Why would anyone be shocked by the so-called revelation that another uranium enrichment facility exists somewhere near Qom?
It amazes me how even Iranians of the Diaspora, who know the Islamist regime well, seem distressed by it all. I am not claiming to have known any more than anyone else about this, but I certainly never believed that the Iranian government was capable of being transparent about anything, least of all about its nuclear program. Deception is a form of negotiation. And transparency is as alien a concept to this regime as fairness and justice.
Some argue that it's Iran's right to acquire nuclear weapons. Israel acquired it through stealthy means, so why shouldn't Iran? Personally I am more sympathetic with the straightforward argument that Pakistan and Israel have nuclear weapons, so why can't Iran? What amazes and angers me though is that many people, especially Iranian Americans, even 'experts,' actually buy Iran's assertion that its nuclear program is purely for peaceful purposes.
Mir Hossien Mousavi promised during the campaign to make Iran a law-abiding and tolerant member of the international community. He even challenged Ahmadinejad on this issue during their hugely popular televised debate. He told Ahmadinejad that he was dangerously isolating Iran in the world community with his behavior and wild assertions.
Two of the most prominent voices of the opposition, Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi and renowned filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf, have repeatedly criticized the West for not doing enough to voice outrage at Ahmadinejad's election rigging and violent human bashing.
In fact, Ebadi, the only Iranian and the first Muslim woman to be awarded the Noble Peace Prize, went so far as accusing the British of appeasing the Ahmadinejad government.
Makhmalbaf, a spokesman for Mousavi, just issued a statement discouraging negotiations with Ahmadinejad's "coup d'etat regime." He also declared that the opposition shares the concerns of the international community over a nuclear Iran.
Some Iranians of the Diaspora, especially those still shell shocked by the bellicosity of the Bush years, and the Israeli horrors committed recently in Gaza, are much wearier of Obama's recent statements threatening Iran than those in Iran. The opposition inside Iran, having suffered the severe brutality of the Ahmadinejad government first hand, may welcome the West's new tougher stance. Many, in fact, expected this reaction from the West earlier, in response to the rigged election results and the human rights abuses that followed, but they welcome it now nonetheless.
Unlike neocon-weary Iranian Americans and highbrow liberal-leaning intellectuals, freedom-seeking Iranians who poured into the streets of Tehran and other Iranian cities to demand their rights, are probably more afraid of their own government than of Israel or America. They know that their leaders are liars because they are lied to on a daily basis. Transparency from Ahmadinejad would shock Iranians, not his lies!
Obama, Sarkozy and Brown are asking for compliance with existing laws, and an opening of the doors of Iran's nuclear facilities to IAEA inspection. Nothing new there in their demands, just a firmer tone. We are still very far from a war! And the Iranians know that if there is a military strike on Iran then the only one to blame is the faction in power in Iran. This is the same regime that kills civilians, rapes students and tortures journalists. I mean who can argue that if you deny the Holocaust repeatedly, especially when there is a Netanyahu in office in Tel Aviv; if you continue to flout international law; if you rig your own elections, even in the face of a rising young majority, even after carefully vetting opposition candidates; if you abuse and kill your own peaceful protesters in front of the whole world; when you make life very difficult, even for the handful of educated apologists on your side, then surely you are asking for it!
From the first time Ahmadinejad came to New York, it was apparent to me that he was out to pick a fight. To take him up in that fight would be a mistake. Now, more than ever, this regime needs to divert attention from its failures. It wants nothing more than to sweep its heinous crimes under a carefully woven rug. Israel's callous repression of Palestinians helps Ahmadinejad like his Holocaust denial helps Israel's continued militarism.
Failing in their role as managers and leaders of Iran, the regime elite are hiding behind their role as the defenders of Islam and Palestinians against Israel. This may work with the neo-con hating Iranians of the Diaspora or the Islamists in the region but at home it does not work because there many people are actually pro-Israeli. I would bet that Iranians are less sympathetic to the Palestinian cause than any other Muslim nation for the simple reason that the regime is pro-Palestinian. Listening to the slogans of the recent Jerusalem Day protests amply reveals the general frustration of Iranians with their government's support of Hamas and Hezbollah: Na Ghazeh, Na Lebanon, Jaanaam Fadayeh Iran (Not Gaza, Not Lebanon, my life for Iran); Felestin kojaee, Kahrizak ra bebinee? (Palestine, where are you to see Kahrizak?) There was one video clip of young protesters tearing down the Hezbollah banner put up for Qods Day to the cheers of the crowd.
So what is to be done? Sanctions will benefit the regime because they thrive in a black market economy and are old hands at how to survive sanctions, which they faced from the very beginnings of their dictatorship.
A military strike would be a disaster, not just because the nuclear sites are too close to huge population centers, but because it would give the regime a freer hand to continue its brutal treatment of the opposition, on the grounds of treason and aiding the enemy. It would help the regime hide behind the lie, meticulously crafted, of their role as the champions of Islam fighting a crusading West.
The only hope of Iran ever complying with International law is for the opposition, who by most credible accounts was robbed of an electoral victory, to prevail and overthrow this illegitimate government. The opposition needs to be supported by the world. Unconditional support for the opposition in Iran, diplomatic sanctions and freezing of assets, as suggested by Shirin Ebadi, are the only real options the International community has. Appeasement would be wrong. But a military strike or harsh and people-targeted sanctions are what the government wants. Giving it to them is an act of appeasement.
The only way to make Iran safe for the world is to make her safe for her citizens.
First published in TehranBureau.com
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