What we can offer the Iranians

This Haaretz editorial on Iran is pretty spot-on:

Thirty years after the Khomeini revolution brought down the regime of the shah and led the Islamic Republic to power, a new generation in Iran is now fomenting a shake-up, whose full scope, conclusion and ramifications are not yet known. But what has happened so far suffices as a lesson in humility to those who, in the eyes of the uninformed, are considered the greatest of experts because of their access to confidential materials.

Mossad head Meir Dagan, entrusted with dealing with the nuclear threat in Iran, appeared before the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on the day after the elections in Iran, and declared eruditely that the election fraud there had been “no worse than what is found in other countries.” Dagan also was inclined to dismiss the differences between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the favorite of the ayatollahs, and his rivals headed by Mir Hossein Mousavi; Dagan attributed Iran’s original desire to obtain nuclear power to his premiership in the 1980s.

The stormy week that has passed, with millions protesting in Tehran, demanding that the election results be canceled, casts doubt on Dagan’s assessment that the demonstrations would swiftly fade or be suppressed. There is a growing suspicion that the wholesale forgeries in the elections were planned in advance, and were not merely the result of an accumulation of local problems.

The difference between Ahmadinejad and his patrons, and Mousavi and his supporters, has been painted in blood in the streets of Tehran. Even if Mousavi did indeed advance his country’s nuclear program (which was initiated by the shah, Israel’s ally) two decades ago, in the current political reality in Iran – and after he spent a long period outside of politics – Mousavi poses an unprecedented challenge to the spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and to the entire system. Mousavi is showing signs of becoming the Mikhail Gorbachev or Frederik de Klerk of Iran, a member of the ruling establishment, who surprises even himself by deviating from the line to the point where the system falls apart.

Khamenei’s speech on Friday made it clear that the regime plans to fight for its life and will act to suppress the protests with a strong hand, but even if it does succeed, it will henceforth have to take the people’s will into account. Economic sanctions that affect the well-being of the Iranian public, at the expense of the relentless development of nuclear weapons, could have a greater weight in the future. That is good news that lessens the danger of a military confrontation between Israel and Iran. And it is also a good reason for official Israel to stand aside, to refrain from declarations and to hope quietly for the victory of the Iranian people over its dictators.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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