Is president Bush trying to strengthen his alliance against the Iranian regime during his visit to the Middle East? In Iran, with its current dog-eat-dog internal political affairs, president Ahmadinejad is too busy trying to keep his head above water while his political opponents try to drag him down. Too busy perhaps to notice how discontent the Iranian people have grown.
The system of the Islamic Republic is in a state of crisis. The fact that neither Khatami nor Ahmadinejad has been able to realize unity even within the ruling elite shows this. For over two decades, the main resistance to that system has come from within Iranian civil society. And it is Iranian civil society that will ultimately bring the Islamic regime down.
Knowing this, one could state that wanting to change this regime should start by supporting the Iranian people instead of opposing the current Iranian government. Perhaps our best weapons against autocracy and terrorism are not military or even diplomatic but ideological and cultural.
The struggle is not just for political rights but also for the right of individual citizens to live the way they choose. There will be no foreign government who will defend the existential rights on behalf of Iranians, since governments have no direct interest in such thing, so we must rely on other actors to push the cause of liberty.
The best group, except for the Iranians in Iran, to demand change are human rights groups, activists and journalists who have the capability to take up the cause of the Iranian people.
It will however help when governments all around the world would make a stand by the international community on Iranian human rights. An example of how it shouldn’t be however is the U.N. Human Rights Council’s recent decision to stop monitoring Iranian and Uzbek human rights violations, even though executions in Iran are currently rising.
President Bush would not make efforts to strengthen his alliance in the Middle East against Iran if he hadn’t had any serious military objectives. There seems to be something awkward about the timing of the bilateral frictions in the Persian Gulf during the past few weeks. Regardless of what the recent report of the intelligence services said about Iran not having a nuclear program, president Bush does not seem to want to lay back and loosen up the rope around Iran’s neck.
Under such circumstances, military action against Iran would however only strengthen the hard-line elements within the regime by justifying political repression. Governments planning an invasion in Iran the “Iraq-style” to introduce a model of enlightened democracy would not only cause internal damage and destabilization in the region, but it would also damage the credibility of Iranian liberals. We should remember that an open and democratic society can be reached only through open and democratic methods.
During an interview between several members of the Iranian political opposition and European politicians the opposition members were asked what the EU can do to improve democracy and liberty in Iran. One of the opposition members answered very simple but to the point: “defend and promote your values!”
Promoting values of freedom of expression, freedom of movement, freedom of conscience will be much more effective than any missile to neutralize Iranian radicals. Values, not bombs will eventually save Iran. Let’s hope that the EU and other democracy and human rights respecting countries will promote these values effectively enough to reach through the dog-eat-dog crisis struck Iranian political core.
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