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The Problem is Simple

Opinion article by Massoud Behnoud(source: Rooz Online)

At face value, the problem is simpler than that requiring political groups to battle each other, engage in pay-back time, use this opportunity to show their patriotism or even to display the level of their rational maturity, as if the further they stand from nationalism the higher they will be placed in grade school. The discussions today over the possibility of a military strike against Iran are unfortunately at this unsophisticated level.

I think the disappointment is with the domestic media. The censorship and oppression that dominates the country - which has been secretly run by interrogators since the last presidential election - is successfully preventing the domestic media from reporting the feelings of people who fear the possibility of a military strike on their homes. Every article that is written and read on this issue in Iranian media appears to have been written on orders from the Ministry of Guidance (which is in charge of the media in the country). It appears as if the nightly commentators that appear on televisions stations are there to present themselves or get a new job. There are no intelligent ideas, no logical principled interpretations to guide the regime towards a better direction or warn the war centers of Washington or Tel Aviv.

We read confusing articles with redundant sentences all of which repeat these themes: The West is exploding; The Wall Street movement is destroying the West; The West is afraid of a nuclear Islamic Republic; The spread of the Islamic republic; All Western countries are drowning in corruption, poverty and bankruptcy; The Arab Spring is turning into the Islamic Republic spring; Israel no longer has support; etc. We have been seeing these headlines for the last thirty years and there is absolutely no novelty in them.

If all the claims of the regime regarding its new inventions, discoveries and novelties are the level of the propaganda bluffs that it spreads, then one must congratulate its enemies for their work. Take a glance at the domestic news agencies two days after the leader of the Islamic Republic said that the aggressor would be put to its place with a punch - some media called it a slap and look at the remarks of senior military and political officials in the newspapers and the television: all are repeating the very same sentences, without any fresh or new presentations or analysis. The same punch or slap. At least those hooligans who spin the administration’s messages come up with some new term after their boss makes a speech, even though the language they present are in the confines of the dirty and filthy which respected families refrain from using. But at least there is novelty and creativity there so that the very next day everybody scrambles to find the meaning of the words that are produced or aired.

This is the painful picture of the domestic propaganda in Iran so that whenever a foreign observer looks at the media he cannot but conclude that the Islamic Republic has no backing except for the military and the Chinese and Korean assembled missiles. It is as if it has no other deterrent. It is as if the government’s crackdown and oppressive measures of the summer of 2009 after the presidential elections have created such a fear in the hearts of the people and families that nobody has the guts to say anything any longer.

But what is even more surprising is the situation with the expatriate pro-reform and pro-freedom Iranians who are said to number anywhere between five to seven million people. Even if just a thousandth of them were creative thinkers and specialists we would have seven thousand effective and efficient people who could produce new and creative ideas and thoughts. They could both pressure the regime in Tehran to wake up and prevent falling into the same fate that befell on Hosni Mubarak, Bashar Assad and Qadaffi while at the same time remind the decision-makers of the world of the serious perils of a military strike against Iran. Iran is not Libya where everybody looked up for Qadaffi to do something as Western eyes looked for communications channels to Seif al-Islam, Sadi, Mohammad and his family members.

Even if we assume that current developments against the Islamic Republic may be the groundwork for new initiatives against it, which can result in a military confrontation because of a mistake by either side, is the publication of just a few statements from inside and outside Iran, which look more like childish retaliations, all that Iranians can come up with? Do the hopes and trust of the Iranian people in their creative powers and thinkers inside and outside the country sum up in these meager responses?

It must be clearly stated that the views and actions of Saeed Hajjarian with his half disabled body, Mostafa Tajzadeh of whom the regime is so fearful that it has returned him to solitary confinement because occasionally some of his words are published on Facebook, or that quiet and respectable man Alireza Rajai, and others such as Alireza Alavaitabar, Saeed Laylaz, Zibakalam, Hermidas Bavand and Hatam Ghaderi, despite all the limitations and pressures that are imposed on them are preferred to those that arise from Iranians in the free world as the words are much more enlightening than the words or writings of the regime and its supporters. This is why I believe that the soul of those hard-die pro-velayat (supreme leader) supporters is in fact dead or has chosen to remain silent because of fear of harm to the children, families and the public in general.

