Is Regime Change Coming to Iran? - an interview with Amil Imani
by Amil Imani with Jerry Gordon (January 2010)
Introduction: Since the fraudulent June 12th Presidential elections in the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI), an increasingly emboldened opposition, the green movement, has arisen to demand the overthrow of the IRI. The green movement refuses to desist from launching massive street protests in Tehran, Qum, Isfahan and other major Iranian cities. All this is occurring despite violence wreaked upon thousands of valiant regime opponents by the ruling Mullahs and President Ahmadinejad. As of this writing more than 15 have been killed in clashes with Iranian security services including the nephew of reformist Presidential candidate Mir Mouhammed Mousavi, former IRI Prime Minister. Moreover several dissident leaders have been jailed. Something major is brewing in Iran - possibly revolution.
As the year was closing, first a crescendo of massive protests occurred at Students Day events. Then tens of thousands used the occasion of the funeral of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri to demonstrate their determination to end the rule of the Supreme Ruling Council head, Ayatollah Khamanei, and his puppet President Ahmadinejad. The final bloody weekend of 2009 witnessed the faltering IRI regime undertaking unprecedented security measures to pre-empt public mourning and observances of the Shia Ashura holy day. Police, revolutionary guard and the Basiji para-military forces blanketed Tehran in a vain attempt to stifle public gatherings. They failed. Massive throngs of people from all classes in Tehran and other major cities defied bans in spite of warnings that violators would be dealt with mercilessly. As a Der Spiegel article reported these protesters were shouting: "We will fight, we will die, we will reconquer our country." There were graphic video images sent via the internet of protesters engaged in street battles with Basiji forces.
It is difficult to verify, but factions in the Iranian military may be breaking rank to join the people’s cause. A group calling itself the National Iranian Armed Resistance Forces (NIRU) posted a news release on an Iranian protest website at the end of the day’s violence.
We, a number of Officers, Soldiers and personnel of the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran, hereby declare our readiness for rise to the armed defense of our nation against the forces of the criminal, illegitimate transgressing and occupying current Government of Iran, and hereby inform our brothers and sisters serving with the armed security forces of Iran, invite them to join us, request their support and ask them to provide cover for us in this moral & national act. A special request for support & cooperation goes to our brothers of the Military Police.
The NIRU says it intends to secure Iranian radio and television stations, the Parliament, and the courts, will hold local elections and referendums within 3 months and new presidential elections within 9 months and will dissolve the murderous “Basij” plainclothes police and establish a new national police force.
Protection and firepower from even a few factions of the military could signal a critical momentum change for the Iranian people, who by law cannot own weapons.
All this occurred despite the visible tyranny imposed by Basij para-military, Revolutionary Guards, and regime secret police arresting, beating and torturing opposition student and opposition political leaders. All this amidst vain attempts to prevent the news of this emerging Iranian revolution reaching the world by cell phone and the internet.
Some observers have even suggested that the apocalyptic version of Shia Islam espoused by the ruling Mullahs, might ultimately be consigned to the dustbin of history if such a revolution occurred.
Amir Taheri, expatriate Iranian journalist, in a Wall Street Journal
column, “Iran’s Democracy Moment,”
has pronounced the democracy movement a possible “hinge moment” in Iranian history reflecting the increasing demand by opposition protesters for replacement of the oppressive theocracy with a democratic secular republic. This development comes at a time when the ruling Mullahs are desperate to retain control in a truculent nation where many clearly despise Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamanei and President Ahmadinejad.
These unexpected developments throw into confusion the responses of the Obama Administration in Washington and that of other international players regarding how to deter the Mullahs from their inexorable quest for the ultimate apocalyptic weapon of choice- a nuclear bomb and the missiles for delivering it. In the face of evident rebellion by Iranians against the Mullahs, the Wall Street Journal
reported that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Sen. John Kerry, was seeking clearance from the White House to travel as an emissary to Tehran to confer with the IRI regime that could be in the throes of dissolution. This was an incredible affront to the opposition movement leaders in Iran and supporters of Iranian regime change in America, Europe and Israel.
Ehud Barak, Israel’s Minister of Defense in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government announced daunting prospects of a possible unilateral military option against the IRI’s nuclear facilities. In a Jerusalem Post report
when he said:
. . . that the recently revealed nuclear facility at Qom was "built over a number of years, located in a reinforced underground bunker and immune to standard bombs."
Barak further noted the indifference of the West in assisting Iran’s beleaguered people, when he went on to say:
"It is not pleasant to see the response of the free world to the activities there, to the trampling of citizens by the regime."
