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Jewish World Review Dec. 12, 2002 / 7 Teves, 5763

Michael Ledeen

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The Real War | Slowly but surely the world is beginning to acknowledge the true import of the events taking place in Iran. The Washington Post has run two excellent editorials, as good as anything I have seen, plus a fine, thoughtful piece by Fred Hiatt. Gerry Seib at the Wall Street Journal wrote a perceptive piece late last week, and the editorialists at the Journal produced their usual first-class performance on Monday. And, for all his shortcomings, Thomas Friedman knows that something very important is going on there, which makes him the only one of the Times's columnists to get that one right. The AP carried the news that the new speaker of parliament - who is also pseudo-President Khatami's younger brother - was openly warning that the regime would fall unless it paid attention to the protests of young Iranians.

But no major news organization - aside from this one - follows Iranian events carefully, if not day-by-day at least week-by-week, which makes it difficult to maintain perspective. More's the pity, since the past weekend's monster demonstrations all over the country suggest that the Iranians have turned an historic corner.

Reporters in Tehran (there is not a single eyewitness account from any other city) estimated the number of demonstrators between 1,500 and 10,000, the first being the official figure, the latter coming from the London Telegraph. I have three eyewitness accounts of between 2,000-3,000 demonstrators in Tehran alone, as well as reports of large-scale fighting between demonstrators and security forces in several major cities, from Isfahan and Tabriz to Qom, Mashad and Shiraz, all over the country. Similarly, the newspapers reported dozens of arrests, while it seems certain that roughly 2,000 were arrested in Tehran, with hundreds more locked up elsewhere. Regular police did not participate in the repression, and were rewarded by calls of "Thank you, police!" from the demonstrators. The bulk of the dirty work seems to have been done by the so-called "Afghan Arabs," brought in from Afghanistan and Iraq. As of Wednesday morning, I was still receiving reports of ongoing fighting in several cities.

It was the biggest organized demonstration, nationwide, since the revolution of 1979, and it is safe to say that foreign reporters failed to report its true dimensions because they were told they would be thrown out of the country if they did so.

Plus, there was no real coverage of the biggest breaking news of the weekend, which was the crystallization of the revolt into a truly national movement, and the continuing signs of widening fissures within the regime. The demonstrations started on the university campuses, but huge crowds of citizens - orders of magnitude larger than the student groups - marched through the streets to join the protests. And their chants tell you everything you need to know about the true nature of the national movement: "Referendum! Referendum!"

And, most tellingly, "We are paying the price of our parents' mistakes 23 years ago!" Which, of course, is when the Ayatollah Khomeini seized power from the shah, and installed the Islamic republic.

Contrary to the constant description of the protesters as "reformists," the protests have gone far beyond calls for an Islamism with a Human Face. Their most eloquent spokesman is the distinguished scholar Dr. Qasem Sholeh Sadi, who recently published an open letter to Supreme Leader Khamenei that oozes contempt for the regime, and calls for Khamenei to resign. Derisively referring to the Supreme Leader as "Hojjatoleslam Mr. Ali Khamenei," thereby stressing his lack of theological standing, Sholeh Sadi denounces the endless failures of the regime, from foreign policy to the internal misery of the Iranian people. And he underlines the true nature of the popular vote for Khatami: "You know well that the twenty million votes for Mr. Khatami...were more a strong 'no' to you than a 'yes' to Mr. Khatami."

As I wrote many months ago, Khatami was the empty vessel into which the rage of the Iranian people was poured. "You have...labeled independent press as an enemies' base, turned your wrath against the students...How long can you continue your opposition to the vote of the people?"

Meanwhile, back in Washington, a national-security directive on Iran languishes somewhere in the constipated bowels of the bureaucracy. Those of us - a growing number, I'm pleased to say - who believe our national interests and our national character demand active American support for the Iranian revolution, hoped that the Bush administration would join the struggle, marvel at the stubborn unwillingness or inability of this government to support the independent Iranian broadcasters (like National Iranian TV in Los Angeles, recently silenced because they lack the funds to continue satellite broadcasting), and the Iranian opposition leaders (who could and would be even more active if they had a safety net of money to feed their children in the event of more mass arrests, and up-to-date communications gear to better coordinate action in several cities).

Why is the National Security Council taking so long to formalize our policy? Why do the principals - Powell, Rumsfeld, Rice, et. al. - not get this thing done? And why on earth has the president not demanded that it be done quickly? We are not talking about military war here, we are talking about the kind of support for freedom fighters that the United States has traditionally delivered in such cases, even in countries that were not involved in a terrorist war against us. But Iran is the world's leading terrorist power, the keystone of the terrorist network, the inspiration and protector of Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of Hezbollah, the supplier of Islamic Jihad and Hamas, a major producer of weapons of mass destruction, and the engine of the global jihad.

