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Jewish World Review June 18, 2003 / 18 Sivan, 5763

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mobray
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Bush, State Dept. at odds over democracy protests in Iran


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | After five nights of courageous demonstrations in Iran - where protesters faced the prospects of beatings, torture or worse - Iranians seeking freedom from an oppressive regime once again found an ally in President Bush. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the president's own State Department.

Speaking to reporters from the Bush family vacation home in Kennebunkport, Maine, the president said that the protests are "the beginnings of people expressing themselves toward a free Iran, which I think is positive."

This is in keeping with past statements, where Bush has expressed solidarity with the majority of the Iranian population that wants the very freedoms that millions of Americans often take for granted, not the least of which being the right to choose their own government.

Technically speaking, Iran has elections - but they are no more "democratic" than those that used to be held in the old Soviet Union. The country is dominated by an unelected cabal of 12 mullahs, known as the Council of Guardians. The panel vets all candidates for president and Parliament - including the so-called "reformers" - and has the authority to veto any legislation enacted by the legislature. What power they don't have rests in the hands of the unelected "Supreme Leader," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who controls the military, the police, the press, the judiciary, the oil industry and most corporations that trade with the West.

Amazingly, the State Department's No. 2 official, Richard Armitage, told the Los Angeles Times earlier this year that Iran is a "democracy."

Using the "democracy" line as fig leaf cover, State has been pushing for "engagement" with the mullahs. The professional diplomats there claim that talks with the current regime will actually empower the "reformers" within the government. To the extent there are true reformers in the government, though, they have precious little actual power. Since every "reformer" that is inside the government is there only because the mullahs granted approval, "most of the `reformers' actually support the existing power structure," notes an administration official.

Until May 12 - the date of the al-Qaeda bombing in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, that may have been connected to cells operating openly inside Iran - State had been carrying on talks with the Iranian mullahs. The substance of the talks may have been rather limited, insists an administration official who says, "State was kept on a pretty tight leash." But the substance was not the sore point for those inside and outside the administration who support Iran's burgeoning freedom movement; the fact that they took place at all was the problem.

"Engaging" leaders in any way is a tacit acknowledgement of legitimacy, particularly when their very basis for rule is being challenged from within. The Iranian regime is one that has done almost nothing to redeem itself since President Bush named it a member of the "axis evil," as the mullahs continue to oppress the Iranian people while at the same time actively pursuing the development of nuclear weapons. Some estimates cited in a Washington Post story Sunday are that Iran could have nuclear weapons as soon as 2006. The mullahs, though, could actually obtain nukes sooner than that. "It would be 2006 if Iran received no outside help whatsoever," notes an informed source.

The thousands of protesters willing to stand up to the mullahs and their thug enforcers gives the United States an opening to undermine the oppressive regime. When a similar opportunity presented itself last year, however, State stayed mum - it didn't want to "anger" the mullahs.

On July 9 last year, thousands of protesters marked the three-year anniversary of a brutal police crackdown on peaceful demonstrators at Tehran University. When asked if the United States had any message for the students protesting the mullahs, State press spokesman Richard Boucher responded simply, "No."

Thankfully, the president did not care about angering the mullahs, and on July 12, Bush issued a strong endorsement of the demonstrations - a move that was vociferously opposed by State. He concluded his statement with the following message of support: "As Iran's people move toward a future defined by greater freedom, greater tolerance, they will have no better friend than the United States of America."

If only State wanted President Bush's vision to become a reality.

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JWR contributor Joel Mowbray is the author of the forthcoming book "Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Endangers America's Security". Comment by clicking here.

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06/11/03: What's really going on at Saudi mosques
06/09/03: The will to go on
06/04/03: ‘What most Jews don't want to verbalize is that they know, deep down, this is never going to stop’
06/02/03: Expect State Dept. to ignore Bush policy toward Iran
05/29/03: Neocon': Slang for 'Jew'?
05/27/03:'Defense Dept.'s de-Baath efforts run into State's pragmatic view of party
05/21/03: Comments by State Dept. official reflects Foreign Service disdain for Bush and believers
05/14/03: Jesse Jackson's Latest "Outrage" is Outrageous
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04/14/03: Why we fight
04/09/03: State Department giving Baghdad to House of Saud?
04/07/03: State Department giving Baghdad to House of Saud?
04/02/03: Martha Burk's State Department adventure
03/31/03: State's bad deeds head to Baghdad
03/26/03: Human shields-turned-hawks
03/24/03: No such thing as a benign despot
03/20/03: Self-fulfilling tyranny
03/14/03: Gadhafi-State Department Alliance
03/12/03: Pushing "peace" pushes war instead
03/10/03: One last chance --- for the UN
03/03/03: Democracy domino theory
02/28/03: $1 Trillion tax cut?
02/12/03: Saudi Slavery in America
02/05/03: "We're Going to War"
02/04/03: State Department's idea of a "traitor"
01/27/03: State's cold shoulder
01/02/03: Canada: The Weakest Link
12/20/02: Real Story of Yemen's Scud Missile Purchase
12/18/02: Lott's got the Senate in the palm of his hand
12/12/02: White House moves closer to finding Iraq in "material breach"
12/10/02: A 9/11 plotter confessed
12/06/02: Saudi Spin doctors dodge U.S. marshals
12/03/02: Wild, Wild Web
12/02/02: Justice, finally, for terrorism victims
11/26/02: Sue McDonalds? I Lost 80 lbs With Fast Food!
11/25/02: The State Department's spin machine
11/22/02: Finally! No more open door for Saudis
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11/18/02: Trial lawyers vs. homeland security
10/09/02: The visas that shouldn't have been
09/26/02: The "right" Miss America
09/23/02: Tax Cuts, R.I.P.
09/17/02: Freedom denied
09/11/02: Iraqi roulette
09/06/02: O'Reilly the wrong 'Factor' in Saudi abduction case
09/05/02: State's war on Americans
08/09/02: White House wants replace 'Visa Express' genius with woman accused of not helping free kidnapped American kids in Arab lands
07/23/02: Visas for suspected terrorists?
07/11/02: VISA EXPRESS DERAILED
07/03/02: Saudis Fueling Mideast Terrorism
07/02/02: Dick Gephardt, Wannabe Deadbeat Son
06/26/02: Open door for terrorists still open
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06/11/02: Sacrificing liberty and safety
05/29/02: Coddling Castro
05/20/02: GOP running from social security reform?
05/09/02: Arab (sky) High Culture
04/24/02: Catholic Church's real challenge
04/17/02: How do you say 'media-bias' in Hebrew?
04/09/02: Sexually Explicit "Abstinence" Education?
04/09/02: A price on the heads of Americans overseas
04/02/02: Bush's New Version of Compartmentalization
03/25/02: Homosexuality a Factor in Sex Abuse by Priests
03/20/02: Government's "Candid Cameras"
03/14/02: Happy Abortionist Appreciation Day
03/07/02: Let dissent ring
03/04/02: Is Ted Kennedy a racist?
02/26/02: The Audacity to Be Black and Conservative

© 2003, Joel Mowbray.