In fact, the velvet revolutions were a triumph of slow and patient engagement from a position of strength. The upheavals in Eastern Europe were an indigenous phenomenon and the product of containment, diplomatic engagement, and the slow-but-steady spread of democratic ideals through the Helsinki process and other mechanisms. And the first Bush administration was smart enough to keep its hands off until the demise of communism was irreversible, which is precisely the approach we ought to take toward Iran today.
On the matter of the Iranian nuclear program vexing Israel, America and the other members of the “5+1,” Walt noted:
As I mentioned a few days ago, we should not assume that a Green triumph in Iran would eliminate all sources of friction between Iran and the West. A new government would probably seek to continue Iran’s nuclear enrichment program and will certainly want a secure (read: superior) position in its own neighborhood. …..So I hope somebody in the Obama administration is starting to think about a) what we do if the Green Movement succeeds, b) what we do if it fails, and c) how to keep hawks in the United States and Israel from making things worse.
Veteran Iran observer, Kenneth Timmerman
in a private email rebuttal to Walt noted active American support for ‘velvet revolutions’ in Eastern Europe:
Bush 41 did not just sit back and watch the velvet revolutions unfold. The U.S., under President Reagan, sent tremendous amounts of aid to Solidarity in Poland and to Czech dissidents. The actual assistance was covert, but the policy was public: the U.S. supported the pro-freedom movements behind the Iron Curtain, and everyone knew that, starting with the KGB.
On the question of Iran’s nuclear program presuming the fall of the IRI, Timmerman criticized Walt:
It is a fallacy that a secular republican government in Iran will continue to pursue clandestine nuclear weapons programs. They may or may not decide to pursue nuclear energy, but even if they do, they have no reason to pursue clandestine programs, which have made the current regime a pariah state.
To explore these emerging revolutionary prospects in Iran, we turned to Amil Imani
, Iranian American writer, a pro-democracy activist and co-founder of Former Muslims United
. Imani has been in the forefront of communicating the important views of the Iranian opposition via his brilliant writing and commentary, as well as facilitating communications from within Iran to the world media.
Gordon: Where and in what circumstances did you grow up in Iran?
I was born in Tehran, Iran into a wonderful, loving and intellectual family. Growing up in a Muslim family, I was fortunate to have parents that never forced me to follow Islam and its rituals or for that matter, any other religion or ideology. They believed that religion was a personal choice and in time I would decide for myself. Yet, I did grow up in a Muslim society and have witnessed first-hand the horrors and indignity that Islamic dogma visits on people it subjugates, and for that matter, I have taken it upon myself to do my part in defeating this ideology of oppression, hate and violence.
Gordon: Why did you decide to leave both Iran and Islam?
Imani: For as long as I can remember, I had a very difficult time following a religion whose founder(s) had butchered my ancestors. Islam was forced on Iranians with the sword of Allah. In my heart, I never considered myself a Muslim, though I did not reveal this until later in life for fear of retribution. I believe you cannot possibly be a Persian and a Muslim at the same time in the same fashion that one cannot be an American and a true Muslim at the same time. They are totally incompatible. A large number of Iranians are completely fed up with Islam and they also want to leave this dogma of hate and violence. In fact, many already have left, but they simply aren’t able to come forward and announce it, for the obvious reason.
I left Iran to continue my education abroad, but never envisioned that radical Islam would take over our very modern and prosperous country, Iran. Most likely, I would not be alive today if I had stayed in Iran.
Gordon: When did you start your blog as an opponent of the Islamic Republic and what has been the reaction both in the West and Iran?
Imani: I started my battle with the forces of darkness when the evil (Ayatollah Khomeini) landed in Iran and unleashed his wrath on many Iranians who in the beginning, believed this man was their savior. But, he turned out to be the evil that our ancient Prophet Zoroaster had warned us about some 4000 years ago. With the advent of the Internet, I was able to send my messages to the world much faster and created my own webpage nearly 4 years ago.
Ayatollah Khomeini, with his cultural revolution, intended to de-civilize a very rich and civilized nation. This radical Islamist believed non-Muslims and westerners were infidels and began to refer to the U.S. as “the Great Satan.”
