The Death Spiral of the Iranian Regime

Monday night in the city of Karaj, a car blew up.  It was carrying several members of the Revolutionary Guards' "foreign legion," non-Iranian Arabs being trained for operations against Americans and our friends and allies in the region.  The explosion was enormous.  "They used too much explosives," an Iranian friend commented.  Neither he nor I knows who carried out the attack, but it is only one of many.  I haven't seen a report about it in the press, but then there is no press these days in Iran; the papers -- those that hadn't already been shut down by the censors -- have been silenced during the Norooz holiday.

But the Iranian people have not been silenced. In addition to assassinations such as the spectacular explosion in Karaj, there have been more joyful confrontations with security forces across the country. There may not be newspapers, but there are videos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxlaH9wDMPY&feature=channel (from Kermanshah)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ohv8GhrEbNw&feature=channel (from Khoram Abad)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2i0ri-pV7Q&feature=player_embedded# (from Abadan)

http://homylafayette.blogspot.com/2010/03/tears-determination-and-joy-greet-new.html (from Shiraz and Tehran)

There are others, but you get the picture.  It's an ongoing revolt.

I'm often asked whether the Iranian people can actually defeat the evil regime that has oppressed them for more than three decades. When I say "hell yes," they usually act surprised. Which, in turn, surprises me, until I remember that hardly any of our institutions of higher (or lower) learning study such things seriously any more. Along with military history, it's pretty much vanished from university curricula. There are political reasons for this lack of understanding.

Even though we are living through one of the most revolutionary periods in human history, one is hard pressed to find thoughtful analyses of the explosive events in Iran coming from the misnamed "progressives."  This is doubly scandalous, both because they should have more sensitive antennae for such things, and because nobody should be surprised to find Iranians rebelling against their rulers; there were three revolutions there in the twentieth century alone.  Iranians can rightly claim to be revolutionaries par excellence.

What's wrong with these people?

The Left lost its revolutionary vocation when it became the blind supporter of Communism.  The Leftists were unwilling to acknowledge that others had taken up the revolutionary cause.  To admit that was to confess that they were no longer a vanguard movement, that they no longer fought for the freedoms that had defined them for two hundred years, and that they in practice had become defenders of the status quo. Unable to admit the truth, they set about distorting the language lest the truth become obvious.

Take the epithet "neoconservative," for example.  Most of the leading neocons are supporters of democratic revolution, all over the world.  So how can they be called "conservatives," neo or otherwise?

The Left slapped the “conservative” label on them because to acknowledge that the Left had abandoned those fighting for freedom was too painful, too humiliating, and psychologically discombobulating.  How could it be that the Left's enemies were now flying the banner of revolution?

And yet, it was true.  The greatest revolutionaries of the last twenty years of the twentieth century were all "conservatives":  Reagan, Thatcher, and John Paul II.  Since all three had to be denounced as reactionaries, it was impossible to recognize that they subverted the Soviet Empire and contributed to revolutionary successes in Latin America, Africa and Asia.  "Conservatives" can't do that;  conservatives maintain the world as it is, they don't transform it.  Only "progressives" can.

Today it is very difficult to find anyone on the “progressive” side of the spectrum who recognizes that Iran fulfills all the conditions for full-scale revolution.  When Iran became a central policy issue, the "conservatives" were in power, led by Bushitlercheney.  The Left could not possibly support Iranian democratic dissidents against the mullahs, since that would give legitimacy to Bush & Co.  Thus the Iranian revolution had to be denied, just as the widespread revolt against the Kremlin had been downplayed during the Reagan years.

This accounts for part of the failure to see Iran plain.  Anyone who looks can see that the country is in constant turmoil, that the regime has lost its legitimacy, and that anyone with a shred of moral conviction must call for support of the Iranian people.  Those who deny it are actually maintaining a dangerous fiction about themselves.

As they deny the death spiral of the mullahcracy, so they deny the strategic fact that should most concern our leaders:  the mullahs are killing Americans every day, most notably in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Our military men and women on the battlefield know all about this, and yet countless politicians and pundits shamefully pretend it isn't so, or it isn't all that bad (this often comes from the likes of Defense Secretary Gates, and even from General Petraeus from time to time).  The military commanders bite their tongues for a while, and then provide a trusted journalist with the facts, as we see in two recent stories in the London Times, here and here, documenting Iranian collusion with the Taliban.

Despite the moral and strategic imperatives, no Western government has yet seen fit to provide assistance to the Iranian dissidents, or even to talk to their leaders.  I am given to understand that members of the intelligence community, to their credit, proposed opening a channel of communication, but they were quickly slapped down by the policy people, to their shame.

I do not believe in historical inevitability, but I do think that the Iranian regime's days are numbered.  Khamenei, Ahmadinejad and the new tycoons of the Revolutionary Guards are now objects of derision in the streets of the country.  During the recent Fire Festival, an Iranian wryly said to me that Khamenei's official photograph must be the most popular picture of all time, since it was the principal component of the bonfires.  The supreme leader is widely considered to be the supreme loser.

When the regime comes down, the leaders of a free Iran will look back and ask themselves why no one in the West helped them when the regime was beating, torturing and executing them.  What will our leaders say?