Saturday, June 20, 2009


By Barry Rubin

Of course, the title above is meant in a joking manner. But after reading literally hundreds of articles and blog items on Iran, they seem to all be saying precisely the same thing which can be summarized as follows:

The regime is giving no ground and insisting the election will stand with Ahmadinejad reelected. The demonstrations continue. There are some killings but the events are mostly peaceful, marked more with harassment and beatings at the margin. The level of violence being used, however, is slowly rising. A few already known softer-liners among the hardest liners—notably Rafsanjani—are not supporting the regime. Arrests of some key figures are being made but there is no all-out crackdown. Western governments are being cautious, restricting themselves to generalized calls for fair elections and freedom of speech.

That’s about what we know, plus lots of amplifying details. So I’ve decided not to read all the dispatches and await further developments.

But what can we say we know? The regime believes that time is on its side and that the demonstrations will fade. It will not give ground. Despite defections, its ranks remain pretty solid. It will not use massive force unless that seems necessary, hoping the opposition will fade away. It will blame foreigners—the West and Israel—no matter what they do but those accusations aren’t going to change anyone’s mind in Iran.

The opposition can hope for no external help, no breakdown of the regime, no offer of huge concessions. On that last point, this is a dictatorial Islamist regime, not a European government. Armed struggle is not an option.

It is also important to understand that in Iran it isn’t a case of the people versus a few bloated oligarchs but a struggle between two camps, both of which are very large. The reformists outnumber the hardliners but the latter have the guns and instruments of power.

Given this situation, short of a deus ex machina (one might better say, a mahdi ex machina, that is a hugely influential external factor that changes everything unexpectedly), the regime will win. Then Western countries can get down to the “serious business” of wasting months to engage this regime without any productive result.

The central factor remains this issue: The West needs to recognize that the Iranian regime and its allies abroad are enemies, not negotiating partners. The regime’s behavior toward its own people has shaken up many people in the West, bringing them closer toward recognizing the true nature of this regime. The fact that it is weaker internally than they thought tends to delegitimize the regime and show that it does not represent most of the people there.

In short, it is not only aggressive abroad—using terrorism, destabilizing the region, seeking hegemony, getting nuclear weapons—but repressive at home.

Ordinarily, of course, governments are rightly more concerned with international behavior than with internal actions. It is primarily the Iranian regime’s international behavior that shows why it must be battled. When, however, a government passes a certain level in its internal repressiveness, that suggests an international response is warranted.

Iran now presents both of these aspects to the world.

There is a connection between them. The regime believes itself divinely ordained, is willing to use methods without limit, and is detached from reality.

Not the kind of people you want to have nuclear weapons.

Not the kind of people who are going to be talked out of having nuclear weapons.
Perhaps not the kind of people who are going to be talked out of using nuclear weapons or giving them others to use.

Certainly not the kind of people who are going to refrain from pointing to their possession of nuclear weapons as they seek to overthrow or intimidate all the other governments in the neighborhood; block any hope of Arab-Israeli peace; and destroy Western influence and interests.

As Bob Dylan put it:

‘How many years can some people exist
before they're allowed to be free
How many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn't see.”

And how long can the West go without seeing that it faces a very serious threat and a very determined enemy in the Iranian regime and the radical Islamist movement?

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