I believe that people in the West and in America are beginning to see the real face of Islam and the danger it poses to the secular democratic societies. In the past, Islam succeeded in largely displacing the magnificent Persian civilization with a primitive myopic discriminatory system of belief. Presently, once again with renewed vigor, Islam is aiming to destroy another civilization—the Judeo-Christian civilization, a civilization that constitutes a living falsification of the Islamic primitive and backward creed. Islamofascisim presents a clear and present danger, not only to Western civilization, but to the entire civilized world as is evidenced by the ruling Islamists in places such as Iran, the Sudan, Somalia, and Saudi Arabia.
Gordon: You frequently talk about the ancient admiration between Persians and Jews. What are those historical connections?
Imani: Iranians are proud of their historical friendship with the Jewish people. The bond of friendship goes back to the landmark action of King Cyrus the Great of Persia. In 537 B.C., having conquered Babylon, the benevolent King Cyrus freed the Jews from captivity and empowered them to return to the Promised Land and build their temple.
Throughout history, Iranians have been known for their tolerance of other creeds and religions. This was particularly notable in their associations and contacts with the Jews. Having been oppressed by the Seleucids and the Romans, the Jews had come to believe that Iran was the only superpower capable of saving them from a fanatical foreign yoke, as it had done once before in the Achaemenid period.
We can also refer to a more recent time, under the late Shah, prior to the Islamic Revolution, when Iran and Israel had a close and cordial relationship.
Gordon: What do young Iranians admire most about both America and Israel?
Imani: Young Iranians, particularly the urban educated Iranians, are among the most ardent believers in democracy in the world. Many view America as the country that holds the best hope for spreading and protecting the high ideals of democracy. In a sense, many Iranians feel closer affinity with a democratic Israel than all the neighboring Arab Muslim dictatorships. Although Islam was imposed on Iran some 1400 years ago, Iranians deeply value their own ancient non-Arab identity and have never fully surrendered to the Arab culture. During the bloodletting past war, initiated by the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein against Iran, all Arab states sided with the Butcher of Baghdad against Iran. Yet, Israel was the only Middle Eastern country that remained neutral and in fact helped Iran in the struggle. We Iranians don’t forget our friends and we also remember our enemies.
Gordon; There are an estimated 2 million Iranian expatriates here in America. Could you explain why they have been successful in immigrating here and integrating with Western secular values?
Imani: A major reason for the Iranian assimilation and success in the U.S. is the U.S. itself which provides an ambience conducive to self advancement, be it in science, business or any other field of endeavor. Another reason is that Iranians inherently share and cherish the same values that America’s founding fathers enshrined in this nation’s charter of life. A great majority of Iranians in the U.S. are staunch believers in the separation of religion and state. They do not see themselves as part of the Islamic Ummah. Many Iranians are only cultural Muslims and they don’t see themselves as foot-soldiers of Allah. They are Iranian above all. And they also have an abiding love for America for its generosity and for opening its arms to them when their own country, under the rule of the Mullahs, denies them the basic human rights of liberty and the pursuit of happiness within the framework of the law and respect for the rights of others.
Gordon: Are we witnessing the end of the Islamic Republic?
Imani: There is no question about that. It is only a matter of time and not a very long one either. The Islamic regime is in deep trouble. Masses of Iranians are irreparably alienated from the corrupt oppressive Islamic rule. The rule of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) is crumbling. The previously solid edifice is showing many cracks that keep growing. Too many fault lines to list here. Just a couple deserve brief mentions.
In response to the unrelenting pressure that was exerted by the people demanding accountability for the post election atrocities committed against the peaceful demonstrators, the government recently admitted to some of the crimes committed in various prisons by charging 12 jailers with torture and death of prisoners. This admission is hugely significant. The Mullahs are retreating by punishing their own thugs in the hope of placating the populace. It is not going to work. Unbeknownst to them, the admission reinforces the determination of the protestors and fuels their fire on the one hand, and serves to frighten their own thugs for carrying out orders of torture and killing in the future. The thugs feel that they may be the next sacrificial lambs for the top echelons.
Another telling indication is the events in Qum during the funeral of the popular dissident Grand Ayatollah Montazeri. In spite of a huge effort by the various security forces to block access to the city, thousands converged from all parts of Iran to the city for honoring him and untold numbers still made it to the proceeding. During this ceremony, tens of thousands chanted slogans such as “death to the dictator, “Montazeri lives, Khamenei is dead.” Most telling was the throngs of people sporting the green color and using the occasion to express their aversion to the Islamic rule within the precincts of the holy mosque, something unheard of before. It is a clear signal that the opposition movement is massive and it is able to exploit any opportunity to disempower the regime. These unrelenting demonstrations against the regime are not limited to universities—the traditional bastions of political activism. They are spreading to every segment of the society and bode ill for the regime.
