The Iranian post-election dispute has been raging with hundreds of thousands of protesters marching and shouting from the rooftops demanding justice. Citing fraud, people refuse to accept the legitimacy of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s electoral victory last Friday. I recognize the passion and resolve playing out in the streets. Five years ago, I hosted a satellite television talker on an Iranian-American network (XTV), beamed into Iran, promoting freedom of expression and pluralism. Our highly educated Persian audience had an enthusiastic desire for open debate and gravitated towards democratic ideals. It was only a matter of time before we’d see Iranians where they are today demanding their right to be heard.
Debate on what the Obama Administration should or shouldn’t do concerning Iran’s post-election dispute has been occupying several news cycles; Republicans urge more action and engagement, while President Obama expressed support for the people’s right to speak out, cautioning against interference. Sen. John McCain excoriated the President for not declaring the election a fraud and a sham.
The Republican’s implied suggestion of US intervention is not only precipitous and trigger-happy, but could potentially ignite a regional catastrophe rivaling the Iraqi War. If President Obama were to come down on Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Khamenei now, it could fatally compromise crucial nuclear negotiations with Middle East peace hanging in the balance.
Wrapped up in this geopolitical equation is US-ally Israel, known for lone-wolf military pre-emption. This, combined with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government versus a hyper-vigilant Iran, makes for a potential powder keg. Intruding into Iran’s internal affairs may poison the waters and every best effort in dealing with Iranian nuclear ambitions.
This reflects a lesson learned from history: the belief our CIA-sponsored election tampering and coup d’état in Iran in 1953 eventually gave rise to the Islamic Revolution (1979) as a kind of unintended ‘blowback’. We would be wise not to repeat that mistake, a position supported by Obama, “…given the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, (it’s not productive) to be seen as meddling.”
The Iranian theocracy was initially caught off-guard by the protests, but quickly moved to squelch the flow of information coming out of the Islamic Republic, confining reporters to their hotels, shutting down web-sites and cancelling press visas. However, this proved futile as cell phones and creative web workarounds penetrated the veil of suppression. Sites like Twitter and Facebook have been thrust into an historic role -- the net and cell phone tech has quietly raised the bar on transparency and the political ramifications are profound. These technologies have proliferated around the world, including into totalitarian-leaning nations, and as a result, amplifying the voice of the people. Is it any wonder why China has blacked-out coverage of the recent events unfolding in Iran?
But the cat’s out of the bag. Once a technology is introduced and people become accustomed to its use, there’s no turning back. It’s clear that the proverbial lid was screwed on way too tight in Iran -- and as the theocracy loosened its grip in the recent election, the desire for self-determination welled up in the people and blew the lid right off.
We are witness to the indefatigable will of human freedom expressing itself through nonviolent civil-disobedience; I’m not surprised they’ve captured the attention of the world. It is saddening to see student deaths and hear of missing protesters, victims of the government crackdown -- but a nation of people seeking self-determination marches on, hopeful their hunger for human rights and dignity will prevail, as the “Green Revolution” transforms the politics of Iran, the Near East and the rest of the world.