Faster, please.

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JWR contributor Michael Ledeen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of, most recently, The War Against the Terror Masters. Comment by clicking here.


12/09/02: Tom Friedman's Reformation: His Iran
11/26/02: How Tyrannies Fall: Opportunity time in Iran
11/22/02: The Blind Leading the Blind: The New York Times and the Iranian crisis
11/13/02: The Temperature Rises: We should liberate Iran first --- now
11/05/02: End of the Road: Iran's Mohammed Khatami, on his way out
10/29/02: The Angleton Dialogues, Contnued: What George Tenet doesn’t know
10/24/02: The Iranian Comedy Hour: In the U.S., the silence continues
10/16/02: Sniper, Saboteur, or Sleeper? Channeling James Jesus Angleton
10/01/02: The real foe
09/27/02: The Iranian String Quartet: The mullahs get increasingly nervous
09/25/02: The Dubya Doctrine
09/23/02: Intelligence? What intelligence?
09/12/02: America's revenge: To turn tyrannies into democracies
09/10/02: Iran & Afghanistan & Us: We'll have to deal with the mullahcracy, sooner or later
09/04/02: Iran, according to the Times: All the nonsense that's fit to print
08/21/02: Life and death of Abu Nidal tells us a great deal about our enemies
08/08/02: Can You Keep a Secret?: The media silence on Iran
08/06/02: Fantasy Reporting: The latest disinformation from the Washington Post
08/02/02: Propping Up the Terror Masters: Europe's Solana on tour
07/16/02: Bush vs. the Mullahs: Getting on the side of the Iranian freedom fighters
07/12/02: The State Department Goes Mute: It's official: State has no message
07/09/02: History being made, but the West appears clueless
06/05/02: Is George Tenet endangering peace in Israel?
06/03/02: Ridiculous, even for a journalist
05/20/02: So how come nobody's been fired yet?
05/14/02: Open doors for thugs
04/20/02: Iran on the Brink … and the U.S. does nothing
04/16/02: It’s the war, stupid … someone remind Colin Powell
04/08/02: Gulled: In the Middle East, Arafat doesn't matter
04/02/02: Faster, Please: The war falters
03/26/02: The Revolution Continues: What's brewing in Iran
03/18/02: Iran simmers still: Where's the press?
03/05/02: We can't lose any more ground in Iran
02/14/02: The Great Iranian Hoax
02/12/02: Unnoticed Bombshell: Key information in a new book
01/31/02: The truth behind the Powell play
01/29/02: My past with "Johnny Jihad's" lawyer
01/21/02: It's Munich, all over again
01/08/02: What's the Holdup?: It's time for the next battles in the war against terrorism
12/11/01: We must be imperious, ruthless, and relentless
12/06/01: Remembering my family friend, Walt Disney
11/28/01: The Barbara Olson Bomb: Understanding the war
11/13/01: How We're Doing: The Angleton Files, IV
11/06/01: A great revolutionary war is coming
10/25/01: How to talk to a terrorist
10/23/01: Creative Reporting: Learning to appreciate press briefings
10/19/01: Not the Emmys: A Beltway award presentation
10/15/01: Rediscovering American character
10/11/01: Somehow, I've missed Arafat's praise of the first stage of our war on terrorism
10/04/01: What do we not know?
09/28/01: Machiavelli On Our War: Some advice for our leaders
09/25/01: No Room for the U.N.: Keeping Annan & co. out of the picture
09/21/01: Creative destruction
09/14/01: Who Killed Barbara Olson?
08/22/01: How Israel will win this war
08/15/01: Bracing for war
08/09/01: More Dithering Democrats
08/02/01: Delirious Dems
07/31/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit, cont'd
07/19/01: Be careful what you wish for
07/17/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit
07/05/01: Let Slobo Go
05/30/01: Anybody out there afraid of the Republicans?
05/09/01: The bad guys to the rescue
05/07/01: Bye-bye, Blumenthal
04/20/01: Handling China
04/11/01: EXAM TIME!
04/05/01: Chinese over-water torture
03/27/01: Fighting AIDS in Africa is a losing proposition
03/14/01: Big Bird, Oscar, and other threats
03/09/01: Time for a good, old-fashioned purge
03/06/01: Powell’s great (mis)adventure
02/26/01: The Clinton Sopranos
02/20/01: Unity Schmoonity: Sharon is defying the will of the people
01/30/01: The Rest of the Rich Story
01/22/01: Ashcroft the Jew
01/11/01: A fitting close to the Clinton years
12/26/00: Continuing Clinton's shameful legacy
12/21/00: Clinton’s gift for Bush

© 2001, Michael Ledeen