Jewish World Review June 25, 2003 / 25 Sivan, 5763
It's Mullah time!
By Mark Steyn
To modify a great American beer slogan: It's mullah time! The question now is whether Iran's ayatollahs and the original "Islamic republic" can survive the summer, or whether President George W. Bush will mark the second anniversary of September 11 with two-thirds of his axis of evil consigned to the trash can of history.
That would be a remarkable achievement, by any measure save that of Democratic presidential candidates such as John Kerry, who seems to be running as the French foreign minister (a niche market of limited appeal even among Dem primary voters, one would think).
Senator Kerry will continue to insist it's all a disaster and possibly a cover-up, too. But over in North Korea the third member of the axis will get the picture.
For one thing, it's hard to be an effective axis when there's just one of you.
As the late Shah of Iran observed in exile, "Ingratitude is the prerogative of the people" - a remark so full of rueful wisdom you'd think he'd been in vaudeville. Right now, the people's ingratitude to their Islamic Revolutionaries is near unanimous: Even the mullah-friendly correspondent of the Christian Science Monitor concedes that, according to recent "polls," 90% of Iranians "want change."
If I were one of the A-list ayatollahs, I wouldn't bet on many of that last 10% hanging tough when push comes to shove.
A year ago, I wrote of Iran: "So far as one can tell from the patchy reports, it sounds more like Hungary 1956 than Czechoslovakia 1989." The reports are still patchy but this summer's looking more like 1989 every day.
The only question is which of the European models applies: the Czech version, where the old monsters are civilized enough to perform one real service for their people by handing power over peacefully; the Romanian version, where the saner elements in the ruling party decide to remove the leadership and hope that's enough to assuage their subjects; or the Bulgar version, where the former Royal Family returns from exile to spearhead a new democracy.
I'll wager there are a more than a few quiet-life mullahs weighing the options. Iran is not a one-man cult like Saddam's Iraq, and many imams, whether "conservative" or "liberal," can recognize the smell of death percolating from head office. The regime begins this year's riot season seesawing between savage but ineffective crackdowns and humiliating but insufficient concessions. Tipping point beckons.
So what should the West do? The European Union and large elements of America's State Department can't seem to wean themselves off the idea that the ayatollahs are "reformers." In February, a year after the president's "axis of evil" speech, Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State, described Iran as a "democracy," and State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the country had seen a "democratic flowering."
No doubt Messrs. Armitage and Boucher have many fine qualities, but an ability to articulate Bush Administration foreign policy is not among them.
The Iranian people don't need the Third Infantry Division right now, but they deserve better than to be undercut by the Western world's foreign ministries and they could use a bit more vocal support - and a little communications back-up, if only because "in Teheran, more people know the direction to point their satellite dish than the direction to Mecca!"
That's not a quote from a culturally insensitive Texan talk-radio host, but from "ahuramazda," an Internet blogger reporting from Iran.
One reason to get on board with this movement is because it would be best for all of us if the theocracy fell quickly. The former Soviet republic of Georgia has had its scientists beavering away on Iraq's nuclear program for several months.
Yes, folks, it's WMD all over again!
And maybe they don't exist anymore than the Iraqi ones do, according to the Democrats and the Europeans. But I'm happy to take Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani at his word.
As readers may recall, Iran's former president said last year that on the day the Muslim world gets nuclear weapons the Israeli question will be settled forever "since a single atomic bomb has the power to completely destroy Israel, while an Israeli counter-strike can only cause partial damage to the Islamic world."
Oh, my. But what about the Palestinian right of return? As usual, the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency is minded to give Iran all the time it needs to string 'em along, happy to defer further discussion of Iran's nuclear program until September, by which point, at the speed things are going, Rafsanjani may have his nuke and the question may be moot.
In hastening the end of this regime those Iranian protesters in Teheran and other cities are doing the rest of the world a big favor.
That's why the term "Middle East peace process" is better applied to the region as a whole than to the so-called Palestinian "road map." Dignifying the swamp of the West Bank with the name of the entire neighborhood buys into the Arabs' propaganda that the Palestinian situation is responsible for the wretched nature of the Middle East, rather than the other way round.
Looked at the other way round, peace is processing apace, and the chips are all falling George W Bush's way.
Whatever the defects of post-Taliban Afghanistan it's no longer the world's biggest training camp for Saudi-funded terrorism. Whatever the defects of post-Saddam Iraq, it's no longer a self-promotion exercise for the ne plus ultra of anti-American Arab strongmen.
And, whatever the defects of post-ayatollah Iran, the fall of the prototype Islamic Republic will be a huge setback to the world's jihadi.
It was Ayatollah Khomeini who successfully grafted a mid-20th- century European-style fascist movement on to Islam and made the religion an explicitly political vehicle for anti-Westernism. It was the ayatollah who first bestowed on the US the title of "Great Satan." And it was the ayatollah who insisted that this new Islamic revolution had to be taken directly to the West - to the embassy hostages, to Salman Rushdie, and, ultimately, to America itself.
Twenty years ago there was a minor British pop hit called "Ayatollah, don't Khomeini closer."
He came too close. And the end of a regime built on his psychosis is good news for Iran and the world.
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JWR contributor Mark Steyn is senior contributing editor for Hollinger Inc. and the author, most recently, of "The Face of the Tiger," a new book on the world post-Sept. 11. (Sales help fund JWR). Comment by clicking here.
© 2003, Mark Steyn