Should the Green Revolution succeed in toppling the regime, it will be the greatest event since the collapse of the Soviet Union. It will prove to be a more decisive event than even the invasion of Iraq and will rival the attacks of September 11, 2001, in influencing the course of history. The stakes could not be higher. The regime could fall, resulting in the greatest victory in the war on terror to date, or the regime will survive, leaving behind tens of thousands of bloodied bodies, a discouraged population unlikely to take such risks again and bitter at the lack of support from the United States, potentially losing the West one of its best allies. The regime will emerge stronger than before, far more emboldened, and far more vicious and radical — a development that could prove fatal to efforts to prevent a regional war from erupting.
The conflict between the Iranian regime and the civilized world has reached across continents, influencing almost every sphere of conflict. The most immediate effects would be seen in the Middle East. The world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, the primary lifeline of Hamas, Hezbollah, and other groups, and a secret but critical supporter of al-Qaeda will be eliminated, forcing them into a desperate search for funding, training, arms, ideological support, and guidance to keep them afloat. Hamas will suffer a mighty blow, setting them on a downhill track they probably won’t be able to reverse. Hezbollah will have to rely upon the Syrian government for survival, which will be facing its greatest instability since the 1980s as the people become inspired by the success in Iran and the regime loses its most critical ally. The Syrian regime either will have to dramatically liberalize and try to win over the West or will fall. So goes the Iranian regime, so will go the Syrian regime.
The Lebanese, already buoyed by their electoral victory over Hezbollah, will finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Iraq will increasingly stabilize without Iranian interference, allowing for a safe withdrawal of U.S. forces. The political and ideological contest between the more secular and more Sharia-inclined Shiites will move decisively in the favor of the former, and that will ease the fears of the Sunnis, who understandably fear persecution by Shiite political forces they equate with the Iranian regime.
The new democratic Iran will have to work hard to resuscitate the collapsed economy. The first step they will take will be to sell oil, and lots of it, bringing down its price and reducing U.S. dependency upon the Gulf countries for energy. The Saudis and the other countries on the Arabian Peninsula can finally be held accountable.
In Latin America, Chavez’ potential nuclear partner-in-crime will no longer be around. Any covert activity by the Iranians to help Chavez shore up his security against similar unrest will end. He may not fall, but he’ll surely have reason to be worried. North Korea will immediately lose its most important customer, potentially along with Syria and other Iranian allies who decide to change course. Finally, North Korea will be feeling the economic pressure we’ve long sought.
The ideological victory will also be priceless. The death of the Shiite wing of radical Islam will provide a body blow to the Sunni wing, as the two cooperate and are both threatened by a popular revolution debunking the notion that theocratic governance is in any way desirable. A free Iran will also be a country of moderate Muslims, providing the counter to extremism we have longed for. The Green Revolution will provide a compelling rebuttal to the propaganda from the extremist media monopoly that has plagued the region until recently.
In the U.S., defections from the Iranian-sponsored extremist apparatus and captured files from the regime’s offices will provide the West with a mother lode of information about our vulnerabilities and how foreign terrorists and intelligence services operate. The intelligence community will also get to pore over thousands of regime documents detailing their support for terrorists such as al-Qaeda and the Taliban. This information will prove priceless in identifying and tackling the networks in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
If we’re honest about the lessons of the Green Revolution, the U.S. will realize that the promotion of human rights and democracy is the correct strategy and that allying with oppressed people isn’t simply a feel-good suggestion, but a moral and strategic imperative. The knowledge gained about the use of “soft power” in confronting tyrant regimes could cause U.S. policy to dramatically improve, perhaps even fostering a bipartisan consensus about the importance of supporting similar movements in the future.
It’s also worth mentioning the alternative reality should the Green Revolution fail. There will be another Israeli offensive into Gaza and possibly Lebanon, as the terrorists cannot give up their addiction for blood. Iran will either become a nuclear weapons state or be bombed by Israel, giving Ahmadinejad the excuse he’s always wanted to enact his apocalyptic end-times vision. Most of the Middle Eastern countries will go nuclear and Iranian allies like Syria, Venezuela, and Sudan will as well. And there is no telling what the regime will do once they are emboldened by their new arms. An escalation of support for terrorists in Iraq, Lebanon, the Gulf, and around the world is a given.
According to one report based on a CIA source, President Obama has instructed the intelligence community to not get involved in helping the Iranian people in any way, shape, or form. He did not hold a single high-level conference call or meeting on June 14 when an estimated one to two million people gathered in Tehran. Secretary of State Clinton and Vice President Biden are trying to convince him to come out more decisively in favor of the opposition.
One of the above scenarios, one filled with good news and the other depicting a dark and frightening future, will come to pass. This may be the most important month of President Obama’s first term. The range of overt and covert options available to him is endless. For the sake of the Iranian people and the world at large, let us hope that President Obama doesn’t have a Bush 41 moment and let this opportunity pass.