What to do about Iran?

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Here's Michael Ledeen's testimony before the House International Affairs Committee. Read the whole thing. Michael draws from his extraordinary knowledge of Iran, accumulated over the years, and provides the kind of clarity that only a deep thinker with great knowledge can do. The first clarification is that the regime of the mullahs is our enemy and always has been. "The Iranian war against us is now 27 years old, and we have yet to fight back." There can be no compromise with such a regime.

What are our options? Ledeen advises us not to focus exclusively on whether Iran gets nuclear weapons. "The problem is not the weapons but the regime. That leaves us with three courses of action, none of which is automatically exclusive of the others: sanctions, military strikes, and support for democratic revolution. I am opposed to sanctions, I am generally opposed to military strikes, and I fully endorse support for revolution."

What's most important, in Ledeen's view, is to encourage peaceful and non-violent overthrow of the mullah regime. And that starts with communication. "In fact, whatever policy we adopt, it is very important for us to talk a lot to the Iranian people." Here's more:

"There is a vast cottage industry that gainsays the possibility of successful democratic revolution in Iran. The pessimists say many things, including the lack of a charismatic leader, the viciousness of the regime, and, with the urgency provided by the nuclear program, a shortage of time, arguing that revolutions take a long time to gather critical mass.

"The pessimism is as bizarre as it is discouraging. We empowered a successful revolution in the Soviet Empire with the active support of a very small percentage of the population. How hard can it be for a revolution to succeed in Iran, where more than 70 percent of the people want it? Our experience with Soviet Communism suggests that revolution can triumph under harsh repression, and that there are often dynamic democratic revolutionaries even if we cannot always see them. Indeed, I suspect that in Iran there are many potential leaders, some of whom are in prison while others are underground. I also suspect that there has been a lot of planning, both for the revolution itself, and for the shape of the free society thereafter. This was the case in many of the Soviet satellites–Poland and Czechoslovakia being prime examples–and is certainly ongoing in the Iranian diaspora, whether in the United States or in Europe. It would be surprising if Iranian democrats were not doing the same.

"The regime is famously vicious, as the mounting numbers of executions and the ongoing torture in Iran's prisons unfortunately demonstrate. But tyranny is the most unstable form of government, and democratic revolution invariably surprises us. If anyone had forecast a successful democratic revolution in the Ukraine, even three months before it occurred, most of us would have considered it a fantasy.

"Nobody knows with certainty whether revolution can succeed in Iran, or, if it can, how long it will take. But tyrannies often fall with unexpected speed, and in recent years a surprising number of revolutions have toppled tyrants all over the world. Most of them got help from us."

Happily, the Bush administration seems to be moving in the same direction. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice seems to understand that there is no use dealing with "moderates" from within the regime. She seems determined to increase our ability to speak directly to the Iranian people. Yesterday there came reports that the State Department is sending new personnel to Dubai—yes, that Dubai—with a view to monitoring and communicating with freedom-loving Iranians there. This is all good news. But read the whole thing.