the "opposition" on foreign policy...,
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To the tune of John Ray-esque histrionics...,
Three pro-reform activists from the Office to Consolidate Unity have been kidnapped in Iran:
by armed Islamist "vigilantes", after cancelling protests scheduled for today because of a ban imposed by the regime - the event was scheduled for the anniversary of the 1999 demonstrations. According to Reuters police teargassed the hundreds of fellow activists that hit the streets afterwards and also fought off Khamenei loyalists from making further attacks on demonstrators. The USG continues to voice support for the students, Iran continues to claim the US is playing a hand in formenting the movement (we are broadcasting Farsai programming that target Iranian youth, but that's officially it - ooh you evil Americans and your Satan radio), and numerous members of the student movement remain absorbed into Iran's police state.
The running criticism from human rights groups is that vocalizing support for Iran's student movement from Washington will help undermine them by allowing Iran to make such claims, whipping crowds in frevors chanting 'Death to America'. I suppose the thinking is that accusing the US of interference will have some legitamacy and resonate with Iranians who remember the Shah, thus helping to discredit the student movement. I have a hard time taking that seriously, given the vast majority of Iranians were barely out of diapers in 1979 and played no part in putting the clerics, or Khamenei, into power. The only real barrier to modern reform is Khomeini's 'guardianship of the jurisprudent', exercised in the Majis, that allows the clerics to strike down legislation at will, with no checks or balances - something that isn't in keeping with genuine Islam and marginalizes Iran's democratic institutions - a minor shift in power is all that's necessary to open a path for reforms.
The more cynical view on US policy towards Iran right now - that it is attempting to create divides between the various factions to encourage confrontations between them, which could later be used to justify more direct intervention and result in a regime change that meets the more cynical of US interests - is worth being aware of, should talk of invasion pick up again. So far as I'm concerned we're doing the right thing: staying physically out of it (the embargo would help if conditions for loosening economic sanctions were based on human rights - which they're not), and giving verbal and media support. Radio broadcasts do not an act of imperialism make - we've done more than enough on that score already in Iran. If the broadcast are encouraging factionalism in some way it would be a point of concern, as anything short of a united opposition will likely be a detriment to its efforts. US citizens, and the world public in general, are right - an ought to feel compelled - to stand in solidarity, and with respect to that Joe Katzman has blogger solidarity on tap.
Divides already exist in the student movement, Khatami's denouncement of the 1999 demonstrations created splits inside the OCU, and you tell me if that can be linked to US agitation. SMCCDI, which is an organization out of Texas that says it assists organizing efforts in Iran, is as angry with Khatami as it is with the clerics, which parallels the more radicalized half of the OCU's membership - as compared to those who want to stick to peaceful resistance. This is the same argument you get around direct actionism, and throwing pitched battles with police in the street is useful sometimes, but I'm certainly in no place to even begin considering what strategies would be pratical in Iran, outside noting that the 1979 revolution succeeded because of unity between Shi'ites and secularists who used Ghandi tactics, religious tradition, and the general strike to exile the Shah. A very romantic image, if only it hadn't resulted in an exiled religious conservative taking the Shah's throne, but like the American revolution these things are works in progress.
While I think conservatives' fears of the "imminent threat" of Iran having nukes is greatly overblown (Iran hasn't invaded another country in 200 years: it would be an "imminent deterent", to the US, Pakistan, India, Israel, Russia, yadda - hell, it might even stabalize the region) and don't agree with their demands of an official US policy of "regime change" - as whether the regime is reformed or overthrown is Iran's decision, not ours - there's nothing in the letter floating around some of the more conservative and centrist blogs that I disagree with. Rather the opposite:
AN OPEN LETTER IN SUPPORT OF THE PEOPLE OF IRAN FROM THE WEBLOGGING COMMUNITY
We are not politicians, nor are we generals. We hold no power to dispatch diplomats to negotiate; we can send no troops to defend those who choose to risk their lives in the cause of freedom.
What power we have is in our words, and in our thoughts. And it is that strength which we offer to the people of Iran on this day.
Across the diverse and often contentious world of weblogs, each of us has chosen to put aside our differences and come together today to declare our unanimity on the following simple principles:
- That the people of Iran are allies of free men and women everywhere in the world, and deserve to live under a government of their own choosing, which respects their own personal liberties.
- That the current Iranian regime has failed to create a free and prosperous society, and attempts to mask its own failures by repression and tyranny.
We do not presume to know what is best for the people of Iran; but we are firm in our conviction that the policies of the current government stand in the way of the Iranians' ability to make those choices for themselves.
And so we urge our own governments to turn their attention to Iran. The leaders and diplomats of the world's democracies must be clear in their opposition to the repressive actions of the current Iranian regime, but even more importantly, must be clear in their support for the aspirations of the Iranian people.
And to the people of Iran, we say: You are not alone. We see your demonstrations in the streets; we hear of your newspapers falling to censorship; and we watch with anticipation as you join the community of the Internet in greater and greater numbers. Our hopes are with you in your struggle for freedom. We cannot and will not presume to tell you the correct path to freedom; that is for you to choose. But we look forward to the day when we can welcome your nation into the community of free societies of the world, for we know with deepest certainty that such a day will come.
Quietism on the left, such as noted elsewhere and to the extent that it exists, derives in part from concerns over divisions in the reform movement and persistent demands from hawks to invade Iran. There was a great deal of hope in Khatami's government, the movement he rode the crest of, and the possibility of peaceful reform - an effort which has not been entirely unsuccessful. Theirs is not a counterrevolution but a completion of the present one. US intervention would inevitably be the opposite, and would, as the saying goes, bomb them back to the stone age, which is no way to respond to stonings.