Time for Stronger Words about Iran
More than anywhere else, the future of the Middle East will be decided in Iran. This dynamic and resource-rich society sits astride Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Caspian Sea, and the Persian Gulf. Iran also wields crucial influence over various non-state actors, particularly Hezbollah in Lebanon. The government in Tehran is pursuing what everyone recognizes as a nuclear weapons program that involves both uranium enrichment and ballistic missile development.
In the summer of 2009 students, reformers, and even established political figures throughout Iran voiced their strong and courageous disapproval of the repressive and belligerent policies pursued by the government. They voted in large numbers for nationalist reformers and they took to the streets when their votes were denied. Since then public discontent has remained palpable in Iranian society — as witnessed in Twitter videos sent abroad and the continued crackdowns by government leaders. In recent weeks, the Tehran government has incarcerated numerous journalists, lawyers, and activists, as well as their families, on manufactured charges of treason against the regime.
The Islamist Revolution of 1978-79 in Iran has failed and everyone knows it, including the mullahs who continue to run the country. They cling to power today by exaggerating threats about enemies at home and abroad. Of course, Iranians have reason to fear the expanded American presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, but more belligerence and repression only contributes to a spiral of increased conflict. President Barack Obama has made many overtures to the Iranian leadership, and it is time that the international community strongly condemn the regime’s continued stonewalling.
The people of Iran need to know that the international community cares about their plight and wishes to support their efforts at reform. The people of Iran need to know that the international community will work toward reforms that will increase the country’s security if it does the same for its neighbors. The people of Iran need more encouragement in their efforts to change their society from within. A new more democratic and peaceful Middle East must come from within the nations of the region, but it needs more support from external actors, especially the United States and Western Europe. Constructive political change, not continued war, is the only route to a more secure future for Iran and its neighbors.
The opinions expressed in this blog are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of either Global Brief or the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs.