardliners and neoconservatives in our administration who have opposed President Obama's announced policy of a softer approach to Iran. They are now showing their great pleasure that the post elections protests in Iran have prompted the President to adopt a harsher tone against the Islamic Republic. Chief among them is the unofficial Israeli representative in the Unites States Congress, Joe Lieberman, who is pushing ever harder now to take advantage of this golden opportunity.


What can we read between these lines?


The way the portrayal has been projected onto the global Multiplex screens in full splendor and hair-raising special effects, the Islamic Republic of Iran remains as the greatest danger to the regional and, indeed, global peace and security. As a result of this masterful portrayal, Israel was proven right, again: Its claim that Iran is an existential threat to the Jewish state is now vindicated. And President Obama is now back on track with the Republicans and his own party hawks who were not too enamored with his initial soft approach to the Iranians.


The media pundits, Left, Right and Center, are also unanimous in their condemnation of the Iranian regime and their praise of the Administration for its reaction against the Islamic Republic for the rigged elections and its treatment of the anti regime protesters. One cannot but wonder how peacefully and gently the US administration would deal with a million-strong anti war demonstrators disrupting life in Washington DC, or storming the Pentagon, setting cars, buses and stores on fire, destroying property and shouting Death to the Warmongers!


When President Obama condemned the Iranian regime's crackdown on the "peaceful" demonstrations, does he remember the Sixties "peaceful" demonstrations, called "riots" at the time, right here at home, or is he too young to have such memories. Can he recall the massacre at Kant State, for example? What about the more recent Waco massacre?


This is not to say that two wrongs make a right. But when the pot calls the kettle black we see more than double standards, we see hypocrisy.


Clearly, a peaceful and cooperative Iran under a new leadership such as what Mr. Mousavi might have established, although I regard that as quite presumptuous, would not have served the "purpose" nearly as well as the way things have turned out.


Kam Zarrabi is the author of
In Zarathushtra's Shadow

Now President Obama does not have to get into trouble with the Congress and the American infotainment media for extending his hand toward Iran, hoping to encounter Iran's unclenched fist. Now Mr. Netanyahu can say; See, I told you; the Iranians are incorrigible, so don't push us toward any peace negotiations with the Palestinians until the main threat facing all of us has been properly checked. And now, the American administration has ample reason to support Israel's position as an ally under the threat of annihilation by mad mullahs who will do their best to acquire nuclear weapons to terrorize the region.


It, therefore, follows logically that, in order to avoid another war, this time against an ominous Iran, The pressure on the Iranian regime should be intensified to a level just below a potentially catastrophic flashpoint. Avoiding that dangerous and unpredictable threshold is essential, as the perpetuation of the image of the Islamic Republic as a threat is far more productive for everyone concerned than the absence of the myth.


This way, we can avoid a very costly war, Israel does not have to resort to a dangerous alternative in order to dodge the pressure to enter into peace negotiations or make any concessions toward a settlement with the Palestinians, the oil-rich Arab states will have to purchase more American military equipment to defend against a perceived Iranian aggression, and American forces will continue their presence in the entire region to safeguard the interests of the civilized world - and let us not forget oil.


Ironically, Iran also benefits by not being drawn into a military confrontation it cannot afford, should Israel take its own initiative if the preceding scenario is not implemented according to plan!


How much better can it get?  


Not much; unless you just happen to be a patriotic Iranian concerned about a tired nation, whose hopes and aspirations to realize its true potentials, economically, socially and politically, have been compromised through mismanagement at home and pressures from abroad.


As the world mourns and celebrates the symbol of Iran's resistance against oppression, Neda, the attractive young casualty of confrontation between the demonstrators and the security police, many more Nedas shall be slain in the streets and alleys, from Gaza to Bogota and Mogadishu to Beijing, all casualties of lust for power and greed by those who always find justifications for whatever they do to secure their own interests.


This young Iranian victim should, perhaps, symbolize the struggle of mankind everywhere to defy tyranny and oppression, and not be hijacked and used as another propaganda tool for the benefit of special interest groups.


Kam Zarrabi

Kam Zarrabi is the author of In Zarathushtra's Shadow and Necessary Illusion. He is available to conduct lectures and seminars on international affairs, particularly in relation to Iran, with focus on US/Iran issues, at formal and informal gatherings or academic centers anywhere in the country. To make the necessary arrangements, please contact him at More information about Mr. Zarrabi and his work is available at:


... Payvand News - 06/28/09 ... --

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