Monday, July 03, 2006

President Bush is losing time (and the Iranian people)

Kash Kheirkhah

On a New Year's Eve visit to Tehran, Iran, in 1977, Jimmy Carter toasted Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi at a state dinner in Tehran and called Iran "an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world,” thus, reiterating American support. A year after that Iran was in a massive political turmoil. Shah left Iran in early 1979 and shortly after that, the Islamic revolution brought a radical Islamic regime to power which changed the future of the Middle East forever.

The "Island of Stability" is now the hotbed of terror and instigator of turmoil and bloodshed in the region. Now many elder Iranians I know personally, put this down to the role Jimmy Carter and his western allies played in bringing down Shah from power and replacing him with an Islamic regime which--the West naively thought-- could act as an obstacle against the then Soviet Union's expansionism in the region (see how Russia has Iran in its paws now, thirty years after the Zbigniew Brzezinski-engineered "Green Belt" policy that led to Shah's downfall and the rise of Islamic fundamentalists in Iran.)

Having seen how the US turned its back on its most precious ally in 1979, the previous generation of Iranian people have long believed that it was the US and its allies that removed Shah from power and it will be eventually them that will decide when to change mullahs' regime. They see the US presidents’ rhetoric against mullahs (from Reagan to Clinton) as 'empty' and 'a cover behind which the US can continue extorting blackmail from the Islamic regime in return for its survival.'

The new generation of the Iranians-myself included-- or at least most of them now believe otherwise. We believe it's ultimately on us to democratize our country and end almost 30 years of tyranny and not the US. The United States can be a catalyst but not the installer or the remover of a regime due to the political fallout such a policy can have for both the future rulers of that country and the US credibility in the eyes of an already-cynical world.

What the US can do is help Iran's democratic movements with spiritual and technical support. President Bush must know that many Iranians think of him as the first US President after Iran's revolution who means it when he says "the United States will stand by the Iranian people." But time is running out for Mr Bush. The more the US dilly dallies along side its European allies, the more cynical the Iranian people and the more demoralized Iran’s democratic movements will get.

The US needs to have a defined regime change strategy; one that relies on Iranians to bear years of struggle against the Islamic regime to fruition as against a military attack; one that can empower Iran's democracy activist inside and outside the country with tools to communicate better and more effectively; one that can bypass Iranian regime's jamming of the satellite signals and filtering of the internet; one that can relay the US respect for the Iranian people and its spiritual support for their desire for freedom straight to every Iranian household and finally, one that can prove the Iranian people it's more than a media-friendly, toothless statement.

The United States can be the deciding factor in Iranian people's quest for freedom. President Bush STILL can right the wrong his predecessors caused, but time is running out.