The pressure, led by the vanguard of freedom, university students and notably women, is not subsiding, it is gathering more force. Yes, the end of the IRI is definitely coming. It can use a significant nudge from the U.S., Israel and all others who are willing to bring it down not only from a sense of humanitarian altruism but from the vantage point of their own best interest.
Gordon: How widespread is the Iranian opposition to the Mullahs and Ahmadinejad?
Imani: Realistically speaking, there is perhaps 10-15 percent of the population that still supports the clerical system to various degrees. Many in this group are government employees, Mullahs, and hired thugs such as Basiji. Also, the regime has some backers among the poor, the less educated, and the deeply religious. Yet, the alienation from the regime spans the entire spectrum of the Iranian society with the intelligentsia and the university students leading the determined opposition to end the Islamic rule. Ahmadinejad and Ali Khamenei are greatly despised by the overwhelming majority of Iranians. The two and their functionaries are in deep trouble with the masses that are going to take them to account before very long.
Gordon: How diverse are expatriate Iranian opposition groups? Do any have dangerous agendas?
Imani: The expatriate Iranians in the U.S. are indeed diverse. A great majority support a democratic republican form of government. Some support a constitutional monarchy. A very small minority are of the communist-extreme left persuasion. And a few belong to the Islamist-Marxist gang of People’s Mujahidin. This latter group has about zero support among Iranians, both in Iran as well as abroad. They are thoroughly despised by the overwhelming majority of the people for being cultists, Islamists and at the same time traitors for being in league with Saddam Hussein against Iran during the past Iran-Iraq war.
Gordon: How does the internal opposition communicate with Western media despite the Islamic Republic’s efforts to control internet and cell phone access? What role have you played in facilitating that information?
Imani: In spite of the fact that the IRI is a police state, it has never been able to exercise 100% control over the people. A degree of dissent and a semblance of freedom always existed. The Mullahs find it expedient to arouse the populace against the U.S. and Israel—their straw men—to cover their own misdeeds and failures. To do so, they needed to allow a degree of freedom of expression and they always aimed to control that expression and channel it to their own ends. Yet, by so doing, the system exposed itself to some cracks that allowed the opposition to develop and gradually grow.
Iranians, by tradition and temperaments, are activists in the true sense of the word. We have always taken an active interest in any community in which we live. You can observe that in the United States as well where Iranian-Americans run for offices and participate actively at all levels of civic and political life. We are not inclined to be spectators of life since we had to be active participants in order to survive in the hostile environment of our neighborhood.
Hence, a great deal of person-to-person communication takes place through all available channels, including travel, the Internet, and family contacts.
My fellow secularist Iranians and I have indeed done, and continue to do, what we can to help our compatriots in Iran, who are on the front line fighting the Islamic Regime. It is regrettable that we do not have enough material support since most of us must work for a living and are not able to substantially contribute to equip the resistance with further means of communication and information dissemination.
I am sure that you do understand my hesitation to provide greater details about our activities, since many of us have families and friends back in Iran and we would be placing them in danger by being specific.
Gordon: What is significant about the internal opposition protests currently versus those that followed the June elections?
Imani: The whole thing is absolutely encouraging. The regime is against the wall and the magnificent young people are pushing it hard and with great wisdom. They are making life miserable for the regime, just the way the regime has made life a true misery for the people for 32 years. The end is definitely in sight.
Gordon: Do you believe that the protests are as much against the Islamic Republic as they may be against Shi’a Islam?
Imani: Yes, indeed I do. The protests are just as much against the Islamic Republic as they are about Shi’a Islam. In fact, much of it is against Islam itself. People have experienced what a primitive and defective system of belief Islam is and aim to abandon it for good. Many will still hang on to it to some extent for some time. Yet, a great many would simply leave Islam and even actively oppose it.
Gordon: The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act by a vote of 412 to 12. Why in your view is the Obama Administration opposed to implementing those sanctions?
Imani: When you ask me about President Obama, you touch a very sore point. This man is an enigma. Every chance he gets he sings the praises of Islam. He calls it a great religion. It has been reported that some of his closest White House advisors are Muslims. At times he seems to be a weak and indecisive politician who doesn’t seem to firmly believe in the ideals of democracy and liberty. He, as a most powerful political leader, unfortunately doesn’t always champion democracy. At best, he seems to be a strict pragmatist with a focus on the short term results.