The editorials and comments that appear in the Iranian press indicate that the writers believe that they are still in the 19 or 20th century. What took place at the end of the 20th century in Eastern Europe, then the Soviet Union, then in the 21st century and more recently to the Middle East (labeled as the Arab Spring), is different in nature to earlier revolutions. Even if we accept the desire of the official press and the Iranian TV network that the West intervenes only when its economic interests are at stake, the fact that they will still need an invitation to show to their tax paying populations or help them run their cars does not change. This is what US Secretary of State said at the VOA Persian Service Parazit program recently.

No action - whether it is propaganda pressure, political, economic or even military action - will take place without this invitation. This is the difference between wars and revolutions in the past and those that we have witnessed in the last 30 years.

When the US and its allies attacked Afghanistan they had been sent an invitation through Bin Laden. When the Taliban leader Mola Omar did not accept to deliver the master mind of the September 11 attacks to the US, he had in fact signed the invitation I am talking about. Regarding the attack on Iraq, because Saddam Hussein continued his violent nonsensical propaganda and bluffs, the US Department of Defense fabricated documents to get the approval of the American people because it had become convinced that the people of Iraq were tired after thirty years of sanctions and would welcome the American army.

But today, document forging is out but if the leaders and rulers of a regime speak out and develop grandiose ideas, won’t Western taxpayers feel insecure, scared and approve? What if people in Tehran launched a march chanting “We are Bin Laden?” Just a few years ago when Ahmadinejad noticed a void, one of his cronies told him that with every anti Israeli slogan that he chanted, the price of a barrel of oil would go up 10 Dollars, money that he could use to distribute to the poor people of the region and consequently take the place of ayatollah Khomeini and Abdol Nasser of Egypt. He did and it worked but the result is that three different teams from three different branches of the Iranian government continue to get the attention of someone in Washington to make a deal with the US, but get no response.

One can make another speculation. All Iranians are opposed to a military intervention in their country but is there any certainty that this reality can find its way to the White House or the decision making rooms of NATO members? Do we really believe that when 200 Iranian intellectuals sign a piece of paper that says Iranian people are against foreign military intervention the West would take this for a fact? Would it be strange if decision makers received their information from thousands of protesting Iranians which they would use as the basis of their plans? If a mistake is made, will it be anyone other than the Iranian people who will have to pay the price of such a mistake?

In countries where a single person makes all the major decisions, whether according or in violation of the law, and he is not responsible to any electorate and remains in his leadership position till the end of his life is viewed in today’s world as an undemocratic regime. Regardless of whether the person is officially a leader for life, even in countries such as Iraq, Egypt until recently, Syria or Iran with its parliament and elections, the world still views such countries as dictatorships. To the world that pins countries in one of two camps, democratic and dictatorship, based on whether their leaderships change hands or not, a country that does not change its leaders is viewed as a dictatorship.

There is one danger that must be watched and that is divisions within the regime. The Islamic Republic of Iran has turned into a divided state because of pressure of sanctions and restrictions imposed by international resolutions to the point where some are contemplating taking hostages or to the streets to solve the issue.

Last week when three massive explosions were heard in Tehran shaking buildings, breaking windows and scaring people who thought an earthquake had struck, the repeated blasts the fear of a military strike filled their hearts. It is reported that some people danced and clapped and some youth even chanted slogans and rejoiced.

Thinkers and those with culture and political views are opposed to a foreign military attack on their country, regardless of its intentions. But decision-makers and public opinion makers in democracies and NATO member states must be prevented from making a mistake. The decision-makers of the Islamic Republic must remember the sensitive final days of the destructive 8-year war with Iraq and the events that took place behind closed doors, and by reading the memoirs of those that were present in those events note that even great men and those in high office can make mistakes. Not everybody has the capacity to take back their earlier slogans. They realize this too late. There is no shortage of those in the East and West who believe that greatness lies in sticking to their viewpoints, rather than changing.

Iranian decisions makers must accept that these are hard times and that the country must be saved from the dangers it faces and thus leave their opponents free. Mouths will not remain silent forever. Shut mouths cannot protect the national interest.

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