Tags: hitchens | iraq | iran

Hitchens: Toppling Saddam Encouraged Iranians

Tuesday, 07 Jul 2009 07:42 PM

The U.S. invasion and liberation of Iraq from the regime of Saddam Hussein may have been one of the important forces behind the uprising of Iranian citizens after their failed elections, according to author Christopher Hitchens.

Hitchens, a liberal who nonetheless was one of the strongest supporters of the war in Iraq, wrote in the online magazine Slate that reformist forces in Iran have been studying the rebirth of Iraq since the invasion. They even refer to it as a “liberation,” a term not commonly used among political forces in the Arab world.

But Persian Shiite clerics have been vocal in their denunciations of the regime headed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei for years — a fact not often discussed in the mainstream media. One of the leaders of this group, though a junior cleric, is Sayeed Khomeini, the grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini, the radical founder of the Islamic Republic. Khomeini, as well as former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, have developed an important relationship with Iraqi religious leader Ayatollah Ali Husaini Sistani, a long-standing opponent of the Khamenei regime.

“Certainly when I interviewed Sayeed Khomeini in Qum some years ago, where he spoke openly about "the liberation of Iraq," he seemed to hope and believe that the example would spread,” Hitchens writes. “One swallow does not make a summer. But consider this: Many Iranians go as religious pilgrims to the holy sites of Najaf and Kerbala in southern Iraq. They have seen the way in which national and local elections have been held, more or less fairly and openly, with different Iraqi Shiite parties having to bid for votes (and with those parties aligned with Iran's regime doing less and less well). They have seen an often turbulent Iraqi Parliament holding genuine debates that are reported with reasonable fairness in the Iraqi media.”

Meanwhile, Hitchens adds, Iranians have seen their own leaders treat citizens as children and put “on a ‘let's pretend’ election.

“Iranians by no means likely to take their tune from Arabs — perhaps least of all from Iraqis — but watching something like the real thing next door may well have increased the appetite for the genuine article in Iran itself.”

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