The sanctions clearly will hurt the Iranian people. No question about that. Yet, a temporary hurt of this nature is a price that people are willing to pay to get rid of this scourge of the IRI. These Mullahs are determined to get their bloody hands on the atomic bomb and further strengthen their position in promoting violence and mayhem in the Middle East and beyond. In the process, we the Iranian people will end up being victimized. President Obama must step up the pressure on the IRI. Once the IRI falls, the lynchpin of Islamism will be destroyed. America, Israel, and the rest of the world will be hugely safer without the end-of-the-worlder Mullahs being in command with nuclear weapons at their disposal.
Gordon: Why has the Obama Administration succumbed to lobbying by the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) that espouses dialogue with the Mullahs?
Imani: One word answer: Money. The NIAC is a lobbying arm of the IRI and Iranians know it. Yet, the sad fact is that one can purchase some peoples’ services in any nation. These people at the NIAC are purchased mercenaries and are well financed by the Mullahs and their supporters. The Iranian patriots in America, on the other hand, have lacked sources of support to lobby effectively in Washington, and money talks. They have the money. The NIAC contributes funds to politicians’ campaigns and gets entry into the centers of power. Of course the NIAC wants the U.S. to have a dialogue with the Mullahs, or better yet, to capitulate to the Mullahs. Why not? They are paid to do their job and they are succeeding with the Obama Administration and some members of Congress. It is a shame. It is a shame indeed for America to end up on the wrong side of history by either doing nothing to help the freedom-seeking Iranians or even making deals with the Mullahs.
Gordon: What types of economic and financial sanctions would be the most effective in crippling the power of the Mullahs and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (Revolutionary Guards)?
Imani: There are those who are against sanctions for a variety of reasons. Some say that sanctions cannot be effectively enforced; others claim that sanctions have never worked in the past and won’t work in the future. These nay-sayers never come up with any practical and viable alternative. Some advocate the use of massive aerial attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities as the way to go.
On the basis of the information I have, it is my conviction that a military response should not even be the last card on the table. Any such move, either by Israel, the U.S., or a combination will rally the entire Iranian population and much of the Muslim world against Israel, the U.S. and trigger a kind of turmoil that can set the region ablaze. And the blaze will assuredly scorch Israel and hugely damage the U.S.
Besides, the military option can always be exercised, since Iran is nowhere near having produced a credible atomic/nuclear capability and it is not likely to do so in the short term. Given the present overwhelming opposition of the masses to the rule of the Mullahs, an effective and measured sanction provides an excellent means of regime change without resorting to killing.
Sanctions must be instituted immediately with great selectivity and care to achieve a speedy change of regime. The following are some possible actions suggested for consideration.
· Stop or slow down Iran's import of refined petroleum products.
· Locate and seize the regime's front organizations such as Alavi Foundation in New York City and shut down its lobby operating under the guise of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and prosecute its officers for violating the law by operating as a lobby of a foreign government without registering as such.
· Take all necessary steps to stop investments in Iran.
· Pressure governments to stop doing business with Iran.
· Pressure businesses to stop dealing with Iran.
· Obtain the collaboration of international banks and other monetary institutions in denying letters of credit to Iranian government agencies and companies. This action greatly impedes the working of the government and particularly its program of acquiring weapons and weapons material.
· Enforce the U.N. sanctions by inspecting every vessel headed for Iranian ports to make sure they are not ferrying prohibited material. Other than vessels known to be carrying foodstuff and medicine, each ship should be subjected to elaborate inspection.
· Enlist maritime insurance companies in raising their fees on any vessel that ferries cargos, other than foodstuff and medical supplies, to Iranian ports.
· Deny the Iranian airlines operation and encourage non-Iranian airlines to cease serving the country. Provide for flights that serve emergency medical and other health needs of the Iranians.
· Cease or freeze all assets of the past and present officials of the IRI abroad on the legal ground that they are stolen funds from the Iranian nation and make their release conditional on the review of impartial international tribunals. On the top of this list must be any and all assets that the officers of the Revolutionary Guard and their families have tucked away abroad.
· Clamp down on Dubai, the United Arab Emirates and the rest of the Persian Gulf States as transit intermediary sources for the regime’s financial and material transactions.
· Obtain court orders to freeze the overseas assets of Iranian leaders, since they are clearly ill-gotten funds that rightfully belong to the nation.
· Shut down, or severely restrict the operation of the Mullahs' businesses in Dubai and other Persian Gulf states.
Gordon: What actions do you recommend in support of the opposition to foster regime change?
