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The Iranian street

By Joseph Kellard
web posted August 5, 2002

United States support for their movement in both word and action would be a major step toward eliminating the terrorist threats it faces.

Since their candlelight vigils in support of America on Sept. 11, pro-secular, pro-freedom Iranians (mostly youths) have held monthly demonstrations of hundreds of thousands of people opposing their theocratic rulers. With such chants as "We love you, America," they stand in contrast to the "Arab Street," the fanatical segment of the Islamic Middle East that threatens death to America for merely existing.

Mohammad Khatami

Although Iranians twice elected "reformist" president Mohammad Khatami, unelected fundamentalists still pull Iran's political strings. These ayatollahs and mullahs oppose property rights, impose strict censorship of the press, enforce religious social decrees (particularly of all things Western), imprison or execute political opponents, and, consequently, foster economic depression. Moreover, for many years running, Iran tops the US State Department's list of most active state sponsors of terrorism. Thus, President Bush rightfully included Iran in his "axis of evil."

Deriving considerable morale from Bush's condemnations of their oppressors, these new Iranian revolutionaries want the separation of mosque and state, a free press, freedom to oppose their leaders, and authentic political representation. They look to America as the world's beacon of freedom, and desperately seek its moral and military support.

America certainly has a rational self-interest in giving them both.

The Islamic fundamentalism and anti-American fanaticism pervading the Middle East was born in Iran, when Ayatollah Khomeini seized power and fanatics took 52 Americans hostages at the US Embassy in Teheran in 1979. Iran financed the truck bombers who murdered 241 US Marines in Beirut in 1983, and Khomeini issued terrorist threats in 1989 against Viking, the American publisher of Salman Rushdie's book "The Satanic Verses."

Under Khomeini's "moderate" successors, Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorists were involved in bombing an American military complex in Saudi Arabia, Khobar Towers, which murdered 19 US soldiers in 1996. Former president Hashemi Rafsanjani exhorted Islamic militants in 1997 to hijack planes in Western countries and declare open war on worldwide American interests. Five months before and nine months after Sept. 11, the world's most dangerous terrorist groups convened in Iran to strategize their anti-American holy war. In January, Israel intercepted a ship leaving Iran carrying 50 tons of weapons for the terrorist Palestinian Authority.

Most important, Iran is reportedly five years from obtaining nuclear-strike capabilities against America. Last December, Rafsanjani told a crowd at Teheran University that when the Islamic world has nuclear weapons "the strategy of the West will hit a dead end, since a single atomic bomb has the power to completely destroy Israel."

Therefore, toppling the premier Islamic totalitarian, terrorist state would end its widespread anti-American funding and expansion of terrorists. It would prove a severe blow to similar states, such as Syria, showing that radical Islam has failed in two countries, Iran and Afghanistan. And a relatively free, secular Iranian government would be exemplary to other states and thereby deter further theocratic, anti-American regimes from forming.

Today, Iran's regime shows increasing sings that it is cracking. For instance, a top Iranian cleric recently resigned from his post after condemning fellow theocrats for corruption. And the regime, furious over Bush's condemnation of its rule and his support for the revolutionaries after their largest demonstration earlier this month, organized -- that is, compelled -- its own anti-America demonstration.

But if, as the Bush administration has recently indicated, pre-emptive US strikes against Iraq are off, then such actions against Iran are more unlikely. Why? "The State Department always wants to negotiate," said Michael Leeden, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, on Fox News Channel. "But there is no negotiable solution to a fundamental clash between freedom and tyranny, and that's what's going on in Iran."

Leeden is correct. When the good negotiates with evil, evil inevitably wins, but not because it is stronger than the good. Evil is fundamentally powerless. Its power is derived from and sustained by the moral legitimacy it receives -- but can never earn -- when the good appeases it. Iran's theocrats continue their decades-long terrorist reign because, as they took Americans hostage, issued terrorist threats and practiced what they preached, our presidents from Carter to Clinton all appeased them in some form, from military passivity to dealing arms for hostages.

To win the war against Islamic terrorists, Americans must first demand that our leaders back up their moral support of pro-freedom Iranians with military action if their revolution falters. Anything less is appeasement -- which will amount to more Islamic terrorism and American deaths.

Joseph Kellard is a journalist and editorialist living in New York. He can be reached by e-mail at: Jkaxiom3@aol.com, or visit his web site, The American Individualist, at www.theai.net. (c) Joseph Kellard

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