What are the strategic reasons behind Western reluctance to support Iran's opposition? One theory is that there are immense oil interests in partnership with the region's jihadist regimes, obstructing the advance of democracy in the region.
The reluctance by the Obama administration and other European governments to extend their hand of support to Iran's civil society during the June uprising can be explained through the pressures applied by interest groups, including oil-producing regimes, not to "meddle" in Iran's affairs and let go of the democratic movement.
We've seen the administration pressuring Israel, while talking gently to the Iranian government. When staff of the British embassy and a French researcher, were arrested in Tehran, there was only a lukewarm response by the European Union to this humiliation of two of its member states. How can we make sense of this bizarre situation?
It looks like Americans and Europeans have abandoned Iran's civil society. There are strong political and financial interests that block a significant support of democracy in Iran. Politically, the new United States administration has made a massive foreign policy change by moving from what was known as “spreading democracy” during the past eight years to cutting “realistic” deals with sitting regimes, including the present jihadi regime in Tehran.
If we don´t understand the change that took place in Washington this year we will fail in understanding the historical U.S. attitudes towards Iran´s latest uprising. But beyond the political equation, one can project the heavy pressure mounted by economic and financial interests on U.S. and European governments to desist from supporting the democratic uprising. For when the “engagement” between the West and Iran´s regime moves forward, as planned, a tidal wave of investments and contracts will be unleashed with the Mullahs and the Pasdaran controlled financial sectors in Iran, including the oil sectors.
The real force behind "protecting" the present regime in Iran, even as the world witnesses the violence against demonstrators, are those interest groups awaiting impatiently the reopening of business with the Islamic Republic. Since the deal was cut with the elite in power in Tehran, do not expect a campaign to bring down these elite, for now.
Even if not all figures of the opposition are liberal Democrats, the West must provide the popular movement with all possible assistance. Remember that Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin were members of the USSR Communist Party before they caused the crumbling of totalitarianism. Musavi and his companions have certainly been part of the Islamic Republic, but the masses uprising in Tehran are heading towards a free republic and pluralism.
If liberal democracies finally understand that a massive change in Iran would create a positive new era in international relations and give peace a chance in many areas in the Middle East, they should muster all efforts possible to seize the historic opportunity and support the democracy movement in Iran: Indict the regime for human rights abuse and suppression of freedoms. Gradually isolate the oppressive elite economically and diplomatically. Declare the Pasdaran and Basij as abusers of human rights Provide the opposition with all broadcast capacities in Farsi and other ethnic languages Support the work of NGOs such as women, students, workers, artists, and minorities. Directly warn the military and militia commanders that any action against the people of Iran will be tried in international courts.
Dr. Walid Phares is a senior fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and the author of “The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad.” He has been recently appointed as a co-secretary general of the Trans Atlantic Legislative Group on Counter Terrorism. You can read his analysis on www.walidphares.com
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