Comment is Free published a shortened version of the following piece today. The comment thread is interesting so it might be worth a visit to check out what the right and left are saying:
Those guys who brought you regime change in Iraq, fake WMD, the fake Iraq-Al Qaeda connection, 4,000 dead GIs, and a trillion dollar war–they’re selling snake oil again.
This time it’s Iran. Not content to allow Iranians to fight their own battles for democracy, the neocon war party is beating the drum for U.S. intervention. Recently Paul Wolfowitz and Charles Krauthammer weighed in on the subject. Their views aren’t unexpected. You’d just have thought they’d allow a decent interval to lapse after Iran’s streets flowed with young blood before they’d inveigle us with their fraudulent vision of events there.
The neocon meme goes like this—the brave Iranians we see on our TV screens and computer monitors aren’t demonstrating about a stolen election. They’ve gone whole hog and become counter-revolutionaries. They want to dump the corrupt, tyrannical system, turn their backs on “radical” Islam, and install a Bush-era Middle East secular democracy. Bush redeemed.
This is from Krauthammer:
…This incipient revolution is no longer about the election. Obama totally misses the point. The…provided the spark for the eruption of anti-regime fervor that has been simmering for years and awaiting its moment. But people aren’t dying in the street because they want a recount of hanging chads in suburban Isfahan. They want to bring down the tyrannical, misogynist, corrupt theocracy….
This started out about election fraud. But like all revolutions, it has far outgrown its origins. What’s at stake now is the very legitimacy of this regime — and the future of the entire Middle East.
This revolution will end either as a Tiananmen…or as a true revolution that brings down the Islamic Republic.
…Our fundamental values demand that America stand with demonstrators opposing a regime that is the antithesis of all we believe.
In a more sophisticated fashion, Marc Reuel Gerecht makes the suspect claim that Islam and democracy are fundamentally incompatible. He’s even given the protests a new name none of its supporters would ever choose, the ”June 12th Revolution:”
…In Iran in the aftermath of this month’s fraudulent elections…we are witnessing…the unraveling of the religious idea that has shaped the growth of modern Islamic fundamentalism since the creation of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 1928.
The Islamic revolution in Iran encompassed two incompatible ideas: that God’s law — as interpreted by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini — would rule, and that the people of Iran had the right to elect representatives who would advance and protect their interests.
…Yet in the current demonstrations we are witnessing not just the end of the first stage of the Iranian democratic experiment, but the collapse of the structural underpinnings of the entire Islamic approach to modern political self-rule.
…Westerners would do well to understand the magnitude of what is transpiring in the Islamic Republic. Iran’s revolution shook the Islamic world. It was the first attempt by militant Muslims to prove that “Islam has all the answers”…But the experiment has failed.
…Whether he intended it or not, Mr. Moussavi — and indirectly Ayatollah Khamenei because of his crude determination to keep the former prime minister from power — has probably begun the final countdown on the Islamic Republic.
The only Iranians who want what the neocons claim the former want (a secular anti-clerical revolution) are the discredited Mujahadeen Khalq. This is what real Iranians want (from the NIAC Iranian-American blog):
Dear friend, if you have any contacts within the American Administration, please send them this message on behalf of us, ordinary Iranians in Iran. Tell your contacts in the Administration that their point of view regarding Iran is by far the best position that an American Government has ever taken. We appreciate this and thank the President.
During the last two or three decades not one American president had “understood” Iran. All of them got caught in the traps of the mollahs…but this time the intelligent president has decided not to join in their game, bravo.
It is normal that he is criticized vividly…by most Republicans: [for some] time they have been asking…that America attack Iran and change the regime…without wanting to know what today’s young Iranian wants here and now.
Stephen Kinzer, in Comment is Free earlier this week penned the most persuasive attack on the neocon position:
The US sowed the seeds of repression in Iran by deposing Mossadeq in 1953, and then helped bathe Iran in blood by giving Saddam Hussein generous military aid during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. Militants in Washington who now want the US to intervene on behalf of Iranian protesters…delude themselves into thinking that Iranians have forgotten it. Some of them [militants], in fact, are the same people who were demanding just last year that the US bomb Iran – an act which would have killed many of the brave young protesters they now hold up as heroes.
America’s moral authority in Iran is all but non-existent. To the idea that the US should jump into the Tehran fray and help bring democracy to Iran, many Iranians would roll their eyes and say: “We had a democracy here until you came in and crushed it!”
To which we should add, that American interference in Iranian affairs will be used quite effectively by the very repressive forces we claim to oppose in attacking the Iranian reformers.
