Amid the high drama in Iran, I thought this piece might be of interest. It calls for expanding the focus of U.S. policy to encompass not just talks on Iran's nuclear ambitions, but also the Iranian people's growing demands for democracy and basic human rights. As always, I welcome your thoughts and reactions.
High Noon in Tehran
by Will Marshall
Iranians are bracing for violent clashes in the streets of Tehran today, the Islamic Republic's 31st anniversary. Both the government and the opposition Green Movement are calling for demonstrations to mark the occasion.
Reza Aslan, a PPI friend and contributor, says the regime's increasingly brutal crackdown on domestic dissent has brought Iran to the verge of civil war. Other observers fear a Tiananmen Square-style massacre that could cripple the democratic opposition, which flared up after last summer's rigged elections.
Meanwhile, Iran's rulers are promising rude surprises for their external critics, too. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warns of a "telling blow" Thursday, while Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, threatens a "punch" for the United States and other countries that have worked to end Iran's nuclear program.
Such cryptic belligerence no doubt reflects the regime's desire to distract the world's attention from its increasingly shaky position at home. The mullahs' old tactic of whipping up paranoia and striking defiant poses against supposed U.S. or Western plots is wearing thin. A broad cross-section of Iranian society seems focused instead on the Islamic Republic's metamorphosis into an Islamic police state.
"The Islamic Republic is nothing but an economic-religious-military complex that applies its coercive power not through political institutions but through a military and security apparatus under the direct supervision of Ayatollah Khamenei," said Mehdi Khalaji of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy at a congressional hearing last week. No "engagement" with opponents for this regime; instead, it has unleashed its vast security apparatus on Iranian society. Scores of anti-government protestors have been killed and hundreds more imprisoned. Prominent regime opponents have been subjected to totalitarian-style show trials, and the government has announced plans to execute nine protesters. The government is relentless in policing the internet, jamming foreign broadcasts and blocking contacts with the outside world.
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