.. a look into the problems facing the American administration in relation to Iran.
13 Jun 2003
Dilemma of the American foreign policy
By: Cyrus Mahan
Iran is on the verge of radical changes. These changes have been in prospect for some 25 years. Ever since the Islamic Republic came to power in Iran, people have been wondering when and how the end will come.
Recent regime change in the neighboring country, Iraq and the problems created by fundamentalists Shi'a groups such as Hakim made it difficult for the Americans to plan the future of the country and to start the flow of oil into their thirsty market.
One might think that the unsuccessful military campaign against Afghanistan would have convinced the American administration not to jump into another war, but the invasion of Iraq showed that they are not yet ready to learn. In Afghanistan, they ousted Talibans from power in Kabul and selected a president who is more like a mayor of a city rather than a president of a country. It is now very clear that Kabul fell but the Afghanistan as a whole, as a Persian expression says, is the "city of 100 sheriffs."
It is now elucidated by the events happening inside Iraq that the Americans were not ready for such immense hurdles in their way to install a Vichy government in Iraq.
It is indeed quit clear that the Islamic Republic is on its way out in Iran, but it might be on its way in, in Iraq. Unless a radical measure is initiated, the Shi'as are on the verge of either taking power in Iraq or make things nasty for the Americans.
In Iran, things are different. In Iran Islam has expired as an ideology to govern and rule, has over exhausted its tricks and deceptions. But who to trust as an alternative to this regime is the key dilemma of the American foreign policy. The regime has 25 years of recorded atrocities against its own people. When Khomini arrived in Tehran, the first day, he announced: "Shah deconstructed the country and well constructed the cemeteries", 25 years later this saying is so much true for his regime also, in a much larger scale of course. Khomini's legacy is a country in ruin. And this is a country that is extremely rich in resources and has the capability of exporting over 7 million barrels of oil per day.
The Islamic Regime is collapsing not because of the American involvement in the region but because of internal dissatisfactions, 25 years of massacre of the Iranian people, especially the intellectuals, acute horizontal economic divisions between the people, corruption of the high ranking officials, disenchantment of the youth from the so called "civil society" lead by Mohammad Khatami, the president, Internet effects and activities of different political groups in and outside the country.
This regime is no longer tolerated by the people and it is not accepted by most western countries, especially the United States. On top of this, the government officials in Iran have no capacity to resolve any of the existing problems; be it political, economical and social.
One of the signs that one might want to look at to realize that the masses are in defiant is the recent election of Council of Cities and Villages. Sources from within the regime are saying that 10% of the eligible voters participated in this election. In some cities, this rate hardly reaches 4%. Knowing that Khatami (the president) was actively behind this election and promoting it in any way he could, suggests that the file of the so called "Civil Society" policy is no longer open. People are fighting the regime in its entirety.
The question is not whether or not this regime is falling, it is what kind of replacement may be trusted in order to satisfy the American interests in the country and in the region. If the regime goes to the execution chamber without US and UK involvement, these two countries might try to help in rebuilding it. Because without their initiative and involvement, there is a chance that a more nationalist group could come to power and leave the way open to mass activity of the left.
Different groups, with different viewpoints and interests, are trying to be involved in dismantling of the regime. Although each group fulfills its own interests, the regime is in the departure zone. As each group comes forward and voices their opposition, the government totters. One should notice that among most of the oppositions, we do not hear of the desire of the destruction of the state. They want the Islamic government to leave, but the socio-political structure to remain intact. Groups with such a policies might be acceptable allies of the US.
We are hearing from within different oppositions groups that we should forget and forgive. We should not hold anyone responsible for the atrocity committed by this regime against the Iranian people. They are saying that we should share some elements of the same brutal government in the future coalition. They are telling the youth; do not engage in street battles with the Islamic forces, do not punish those responsible for brutality against women, do not start mass and radical uprising, do not attack the government armed forces. They are asking the students to not take their struggle into the street. They are telling our women not to burn their head covers. They are telling us if you fight this regime aggressively, it may get out of hand and things may get worse. Instead, they offer the solution "civil disobedience" in order to bring the armed forces into their camp and to paralyze and topple the regime without touching any of its suppressive institutions.
