Peaceful revolution in Iran


Last week I linked to Michael Ledeen's latest article on Iran. Ledeen has long argued that we should work to encourage peaceful democratic revolution in Iran, as we did in eastern Europe in the 1980s. Now, from another zone on the political spectrum, come similar arguments from Timothy Garton Ash, the Oxford don whose splendid reportage of the peaceful revolutions in eastern Europe is still very much worth reading. Writing in the left-wing Guardian, Garton Ash includes some obligatory putdowns of George W. Bush. But he leaves no doubt about who the really bad guys are. "If you see it at first hand, you will have no doubt that this is a very nasty and dangerous regime."

Here's Garton Ash's bottom line.

This is where we need to hear the other half of the message from my friend in Isfahan: Stick together, and be consistent. If Europe and America split over Iran, as we did over Iraq, we have not a snowball's chance in hell of achieving our common goals. To be effective, Europe and America need the opposite of their traditional division of labor. Europe must be prepared to wave a big stick (the threat of economic sanctions, for it is Europe, not the United States, that has the trade with Iran) and America a big carrot (the offer of a full "normalization" of relations in return for Iranian restraint). But the old trans-Atlantic West is not enough. Today's nuclear diplomacy around Iran shows us that we already live in a multipolar world. Without the cooperation of Russia and China, little can be achieved.

And we have to be consistent. Consistent in our policy to Iran, embedded in a kind of Helsinki process for the whole region. Consistent in advocating an international set of rules governing the use of nuclear power, not just for Iran but for others as well. Consistent, too, in recognizing that our policy must be addressed as much to the people as the regime. For every step we take to slow down the nuclearization of Iran, we need another to speed up the democratization of Iran. At every stage, we need to explain to the Iranian people, through satellite television, radio, and the Internet, what we are doing and why. Isfahan is not just the increasingly notorious location of a nuclear processing plant; it's also a beautiful city where many critical citizens live. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a reckless leader, but there are many other Mahmouds in Iran. We must listen to them. In the end, it's they, not we, who will change their country for the better.

I'm not sure I agree with 100 percent of this. But I think it's advice worth taking seriously.