The Neda video and the many other disturbing photos coming out of Iran show the protest movement there will continue to take on a life of its own, with courageous dissenters facing repression in the form of bullets and sticks. Pressure is now mounting on President Obama to take a more aggressive stand against the Iranian regime and do what is necessary to ensure its downfall. This approach has its origins with the same bunch of neoconservative stalwarts in the Republican Party who hijacked President George W. Bush ‘s presidency shortly after 9-11 to push back against the new axis of evil of the day—Iran, Iraq, and North Korea.
It was not long before the US was engaged in the invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein. To this day, the mission in Iraq is inconclusive, Afghanistan is still a dangerous place with no end to the war in sight, and Osama Bin Laden is still making tapes! We now know that much of the build-up to the Iraq war was based on faulty intelligence and, in some cases, fabricated evidence. Now, many of the same observers—like Paul Wolfowitz—are calling for Obama to take the U.S. on a path that can only lead to a more direct intervention. Obama must not listen to the neoconservatives on Iran. They are dead wrong.
By exercising restraint and caution, the current administration is seemingly taking a page out of George H.W. Bush’s playbook from the fall of the Soviet empire. This is encouraging and will hopefully remain the approach. History has recorded the positive effect of this policy. In the current issue of Newsweek, Fareed Zakaria illustrates the risks involved with the Wolfowitz neoconservative approach, and the Obama administration would do well to heed his warnings. The Iranian crisis is made-from-within and it must run its course. Zakaria argues the regime is quickly losing its legitimacy in the battle between conservative theocrats and reformist democrats, which are largely supported by women and the growing number of youth (over 65% of the population are under 30 years of age). The Supreme Leader no longer has the influence the mullahs expected and cracks in the regime are now evident.
The US cannot claim any moral high ground when it comes to Iran. It installed the brutal regime of the Shah after democratic elections in 1953; it supported Saddam in his war against Iran, which included the use of chemical weapons against the Iranian people in the 1980s; and it failed to protect Iraq’s Shia population from persecution after the first Gulf War. This is not the time to revert to the failed policies of the past policies, which have only served to fuel Islamic fundamentalism.
The West is understandably alarmed at the pictures emanating from Iran. The leaders are right to condemn the repression and should make humanitarian assistance available where it is needed. But unless the U.S. and others are prepared to undertake a full-scale invasion—and subsequently deal with its disastrous repercussions—it is better to use caution and stay on the current course. Following the logic of neoconservatives would only bring escalation and disaster.