We have seen this scenario in 1979 and if it happens again this country will become a disaster zone. Iranian people have been fighting two brutal dictatorships for almost 25 years; political dictatorship and religious dictatorship, both are concentrated in one system of oppression. In comparison with Iraq, Iran is a more severe situation. In Iraq, religion was a personal choice and practice. Color, size and style of the dresses of the Iraqi people were not forced by the government decrees. In Iran, everything is censored, first religiously and then politically. Even to write an article or a poem you have to be careful not to use words such as red flower, morning, dawn, day, night, and lights. In Iran, you have limited access to words in the dictionary. In their dictionary though, many words had changed color, taste and appearances. A socio-political word such as "proletariat" had become an Arabic word "Mostazafin" and when the Iranian people hear it they want to vomit.
In this perplexed scene in Iran and in the region, each force is trying to seek a change so that the aftermath will be beneficial to its own agenda. Forces are targeting the outcome of this collapse without being involved wholeheartedly in the process of the elimination.
Even the son of ex- Shah is now practicing his Persian in different cities, by giving talks in community gatherings. He does not know that if Bourbons are back in power in Paris, he might once again sit in the palace in Tehran.
In the subservient government of Karzai in Afghanistan and the upcoming Vichy government of Iraq, the monarchists do not exercise or share any sort of power, this is because the people of those countries did not accept them as a power. This is even more true for the Iranian people. The Iranian people, though they have a short span of memory and easily forget and forgive, have not forgotten the brutal regime of Monarch. In fact, one of the reasons that the Iranians are not analogous to the American undefined policy towards Iran is that they remember the unconditional support of the US administration which was given to the Shah while he was exercising iron fist policy against his own population. This is on top of the CIA orchestrated coup d'etat against the national government of Mohammad Mosadeq.
The Anglo-American plan called Operation AJAX was headed by Kermit Roosevelt, the CIA Mideast Agent ousted Mosadeq from power in 1953 and reinstalled Mohammad Reza Shah. One should remember that the Americans have not yet apologized to the Iranians for the CIA action in Iran and the support of the Monarchy.
One of the major successes of the Shah and the Khomini regimes were the elimination of the vanguards and intellectuals from the society. Shah killed and imprisoned the most intellectual and the most conscious elements of the emerging Iranian society. As a result, he succeeded in building a wall between the ordinary people and the element of consciousness in the society. Therefore, when the time came to get rid of the Monarch, there were no organized alternatives to replace his regime. The democratic institutions were demolished and democrats were either killed by the regime or imprisoned. As a result, the brutal Islamic regime took over. The same had happened under the Islamic regime. Iran under this regime had lost over 100,000 of its highly educated and mindful human resources. These are the political prisoners that were executed since the regime took over. This does not include those who died during the eight-year war with Iraq. Now that this regime is on its way out, there is no democratic replacement. In this, one might admit that they have been triumphant indeed.
Faced with the ever closing collapse, the regime is turning toward more violence against its own people. In one relatively small city (Rafsanjan) alone, in one week more than 30 people have been brought to public places and lashed by the masked men in front of people for having drank some alcoholic beverages. In recent communications, the high council of banks ordered all their branches not to use women as bank tellers. Instead, they should be held back so that the Islamic law may prevail.
To understand the roots of the problems of the leadership in Iran after the plummet of the Islamic thugs and the problem of US foreign policy in this regards, we should look briefly at the opposition groups.
In relation to what might happen in Iran, it is believed that small groups such as monarchists, nationalist and elements from within the government are racing for future power. But the fact is that these groups have been terminated a long time ago and have no recognition what so ever in the country. In fact, Americans have their eyes on the elements from within these groups without their etiquettes and organization membership.
One of the best organized opposing group is Mojahedin Organization.
