Faster, Please!

Mahmoud and Ali Astride the World: Will We (Ever) Respond?

Things are tough for the regime in Iran, and are likely to get tougher.  The latest sign of concern at the top is yet another delay in canceling the subsidies on gasoline, a clear sign of concern that the country’s long-suffering drivers might demonstrate their unhappiness.  The end of subsidies is supposed to be mitigated by direct cash payments to “all” citizens, but nobody believes that the regime will be fair;  odds are very long that friendlies will get the cash, while critics will get stiffed.

Meanwhile, the paranoid tyrants have just banned lighting candles at birthday parties (really), because it’s one of those subversive “western” things that a proper Islamic Republic won’t tolerate.  And thirty of the celebrated dervishes of Isfahan –gentle souls who spin themselves into mystical trances — have just been locked up to protect Iranians from … well, I don’t really know from what.  So, no music, no dancing, no candles.  I suppose there will still be a bit of chanting in Arabic.

This sort of frantic and senseless brutality is justified by an appeal to danger.  Last week the defenders of Iranian soil announced that

unidentified foreign planes violated its airspace six times as the country kicked off its biggest ever air defense drill but that the intruders were intercepted and forced back by Iranian jets.

The remarks by Gen. Hamid Arjangi, a spokesman for the exercise, were the first Iranian claim of an intrusion. Initially, he had only said that foreign reconnaissance planes had approached Iran’s air space.

Not surprisingly, there was no confirmation, and in the recent past such announcements have been accompanied by shoot-downs of “enemy aircraft” that turned out to be the Iranians’ own planes.

No foreign power was blamed for the intrusion, and so far as I can tell, the regime fears most everyone on the planet.  It’s hard to find a foreign country this side of Pyongyang that meets with the approval of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The supreme leader denounced “Zionist India” as part of his Haj message to the world’s Muslims:

Today the major duties of the elite of the Islamic Ummah is to provide help to the Palestinian nation and the besieged people of Gaza, to sympathize and provide assistance to the nations of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Kashmir, to engage in struggle and resistance against the aggressions of the United States and the Zionist regime, to safeguard the solidarity of Muslims and stop tainted hands and mercenary voices that try to damage this unity .…

The Europeans are not only denounced, but their citizens are attacked: French diplomats were beaten up in Tehran, and two German journalists from Bild am Sonntag were snatched on the street and are now facing espionage charges.  And two Africans — a Nigerian and a Ghanaian — were executed for no apparent reason, although there may be some connection with Nigeria’s highly publicized discovery of significant quantities of arms and drugs in the port of Lagos.  The shipments were apparently supposed to be routed through The Gambia, and while there has been some speculation that the cargo would then move on to some other hot spot (Afghanistan?), it’s more likely that it, and other shipments that were not discovered, were headed for contending factions in the upcoming Nigerian elections.  As they did in Iraq, the Iranians love to arm both sides in ethnic conflicts, in order to increase their own political leverage.  The drugs serve a dual purpose:  to pay off the recipients, and to stimulate fighters to take risks that no sober person would consider.

Even Canada was recently attacked as a threat.  Citing a wave of criminal violence, the regime painted a very dark picture of one of Iranian refugees’ favorite countries:

Iran is warning its citizens not to come to Canada out of fear of widespread Islamophobia sweeping the country.

A story posted on the website of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting news agency states the foreign ministry in Iran issued the warning earlier this week. The agency claims crime rates in Canada have soared recently and Iranian nationals may fall victim to this new crime spree ….

The Iranian government also claims Muslims in Canada are being denied “social and political rights” and police are not following up on complaints filed by Iranians in this country.

France was also accused of Islamophobia.

All of this is taking place at the same time the Iranian leaders are spending an enormous amount of money on foreign adventures.  We know about the terror war they are waging in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we should be paying attention to recent events in Central America, where (Iranian ally) Nicaragua recently invaded Costa Rica (a country with no army) with the apparent intent of constructing a new canal between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.  The Israeli newspaper Haaretz spells it out:

Sources in Latin America have told Haaretz that the border incident and the military pressure on Costa Rica…are the first steps in a plan formulated by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, with funding and assistance from Iran, to create a substitute for the strategically and economically important Panama Canal.

Add to this the meddling in Nigeria and you’ve got a global Iranian strategy, with ambitious actions in areas that are strategically sensitive to American national security.  Toss in the nuclear program, and you’re left asking yourself what our leaders are doing to thwart these actions.

Alas, you are forced to answer yourself:  President Obama is still begging for productive negotiations with Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, and counting on sanctions to get the mullahs to the bargaining table.

That seems to me to be an insufficient response to a serious threat, and, above all, a shameful failure to confront a regime that is killing Americans every day.

There’s a better way:  help the Iranian people rid the world of this evil regime.  As National Student Day approaches (December 7th), Green Movement leader Mir Hossein Mousavi issued a lengthy analysis of the country’s woes, and concluded that the end of the regime is near:

Due to the use of wrong method of buying time by creating constant crises, great costs are [imposed] on our people; so that with the doomed-to-fail methods of escaping forward, reinforcing [oppression] with the model of “complete obedience or dismissal”, and [provoking] hatreds because of deepened gap between poor and rich, this short-term power will not last more than a few days in the hands of the rulers.

He reiterated his commitment to non-violent action, and urged the Greens to expand their outreach by working in small groups, both directly and via internet.  He warned that the regime was likely to stage violent disorder, and then blame it on the Greens, acting in cahoots with foreigners.  And then he rallied his troops:

…we should remember that in this path there is no failure but immense persistence and perseverance, and not being afraid of fabricated accusations and other oppressive actions is necessary. We should not forget that we were all chanting together “Don’t be afraid! Don’t be afraid! We are all together!”

Brave words aimed at brave people.  The Iranian dissidents have demonstrated remarkable courage and tenacity, and the Green strategy of maintaining pressure on the regime, hoping to eventually provoke its implosion, may succeed.  It would not be the first time.  Just ask comrade Gorbachev about the vast sucking sound that came out of the Soviet Empire when it passed into the pages of history.  Mousavi’s message has leitmotifs from those days;  his cry of “Don’t be afraid” echoes John Paul II to the Poles at a moment when it seemed that Solidarity had been crushed and the KGB was firmly in control.

But then, in those years there were American and other Western leaders willing to help democratic revolutionaries in the belly of the beast.  I don’t see them today.

But then again, life is full of surprises.  We’ll see.