Two days ago, massive anti-government demonstrations in nearly every major city in Iran sent the Islamic thugocracy there an unmistakable message: your time is short. Even in the capital city of Tehran, demonstrators burned tires and disrupted traffic. The mullahs did what they always do, and called out their "Revolutionary Guards" to quell the disturbances. Many demonstrators were arrested, and will be treated to the torture and beatings that the mullahs think will staunch their desire for freedom, and deter others. The mullahs cut off most international telephone service to limit what the world hears about the demonstrations. Despite their best efforts, the word got out. But now the world's media -- not just the over-Rathered American media -- are inexplicably ignoring the story.
The situation in Iran has been accelerating for many months. According to Michael Ledeen, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, the mullahs recently conducted a poll that found that only about 4% of the Iranian people thought the government was legitimate. That's probably about the same number that the Brits would have gotten from a poll taken in Boston in 1775. The unrest in Iran is growing to equal the unrest in 1978 and 1979 when the mullahs' own revolution overthrew the Shah's government.
Reza Pahlavi, the late Shah's son, told me that this new round of demonstrations is a bit different from those before. "What is intriguing about this particular demonstration is that it comes around the anniversary of the constitutional revolution of 1906. The Iranian people have the same aspirations now as they did then." I had to look that one up. The Persian revolution of 1906 brought about a constitutional monarchy modeled after Belgium's. It was the beginning of the successful westernization of Iran that the mullahs reversed when Pahlavi's father was overthrown. Pahlavi firmly believes the Iranian people are "completely at odds with the regime" of the mullahs. He said that the "game plan" was to make these demonstrations continuous, and keep building the pressure on the mullahs. That is very good news.
One of the ways for us to knock off the Axis of Evil off is to help the oppressed peoples of those nations overthrow the tyrants themselves. Where the threat is less immediate, and we can take our time, this strategy is preferable because it spends less of our blood and treasure. But in most of those countries -- including Saudi Arabia -- the repression is so strong that the people have little means of even organizing to rebel. But that does not mean we should sit quietly and let dissidents such as those in Iran fail.
It is tempting, but unwise, to think how we might help to overthrow the mullahs forcibly. Ledeen and Pahlavi both counseled against that. Ledeen told me he was unaware of anyone who was arguing for direct intervention. Pahlavi said that Iran is a "ticking time bomb" that may explode in the mullahs' faces, but all that Iran needs now is for President Bush to "stay on message." He credits Bush with being the first American president to distinguish between the mullahs' regime and the people of Iran. He believes the people of Iran are "getting fed up" and may soon rid themselves of the mullahs.
Our national security requires that we bring about the end of the regimes that govern the Axis of Evil, and maybe a few more as well. Tuesday's report in the Washington Post of the Rand study labeling the Saudis as the source of much of the terrorism in the world is a big step in the right direction. Our Most Dispensable Ally was described by Rand as "active at every level of the terror chain." The Post also quoted the Rand study as saying the Saudis were "the kernel of evil, the prime mover, the most dangerous opponent" in the Middle East. It will be a long time before we can effect enough change in Saudi Arabia to move it from the "enemy" to the "ally" side of the ledger. But that may not be so for Iran. Iran can again be an ally, perhaps soon, and provide the lever with which we can move the whole Middle East.
Iran was a reliable ally of the United States before the theocratic thugs took charge. We must not think of Iran only as the nation that held our embassy staff hostage for over a year. We should think of Iran as a base from which freedom -- the only lasting antidote to terrorism -- can be spread throughout the Middle East. If Iran were free, its example would create enormous pressure on Saudi Arabia, Syria and others. It's pretty clear that we can't wait to overthrow Saddam by setting up a good example in Iran, but the meaning of freedom would leak over its borders into every corner of the Islamic world. Eventually even Saudi Arabia and Syria would dispose of their despotic regimes peacefully or otherwise.
So just what should we do? Ledeen rightly believes that we should be acting more vigorously by helping fund the Iranian opposition. We can, and should, also fund the opposition television and radio broadcasts.
As Pahlavi noted, Mr. Bush is the first American president since 1979 to distinguish between the mullahs, who are our enemy, and the Iranian people, who are our friends. The president should be saying that loudly, and often. We should broadcast the news into Iran, and send money and communications equipment -- and other equipment they may need -- to the opposition groups. We should make it clear to the Iranians that we remember them as friends, and invite them to rejoin us. Right now, only Turkey stands as an example of individual freedom in the Islamic world. If Iran were to join it, we'd find ourselves well along the road to victory in the war on terror.
P.S. While energetically ignoring this story, the media are taking great pains to broadcast the satellite pictures of our new airbase in Qatar. In those pictures you can identify -- and count -- the KC-135s on the ramp. Next, I suppose, we'll see the pilots' home addresses, flight schedules and routes posted on the Internet. Freedom of the press has no greater supporter than yours truly. But this is not an exercise of the First Amendment. It is a despicable and flagrant violation of the responsibility we all must have to our nation and its fighting men in time of war. Whoever is responsible for airing those photos should be made to ride one of those KC-135s on its first fifty missions, and take the soldier's risk that he has increased tenfold.
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