Michael Totten

Iran Isn't Stalinist Russia

In the October 12 issue of Newsweek, Fareed Zakaria “makes a case for containing rather than confronting Iran”:http://www.newsweek.com/id/216702, partly because he expects “a massive outpouring of support for the Iranian regime” if its nuclear-weapons facilities are attacked by the U.S. or Israel. “This happens routinely when a country is attacked by foreign forces, no matter how unpopular the government,” he writes.
As a precedent, he cites how Russians rallied to Stalin when Germany invaded in 1941. But of course Russians rallied to Stalin. No viable political opposition existed as it does today in Iran, and besides: they were attacked by the Nazis. The Germans weren’t liberators. Russia was not going to be treated better by foreign totalitarians than by its own. Even the U.S. and Britain backed Stalinist Russia under those circumstances.
The people of Afghanistan, on the other hand, were euphoric when NATO demolished the Taliban regime in 2001. The Taliban has since reconstituted itself as a terrorist and insurgent militia, but its approval rating among Afghan civilians is by some reports “as miserable as 6 percent”:http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/25/opinion/25brooks.html?_r=1. Support for the U.S. and NATO has slipped recently, but it’s still telling that, according to “an ABC News poll”:http://abcnews.go.com/PollingUnit/fullpage?id=6797795 of public opinion, 58 percent still say the Taliban is the greatest threat to security, while only 8 percent say the same of the United States.
Very few Iraqis outside the relatively small Sunni community threw their support behind Saddam Hussein when President Bill Clinton bombed Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction facilities in 1998 or when President George W. Bush finished off his Baath party regime once and for all in 2003. Meanwhile, the various terrorist and insurgent militias that later rose up were almost exclusively sectarian and Islamist, not Baathist.
Even the Shia of south Lebanon — today’s Hezbollah supporters — initially hailed the Israelis as liberators in 1982 when they invaded to oust Yasir Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organization from its state-within-a-state along the border and in West Beirut. Only later, when the Israelis did not leave as expected, did the prototype of Hezbollah begin to take shape.
“Read the rest in Commentary Magazine”:http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/totten/118292.
And don’t miss my collleague “Emanuele Ottolenghi’s follow-up comments”:http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/ottolenghi/118752.