Mojahedin organization that was founded in 1965 to fight the Monarchy is now considered a terrorist organization by the American administration. They were listed as such by Clinton administration to show the Islamic republic of Iran the intention to rectifying the differences between Iran and US. At the time they listed Mojahedin as a terrorist organization, US and Iraq were in conflict and Mojahedin were based in Iraq and supported by Saddam. But that was then. Now that Saddam is toppled and a Vichy government is about to take shape in Iraq, there is no reason for keeping Mojahedin in the terrorist list.
The National Liberation Army of Iran was founded in 1987 by Mohahedin to fight a classic war against Islamic government. It is the military wing of the "National Council of Resistance of Iran", NCRI that was founded in 1981 just before Mojahedin completely departed from Iran.
Since Iraq has fallen into American hands, they have disarmed the organization and have them under control. Will Americans use this disarmed organization as a tool in their hands to pressure the Islamic regime and to pacify Badr forces supported by Iran, inside Iraq? This remains to be seen. The US position towards Mojahedin is not coherent. While Mojahedin is supported by over 150 congressional representatives and senators, they are still having problems with those who are running the foreign affairs. Mojahedin and the US signed an agreement in May but have not disclosed the contents of that agreement yet.
The fact is that Mojahedin is not welcomed to Iran. This is because Islam as an ideology to govern has been concluded and people have seen enough of killing and blood from the Islamic government. Furthermore, the regime to some extent has been successful in devaluing Mojahedin amongst the new generation of Iranian youth.
In their plan for Iran, Mojahedin are still emphasizing their desire for an Islamic government, at least in the beginning. Their women are still wearing head covers, they are still performing religious gathering and mourning Shi'as leaders dead and buried in Iraq centuries ago. These practices cause people to fear them and adds to the distrust toward this organization. Yet compare to this regime, Mojahedin, to some extent is a progressive organization, that with some democratic changes and in the absence of a real social democratic organization, might be the only force to be trusted by the west. This has not yet been determined.
The leftist parties and organizations faced a heavy setback during the crackdown by the regime. They lost most of their resource and cadres in early 80's and afterwards. The far right side of the leftist groups is the infamous Tudeh party. Although the group was heavily involved in arresting the dissidents and helping the regime in any way possible, Khomoni's regime finally turned against them and some went to prisons and numbers of their supporters and members were executed. This is a party belonged to an ex-generation and has no popularity inside the country. Because of its pro Russian history and support for the Islamic regime, Tudeh party is the most hated political group ever known to the Iranian people.
The people Fedaee Guerilla was one of the most popular organizations during the 70's when Shah was in power. Many of its leaders such as Bijan Jazani, Masoud Ahmadzadeh and Amir Parviz Pooyan, were executed by the Monarchy. After the 1979 revolution they organized intelligently and their members and supporters swelled to over 50,000 people all over the country. Saeed Sultanpour, one of the most renowned poets of Iran was among the first casualties of the Islamic Regime. He was a member of this group and was executed a few months after the revolution.
This group cracked from outside (by Russia) and within (by two line struggle), and even before the mass arrests and killings started, they were reduced to a minute force. Now they are not considered to have any influence inside Iran.
There are other left organizations, mostly outside the country but they do not exercise any effective support in Iran and are mainly unknown to the Iranian people. They do however have their own publications out side Iran and managing their web sites with theoretical articles.
Communist Party of Iran (Marxist- Leninists- Maoist) better known as Sarbedaran, is the only organization that believes in armed struggle and are planning a come back. This organization has a history of turning to arms and is the most probably causes some insurgences inside the country. In early 80's Sarbedaran captured the city of Amool in the North and fought against the regime forces for days. This is a Maoist Party and its followers are very close to Communist parties such as Peru and Nepal. They have been in existence since 1975. Americans might know this party as the major force behind the Iranian student movement (Students Confederation) against Shah in the United States. The group (then called Union of Iranian Communists) organized a huge demonstration against Shah in 17 November 1977, while he was visiting the United States, when president Carter was at the White House
For sure the leftists are not going to be allied to the US and other groups that are either close to the American policy or just looking for a replacement and do not think of the aftermath, are not in a poison to make any differences in the process of overthrow.
