Did Saddam Hussein's fall and the formation of a fledging democracy in
Iraq encourage and embolden regime-threatening dissent in Iran?
The anti-Iraq War crowd, many of whom suffer from Give-George-W.-Bush-No
Credit-for-Anything Disease, says, "No, of course not." How dare anyone
even suggest that the former President was correct, if not about the
rightfulness of the war itself, then about his argument that a "free and
peaceful" Iraq would provide a "dramatic and inspiring example" to the
Middle East and the Muslim world. Good Lord!
The Iraq War-achieved-zero crowd begrudged Bush nothing even after the
democratic Cedar Revolution in Lebanon. Never mind that Walid Jumblatt,
a Lebanese Druze Muslim leader, said: "It's strange for me to say it,
but this process of change has started because of the American invasion
of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people
voting (in 2005), 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab
As to Iran, The New York Times quoted a pundit-blogger who, when
protests began this past summer, wrote, "(N)o Iranian … has mentioned
Iraq as an inspiration for the demonstrations, nor has any leader of
their opposition cited their Iraqi neighbors as a model or a source of
Meet Mohsen Kadivar. In May 2004, Time magazine profiled this Iranian
intellectual in a flattering article called "The Critical Cleric
Reclaiming Islam for a New World." Newsweek called him a global leader
"to watch in 2005." His criticism of the Iranian regime landed him in
jail. He now teaches at Duke University, and PBS's Charlie Rose
interviewed him in July.
What does this cleric says about Iraq's possible influence on his native
country? In February 2005, he said: "I think the Iraqis can make what we
wanted to create but were unsuccessful: a real Islamic Republic. By that
I mean a republic with Islamic values, democracy with Islamic values …
(where) the clergy has no special rights. If they have a good government
with Islamic democracy and without any special or divine rights for the
clergy, the Iranian government won't be able to justify its situation to
the Iranian citizens."
Meet Mashallah Shamsolvaezin. In 2000, this Iranian journalist received
an International Press Freedom Award but could not attend the formal
dinner honoring him. Shamsolvaezin was then sitting in a Tehran prison
for the crime of "insulting Islamic values." The authorities shut down
several publications that he edited. Just days ago, he and several other
journalists were arrested in Iran.
What did he say about Iraq's possible influence on Iran? "The Shi'as in
Iraq have accepted the notion of having a secular government, and they
are slowly moving toward the democratization of their country free
elections, democratic institutions, a free press. All of this in and of
itself will have an impact on the situation in Iran."
Meet Mohsen Sazegara. This Revolutionary Guard co-founder and former
Islamic Republic supporter became a critic. He attempted to run for
president of Iran, but authorities denied his application. He spent
three months in jail for opposing the regime. He now lives in the United
States and faces more prison time should he return to his country.
What did he say about Iraq's possible influence on Iran? "I personally
hope that Iraq's (transition to democracy) will be completed
successfully so that it can also help our nation. For sure, neighbors
with democratic governments are much better for us than dictators such
as Saddam Hussein or backward groups such as the Taliban … . Our young
generation in particular has shown … that it has a strong desire for
democracy, human rights and civil society, and a strong desire to join
the international (community). And when democratic changes take place in
our neighboring and brother country Iraq, with its many ties to us, it
encourages our youth, and emboldens our young people to ask for change
in our current constitution."
In truth, the anti-Iraq War/Bush-hating left despises the former
President far more than do the Iranians.
Almost two years after we entered Iraq, Iranians, according to a 2004
BBC poll, preferred Bush (52 percent) over John Kerry (42 percent) in
the U.S. presidential elections. When asked whether the U.S. should get
out of the Middle East, only 20 percent of Iranians said yes.
In May 2004, New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof traveled to
Iran. He wrote: "Everywhere I've gone in Iran … people have been
exceptionally friendly and fulsome in their praise for the United
States, and often for President Bush as well. … Indeed, many Iranians
seem convinced that the U.S. military ventures in Afghanistan and Iraq
are going great, and they say this with more conviction than your
average White House spokesman."
The Iraq War and fledging democracy continue to pay dividends. It helped
convince Libya's strongman to surrender his WMD. It helped inspire a
democratic movement in Lebanon. And it may, just may, help to bring down
an Islamofascist government that is the leading exporter of terrorism
before it gets a nuclear bomb.
Just as the "neo-cons" had hoped.