Saturday, June 16, 2007

Iran Imposes Hard-Line Crackdown

Iran has implemented a series of crackdowns aimed at forcing the theocracy back to the oppressive cultural restrictions in place after the Islamic revolution in 1979. According to Human Rights Watch analyst Hadi Ghaemi, "Ahmadinejad has repeatedly stated his goal of purging Iranian society of secular thought. This is taking shape as a cultural revolution, particularly on university campuses, where persecution and prosecution of students and faculty are intensifying with each passing day." (Washington Post: Iran Curtails Freedom In Throwback to 1979.)

The crackdown is hitting college campuses extremely hard. There has been increasing opposition to Ahmadinejad's policies, especially among the youth, and the official response has been detentions and the dissolution of campus social groups. Also targeted is public dress and behaviour deemed offensive to Islam with over 150,000 arrests having been made recently.

Part of the issue facing Ahmadinejad is a failed economic policy resulting in 20% inflation over the last 12 months and a 25% rise in gas prices. The latest crackdowns are intended to squelch the unrest being caused by the economic crisis and are seen as a means of preventing a significant political reaction leading into the 2009 elections.

What this means for us is that Iran is ripe for revolution. The student uprising in 1979 that brought about the Islamic Revolution has long since lost its luster. The younger generation of students is far more western in thoughts, dress, and culture than the previous generation, and the strict Islamic code driven by Ahmadinejad is not well received by the well educated population. Of great significance is the 25% rise in gas prices this year. Iran is an oil rich nation, however they only have one refinery. This makes their infrastructure vulnerable to a single attack, something that would cripple the Iranian economy. This exposure alone makes a revolution in Iran practical.

There are US efforts underway to support a Democratic process in Iran with $75 Million in US funds being diverted for that purpose. Unlike other nations in the Middle East, an Iranian democracy is actually in our best interests. The underpinnings of a cultural revolution have been in place for the past decade, and free elections would likely result in an Iranian government that is far more moderate than we have since since 1979. That does not eliminate the need for a revolution, however.

Since the Shah was removed from power, Iran has been governed by the religious arm, not the political wing. While Ahmadinejad may be the president, it's actually Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who rules the country. No significant changes can occur in Iran without first removing Khamenei, and it will take far more than free elections to accomplish that. What is needed is a political coup not unlike the one that deposed the Shah. Increasing our support for dissident student groups, providing them arms, and providing them funding is our best course of action. A direct US intervention in Iran would be counterproductive. In fact, it was our intervention in Iraq that resulted in the reactionary election of Ahmadinejad in the first place. Rather, the revolution must come from within Iran, and the likely source of that revolution is the current crop of moderate students.

With the Iranian economy already being drained, it is also beneficial to drag them further into the conflict in Iraq. Having their resources drained by their support of the Shiite insurgency would further compound their internal problems. We could help this problem along by encouraging Sunni insurgent raids across the border into neighboring Iranian positions. The weaker the Iranian economy becomes, the greater the likelihood of a revolution to overthrow Khamenei. Such a revolution would deal a severe blow to the radical Islamic war effort since a good deal of covert support and funding is coming from Khamenei's government.

Iran is already spread pretty thin. They are supporting the Shiite insurgency in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in the Gaza. The drain on their economy appears to be nearing the breaking point. Now it's just a question of how best to nudge it to drive the population into rebellion.

1 comment :

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