So NOW What's Going on in Iran?
I think that many pundits insist on thinking about the Iran-that-was-five-days-ago, instead of the bubbling cauldron that it is today. The same mistake is repeated when people say that Mousavi, after all, is "one of them," a member of the founding generation of the Islamic Republic, and so you can't expect real change from him. The president made that mistake when he said that he didn't expect any real difference in Iran's behavior, no matter how this drama plays out.
I think that is wrong; at this point, Mousavi either brings down the Islamic Republic or he hangs. If he wins, and the Islamic Republic comes down, we may well see the whole world change, from an end of the theocratic fascist system, to a cutoff of money, arms, technology, training camps and intelligence to the world's leading terrorist organizations, and yes, even to a termination of the nuclear weapons program.
I think that, whatever or whoever Mir Hossein Mousavi was five days ago, he is now the leader of a mass movement that demands the creation of a free Iran that will rejoin the Western world. And yes, the wheel could turn again, this revolution could one day be betrayed, all kinds of surprises no doubt await the Iranian people. Yes, but. But today, there is a dramatic chance of a very good thing happening in Iran, and thus in the Middle East, and therefore in the whole world.
I have no doubt that Obama is being told by his intelligence czars and wizards that the regime is going to win, that the disturbances are not all that serious, and that he's going to have to deal with Ahmadi-Nezhad for the next four years, so he'd better be careful not to offend the poor dear. That's what every intelligence service ALWAYS says in these situations. It's what the Israeli Mossad is saying publicly, for heaven's sake:
Mossad chief Meir Dagan estimated that the civil unrest in Iran will not continue much longer.
Speaking to the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Dagan downplayed the significance of the riots, saying they are taking place only in Tehran and one other province.
Mr. Dagan, let us say, is phenomenally badly informed. The "riots" are taking place in every major city of Iran. Leon Panetta hasn't made any public statements (bless him for that), but one will get you five that the CIA didn't think there was any chance of this sort of all-out confrontation as of "election-circus day" and while they have no doubt hedged a bit since then, they still likely bet on a regime win.
Which is why I have a limited sympathy for Obama's efforts to say nothing much, even though I don't like it, and I think it's a mistake on his own grounds. As I said last time, it's wrong to think that your chances of getting a deal from your enemy is enhanced if you appease him. Reagan got lots of deals from the Soviet Union, even though he denounced it most every day.
As Obama discovered just today, America will be accused of meddling on behalf of freedom, even if we do nothing. And the accusation will have been true, in the most fundamental sense, even though the State Department raced to deny it. We are the symbol of freedom in the modern world, and those fighting for freedom against tyrants will intuitively invoke our name and our Constitution in their struggle. They are right, for the very existence of America threatens the legitimacy of the tyrants.
We meddle because we exist.