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The Last Days of the Mullahs By: Michael Ledeen
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, March 09, 2005

As has so often happened in American history, we have a chance to be saved from our folly by our enemies, rather than by our own exertions. Our diplomatic corps have labored mightily, ever since the bloody seizure of power in Tehran by the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979, to reach a rapprochement with the tyrannical rulers of the Islamic Republic of Iran. As Kenneth Pollack wrote in his recent book, "The Persian Puzzle," we have tried every possible approach, and they have all failed. And he sadly concluded that they all failed because the Iranian tyrants are not interested in rapprochement with us. Would that he remembered what he wrote, because Pollack, along with a vast array of self-styled foreign policy professionals, continues to propose new stratagems to weave this well-aged pig's ear into a diplomatic silken purse. But the response is always the same: the mullahs will have no part of it. In the past few days, they have told us and the European appeasers to take our carrots and go away. They will not terminate their nuclear program.

Decades of failed American demarches have not put an end to the dreams of ending our conflict with Iran. Indeed, s
ecret meetings with the mullahs have continued apace throughout the Bush years, notwithstanding the president's repeated statement on behalf of the Iranian people's legitimate desire to be free of the murderous mullahcracy. No amount of evidence will deflect the "realists" from their dream of a negotiated settlement, because their "realism" does not accept one of life's fundamental facts: we have real enemies, they truly wish to destroy us, and the Iranians are one of them.

It does not require secret intelligence or an advanced degree to see this. Indeed, NOT to see it requires the rare sophisticated skills so highly prized by the chatterers. One of the  main reasons for the absurd and embarrassing kabuki dance over the nuclear issue -- with its attendant speeches, essays, proposals, and schemes -- is that it distracts us from the central issue, which is the ruthless hatred of us that drives the mullahs, and the many thousands of people who have died as a result of Iranian actions.

Lest we forget: we are at war with the terrorists, and Iran is the world's leading supporter of terrorism. We cannot win this war, nor can Iraq be secure and peaceful, so long as the mullahs rule in Tehran, bomb or no bomb. Therefore we must liberate Iran, and that liberation, in all probability, can be accomplished without military action.

Time seems to be running out on the mullahs, and a dispassionate look at their actions in recent months suggests that they are well aware of their impending doom. Last Christmas Day, Air Force spokesman Colonel Salman Mahini announced that Iranian fighter pilots had been ordered to shoot down anything that flew in Iranian air space, especially the "unknown objects flying over parts of Iran where nuclear facilities are located." Colonel Mahini was not quite sure about the nature of the "objects," but he noted that they could be "satellites, comets or spying or reconnaissance crafts." 

So far as I can tell, the Iranian Air Force hasn't brought down any itinerant comets of late, but there was a curious announcement a few weeks ago of an explosion near a nuclear site. First, it was branded the result of an American missile. Then, it was explained as a fuel tank that had fallen off an Iranian jet. When the laugh meter got too high, the mullahs tried to explain it away as the result of "friendly fire." Maybe one of their own missiles was launched at a satellite or a comet, and came down near the nuclear site.

The regime was quite concerned about the event, and rightly so, since it came amidst several fires and bombs in sensitive locations in and around Tehran. The first, and most widely reported, was a fire in one of the most important mosques in the capital, in which hundreds of people were injured, and as many as a hundred or more were killed. The official explanation was that a woman accidentally permitted her chador to come into contact with a kerosene heater, the garment caught fire, and then spread to the men's section below. But many Tehranis believe there was a bomb in the mosque that day, especially since there was a bomb in the bazaar at precisely the same time.  And there have been other fires and explosions, one about ten days ago at the country's most important automobile factory, another in the bazaar again, and still others in mosques frequented by top officials.

Are these part of an organized campaign, and if they are, is it a campaign against the regime or rather an excuse for the regime to crack down ever more harshly? You can be sure that every imaginable theory is running through Iranian society. This has predictably intensified the mullahs' paranoia, and there have been new crackdowns on potential dissidents, most notably including bloggers. And now comes a report that Iranian dissidents living abroad have been threatened with harsh reprisals if they don't shut up.

Neither they nor the increasingly restive people back home are likely to be silenced for very long.  In recent days, labor agitation has spread from the oil and textile sectors -- where it has been endemic for some time -- to the coal industry. Students at the university in Mashad hooted down a minister who is running for president in next June's phoney elections. And more than five hundred intellectuals, students and religious and political figures have come out with a ringing denunciation of the regime, calling for a national referendum that would either endorse or reject the Islamic Republic. Their words are echoed by a flurry of graffiti on the walls of Tehran: referendum, referendum.

The Iranian democratic opposition has been greatly cheered by the strong words from President Bush and Secretary of State Rice, and they are hoping for the passage of Congressional bills -- notably Senator Santorum's -- that call for the administration to work for a transition to democracy in Iran. It seems unlikely that the third ranking Republican leader in the Senate would be pushing hard for such a policy if the president did not agree. But the administration should not wait to be pushed by Santorum; now is the time for Secretary Rice and her colleagues to support a free referendum in Iran. The Iranian people are clearly ready to vote for their freedom, and nothing would so damage the terror network as the fall of its greatest supporter. 

Freedom is spreading, and we are its inspiration. Don't go wobbly on us, George. Don't play the one-step-at-a-time game, we are a big country and we have big dreams. So, to the amazement of the cynical professionals, do the peoples of the Middle East.

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