The change will come, but the cost might be heavier than we thought. The cost I am talking about is not the human cost of course, it is yet another revolution to be stolen from the real people.
It is not only the western powers that are thinking about the regime change, the people are fed up and are now ready to risk much to ensure the overthrow of the Islamic power. This we can see by looking into the ever-increasing workers strikes, street disturbances, and the opposition to the forces of oppression such as Basidj, Sepah and many other religious groups.
The people of Iran, especially the women had shown their distrust of this regime in a courageous and unique ways. They are openly disregarding the Islamic laws and regulations and liberalizing their dress by curtailing it little by little and by wearing heavy make up.
Americans are asking the regime to stop its support for their own creation, Hezbollah. They should remember however that a lizard in danger might cut his tail with his own teeth to save his own life, but he will grow another tail not long after. Therefore the lizard has to be eradicated in order to go ahead with any peace plan in Middle East. This the US understand and believe. The good or bad of the plan is not the focus of this article. The way in which it will advance is dependant upon the parties involved. A major party in this conflict is Iran. Hezbollah is an extension of Sepah Pasdaran, the Iranian Islamic force and should not be considered as a local Lebanese group. Let us not forget that the Islamic regime is using Hezbollah in the streets of Tehran to suppress the Iranian people. On at least one occasion, they used this brutal force to suppress the students uprising in July 1999.
The Americans are in limbo. They still do not have a clear policy and do not know what to do with this regime. They want this regime to go, not because the Islamic regime is a brutal force against its own people but because Iran is playing with fire in Iraq.
For Americans it is not possible to go militarily against Iran. This is a much bigger country than Iraq or Afghanistan, with a larger population and if the center of this huge mass shifts, even slightly, it would require an immense force to stabilize it in a near future.
American foreign policy is facing yet another hurdle. Traditionally the British policy is to support Islamic communities and regimes. You ask anyone in the streets of Tehran and he/she will tell you that the regime is the product of the British MI6 and Radio BBC. Iranian people do not trust the Brits and are of the opinion that the Mullahs are brought to power by them. Americans are getting closer to conclude that this regime is not one that can be reformed; it has to go. But this is not true for the Brits, French and Germans.
Now let us see how many options are left to the Americans to exercise in relation to Iran.
I for one do not think that Americans are planning anything against Iran at this point. It seems to me that whatever they do in this relation is simply to scare the Mullahs and to bring them along. This same tactic worked against Syria and they suppose it might work against Iran too.
If a democratic government takes shape in Iraq and peace prevails in the region, the Islamic regime will melt away from within. The regime breathes amidst conflict, war and terror. Let us not forget that they have been quite successful in waging terror against different countries. As an example, in the 1980's by terrorizing the country, they persuaded and pressurized the French government into expel the leadership of the Mojahedin Khalq organization from France. The Islamic terror of Iranian government literally restrained the French foreign policies.
Therefore, a democratic government in Iraq will greatly assist the cause in Iran. But this is not what the American want. They want to set up a subservient government, own the oil and have a strong foothold in the region.
Future of the American involvements is not clear. Saudi Arabia might fall and causes some disturbances in the flow of the oil into the American market, Iraq might not settle down and Saddam forces and the nationalists might start a guerrilla war against the invading forces. AlGhaeda is not yet subdued, Moro movement in the island of Mindanao, the Maoist insurgence (The New People Army) of the Philippines, the security problems in most Arab states for the Americans, makes it very difficult for the Americans to concentrate on Iran. Their hands are full and no more room left to take care of this country.
It is also plausible that the US may be defeated by the Iranians in a military engagement. If this happens the regime will be allowed yet another chance to stay some more years, suppressing the people more severely.
One of the ways in which the international community can put some effective pressure on the regime is to initiate an oil embargo against it. The embargo should be limited to the oil export and nothing else. But the embargo will not be supported by those who have benefited from the relationship with Iran, namely Germans and French and it might not go through. The US might lose in this regard. And obviously British are not going to support any action against Iran.
The fall of Iran will impinge on some and eliminate most of the Islamic terror organizations. But this fall has to come without the American involvement.