As we know from our eight years of Bush smearmongering, when a nation is in danger it is only too easy to sully the reputation of political opponents. You question their judgment, their patriotism, you associate them with foreign enemies, you put them on the defensive. They are marginalized. If we truly wish to see Iran open to the world and Iranians living freer lives, why would we want to do this to those who can bring this about?
I think the answer is that many neocon partisans care little about the actual people of Iran. They are merely pawns in a geo-strategic chess game between Islam and the west. The Iranian regime must fall. Whoever helps in that goal is useful, but not terribly important. That is why the Israelis and neocons, during the election, disparaged Moussavi as warmed-over Ahmadinejad. These rightist ideologues do not want a reformed Iran, as Moussavi does. They want an Iran shorn of Islam, or at least political Islam. That is something almost no Iranian wants. But again, that matters very little to the Krauthammers and Wolfowitzes of the punditocracy. They would be just as happy seeing democracy “imposed” on Iran as they were to see it imposed on Iraq. And it would work just as “well” as it has in Iraq. Matt Duss at Think Progress has written convincingly on some of these questions.
Israel works hand-in-glove with the neocon effort. Its leaders too wish to see the Iranian regime overthrown. That is why we see Bibi Netanyahu on our TV screens here, interviewed for Meet the Press. During his appearance, in terms reeking of motherhood and apple pie, he praised the Iranian demonstrators for unmasking the true terrorist nature of the Iranian regime and yearning for freedom. In doing so, he conflated two issues which no Iranian ever would. He attempted to transform Iran’s reformers into counter-revolutionaries who would turn their back on Iran’s foreign commitments supporting Israel’s enemies in Gaza and Lebanon. In effect, he has co-opted the demonstrators and turned them into Israel’s ally. If anyone in Iran were to believe Bibi, the opposition would be dead.
But for Bibi it makes little difference. If the opposition wins, he wins since it may change Iran’s policy. And if the opposition loses, Bibi still wins because the more bloodshed in Teheran, the more favorably the world will view Israel’s case for regime change (or at least a massive bombing campaign against nuclear facilities). In fact, as far as the Israeli right is concerned, if the opposition loses it will be better for them. That’s why they care very little how much damage they do to its cause with such ill-advised statements.
The American mass media can sometimes become unintended co-conspirators in the campaign to smear Iran and advance Israel’s interests. Take a CNN interview in which a purported Iranian student called the American Morning show and provided an entirely suspect summary of the goals of the opposition. The host, John Roberts first asks him:
Roberts: Mohammad, Are the students seeking regime change? Are they looking to bring down the Ayatollah and completely change the form of government there in Iran? Or are you looking for – as has been suggested – more civil rights, more freedoms within the context of the existing regime?
Mohammad: Yes. Let me tell you something. For about three decades our nation has been humiliated and insulted by this regime. Now Iranians are united again one more time after 1979 Revolution. We are a peaceful nation. We don’t hate anybody. We want to be an active member of the international community. We don’t want to be isolated…We don’t deny the Holocaust. We do accept Israel’s rights. And actually, we want — we want severe reform on this structure. This structure is not going to be tolerated by the majority of Iranians. We need severe reform…
…Americans, European Union, international community, this…is definitely not elected by the majority of Iranians. So it’s illegal. Do not recognize it. Stop trading with them. Impose much more sanctions against them. My message…to the international community, especially I’m addressing President Obama directly – how can a government that doesn’t recognize its people’s rights and represses them brutally and mercilessly have nuclear activities? This government is a huge threat to global peace. Will a wise man give a sharp dagger to an insane person? We need your help international community. Don’t leave us alone.
Actually, this regime is really dependent on importing gasoline. More than 85% of Iran’s gasoline is imported from foreign countries. I think international communities must sanction exporting gasoline to Iran and that might shut down the government.
This statement reflects Israel’s talking points on this subject so precisely that I frankly have strong suspicions that “Mohammed” is not who he claimed to be. I am trying to verify what sort of due diligence, if any, the show’s producers did to authenticate the man’s claim to be an Iranian student. It is certainly within the realm of possibility for Israeli intelligence to engage in this sort of media manipulation to advance its interests within this country.
As if to reinforce this notion, Aipac released a statement pointing to this interview in order to remind the American public about its own lobbying push for draconian sanctions against Iran. The pro-Israel community here is worried that the unrest in Iran has derailed their ongoing political campaign against Iran’s nuclear program. A statement like this is a shot in the arm. Can I prove Mohammed is a fraud? No. But there are only two sets of interests which could benefit from the type of malarkey Mohammed is peddling: Israel and the mullahs. And I doubt the mullahs are thinking much about using CNN to smear the reformers (though I could be wrong).