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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 7/4/09

Iran: Why the West Should Back off

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Author 20636
Message Rakesh Krishnan Simha
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For many people in the West, especially the United States, a democrat is simply a person who is "our son of a b*tch". There are opinion makers and leaders wedded to the view that rulers in developing countries are fit to be deposed if they do not toe the Western line. What else can explain the persistent demonizing of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad regardless of the fact that he is a democratically elected leader, who won by a landslide in 2005.
Sure, the June 2009 elections in Iran were flawed, but in no way can you compare them to the rubber stamping that is the norm in countries like Kuwait, Egypt and Pakistan, the thuggery of Georgia's Michael Saakashvili or most shockingly the 2000 electoral fraud that allowed George W. Bush and his cabal into the White House.
All the countries mentioned in the above paragraph continue to remain virtual satellites of the United States long after the Cold War has turned thaw. The arrangement suits them fine. Egypt's Hosni Mubarak conducts periodic referendums which leave him de facto president for life. The Kuwaitis saw democracy rising over the dunes, but their hopes were blown away when the sheiks decided a puppet parliament was more their style.
In Turkey in 2002 when the main religious party won 363 of the 550 parliamentary seats, the government disqualified the leading Islamist candidate from eligibility for the office of prime minister. The Americans looked the other way.
Westerners who had ringside seats cheered loudly when one winter morning in 1993 Boris Yeltsin ordered his tanks to fire on the Russian parliament, after democratically elected lawmakers hunkered down and refused to nod through his slavishly pro-American diktats. President Bill Clinton compared Yeltsin's 1994 crackdown in Chechnya to what Abraham Lincoln did for the United States during the Civil War. But when President Vladimir Putin sent in troops against acted against Chechen death squads five years later, he was labeled a democracy killer.
So when Western leaders and their media shed tears for dead and injured protesters on the streets of Tehran, it's the extreme form of chutzpah. Just a few months ago, Bush and his cabal were desperately looking for any lame excuse to bomb Iran. Indeed, if the Americans weren't over-stretched in Iraq and Afghanistan, they would have been raining bombs on these very same people, and hundreds of Iranians would have died.
Unlike Eastern Europe's so-called colour revolutions - most of which have been exposed as aided and abetted by thinly disguised fronts funded by pro-American businesses and neocon think tanks - the protests in Iran are home brewed. The clashes are between Iranian liberals, who want to wear pony tails to work, and Iranian hardliners, who want to rub sandpaper on the lips of Iranian women wearing lipstick.
Whatever they may stand for, Iranians - other than a fringe gaggle of mullahs - never forget for a moment they are the descendants of such heroic Zoroastrian kings as Xerxes and Cyrus, who built one of the most celebrated empires of the ancient world.
Which is why Iranians struggle to come to terms in a world where their voice is heard only through the likes of Ahmadinejad, and that too when he allegedly threatens to destroy Israel or comically denies the existence of homosexuals in his country. Did any Western network show the liberal side of Iran until after the elections? Was there any effort to talk to smart young Iranians in colleges and cafes? No, for that would be humanizing the enemy. Turning them into caricatures, as has been done to Russians and many east Europeans, was convenient so that public opinion could be mobilised for bombing Iran into whatever pre-historic age the Pentagon hawks decided.
Iranians, 66 per cent of who are under the age of 30, know that the revolution has gone horribly wrong. While the Islamic revolutionaries have ensured the country is safe from the machinations of the likes of the CIA and Britain's SIS, on the economic front, they have been exposed as imbeciles. Iran is on skid row.  - Over half the country is living below the poverty line. Oil has transformed the economies of the neighbouring sheikdoms but the same petro dollars have not wiped out poverty in Iran, a country that the last Shah boasted would become the Germany of the Middle East.
Worse, Ahmadinejad seems to have little idea on how to manage an economy. His lieutenants are no better. In June 2007, 57 Iranian economists signed an open letter condemning Ahmadinejad's policies and accusing him of "ignoring the basic principles of economics".
The rioting by the supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi, Ahmadinejad's main challenger, is certainly not the first such incident in post-revolutionary Iran. In November 2002 Hashem Aghajari, a dissident university professor was sentenced to death by a hardline court for calling for a religious renewal of Shi'ite Islam. Several thousand Iranian students took to the streets in protest.
The Aghajari episode showed the Western stereotype of Iranian clerics as a bunch of long-haired freaks was wearing thin. Indeed, one of the most ringing denunciations of his death sentence came from Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, a senior cleric who was then under house arrest in the holy city of Qom for criticizing the way things were being run.
Montazeri said if anybody had wanted to deal a blow to Islam and the Shia clergy, the "harsh and unjustified" death sentence on Aghajari was the best possible way to do it.
In the same year that Aghajari was arrested, venerated prayer leader Jalaluddin Taheri stepped down from office after publishing a letter referring to the clerics as "louts and fascists" who had betrayed the principles of the revolution.
A bunch of Islamic fundamentalists? You wouldn't think so. The Iranian clergy, clearly, are not the Taliban or the raving mad mullahs found in many Muslim countries. 
What has raised hopes among liberals worldwide are the unprecedented chants of "Death to Khamenei" by protesters. These are signs that some form of democratic discourse is taking place in Iran - something you wouldn't expect in a place like Saudi Arabia, an long-time American satellite.
The likes of Jalaluddin Taheri offer hope that Islam's hope for a Protestant-style Reformation may come from the streets of Qum.
There is a reason for that. The vast majority of Iranians are outward looking and want dialog with the West. For Iranians, history did not start in 622 AD, when Islam was founded; it starts in an ancient past, a glorious Zoroastrian past.
However, all major players battling for supremacy in Iran are children of the revolution and they will not sell their country to America as the likes of Ahmed Chalabi have done in neighboring Iraq. Even the former Shah's exiled family have been contemptuous of American efforts at playing politics in Iran.
Mousavi is certainly not America's son of a b*tch. In an earlier era, he might have been denounced as a leftist by the American press. Indeed, he draws inspiration from the liberal and nationalist Mohammad Mosaddeq, the democratically elected Prime Minister, who was deposed in the 1953 coup. If Mousavi is ever elected to power, Iran won't be rolling out the red carpet for Americans.
The United States, after conducting large-scale spying on its own citizens, is in no position to preach democracy to Iran. If anything, the million-man marches on the streets of Tehran suggest a working democracy. As Mohammad Reza Shibani, the Iranian envoy to Lebanon, said, the post-election climate was typical for a society that is "a shining example of political democracy and freedom". Sure it may not be a constitutional democracy, but does Britain have a Bill of Rights?
Iran really is a lost cause for the West. It's not just because of the CIA-British coup of 1953, or the constant labeling of Iranians as evil no-gooders, or even atavistic memories of the British siphoning Iranian oil. It's about a bunch of proud Persians who simply will not take orders from trespassers in their backyard.


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Rakesh Krishnan Simha is a New Zealand-based writer.
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