Imani: In parallel to suggested sanctions above, here are suggested actions to embolden Iranian opposition to the IRI and create conditions to foster regime change:
· Project a massive information campaign into Iran, by radio, television, print media, and the Internet telling the people that the sanctions are necessitated by the IRI’s intransigence in refusing to abandon its drive to acquire a nuclear arsenal which can trigger a nuclear arms race among the neighboring regions.
· Publicize that the regime’s claim that its pursuit of the nuclear program is strictly for peaceful purposes, such as electricity generation, is a patent lie. European powers, the U.S. and even Russia have pledged their help in this legitimate endeavor while the regime has adamantly spurned the offers and continues to pursue its long-range missile and nuclear programs.
· Pre-positioning of significant supplies of basic food, medicine, and medical supplies in the Persian Gulf and the neighboring countries for quick delivery and even air-drops into Iran is critical to the success of the effort. It will demonstrate the goodwill toward the populace and minimizes their suffering.
Information is readily available as to the amounts and types of foodstuff and medical supplies that Iran is presently importing and that information should be used as the basis for provisioning the people.
· Shut down the Islamic Republic's web sites and block their television and radio broadcasts.
· Strive to make the undertaking a U.N. authorized operation, if at all possible. Enlist as many other nations and entities such as the European Union, China, Russia, India, Turkey, NATO, the Gulf States, and Iraq in the operation.
· Declare unequivocally the commitment to respect the territorial integrity of Iran, as well as the rights of the Iranians to decide, through a democratic process, all matters pertaining to their life and country.
· Initiate, without delay or equivocation, a comprehensive program of assistance to all democratic Iranian opposition groups, both within as well as outside of Iran, in their struggle to accomplish the regime change themselves.
· Establish an Iran Assistance Fund, from Iran’s frozen assets as well as contributions from peace-loving individuals and organizations, to assist Iranian families during the hardship that the sanctions may create.
· Participating nations should reduce the staff of Iranian missions or completely shut them down and recall their ambassadors from Iran. Severely restrict Iranian officials and nuclear scientists from foreign travel.
· File legal charges against the leaders of the Islamic Republic's wanton violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; for their crimes against humanity, genocidal actions against religious and political groups; for support of international terrorism; for demolition of religious sites and cemeteries; for rape, torture, and summary execution of prisoners of conscience; for forgery of documents, for acts of blackmail and fraud, and much more.
· Identify the agents of the Islamic Republic and prosecute them as promoters of international terrorism.
· Investigate individuals and organizations that lobby or front for the Islamic Republic.
· Declare and treat the clerical regime as illegitimate.
Gordon: The Islamic Republic has been engaged in a secret war with the West and Israel through proxies in Lebanon, Gaza and Yemen since its inception 30 years ago. Why do the Mullahs pursue these conflicts?
Imani: There are a number of reasons. One has to do with its own survival. They need both internal and external enemies to keep their followers from turning against them and seeing them for what they are: A bunch of hypocrite wolves in sheep clothing who are robbing the country blind.
Another has to do with their sick religious belief that they must carry out the work of Allah and establish Islam as the rule in the world. Also, a significant faction, with Ahmadinejad as its point-man, believe its duty is to make matters in the world as bad as they possibly can to hasten the coming of their Saheb-ul-zaman—the lord of the age—savior of the world. It is in their belief that this savior of the world will not come until the world literally hits the very bottom and these fanatics are intent on driving the world to the very bottom. These are only some of the main reasons.
Gordon; What could America and Israel do to stop the Iranian nuclear weapon and missile programs?
Imani: Bombing the facilities is the worst thing America and Israel can possibly do. By so doing, they throw the Mullahs a lifeline and hugely hurt the Iranian people. A military attack would also solidify the Islamic world against America, Israel and the West. The best thing to do is to impose the measured but effective sanctions that I have listed above and provide moral and financial support for the Iranian opposition in Iran through available channels.
Gordon: Have America and Israel provided support to the opposition in Iran?
Imani: Moral support from America has been at most tentative and minimal, a terrible failure of the Obama administration. He missed the opportunity to answer the call of the Iranian people: “Obama, you’re either with us or with them.” He still has a chance to recoup by strongly coming out and voicing his support for the legitimate rights of the Iranian people.
Material support? The money appropriated by Congress in the Bush Administration of less than $75 million went mostly to fund a Farsi radio service and their personnel. The support so far from the U.S. and Israel has been far less than it should be. Instead of launching a fusillade of missiles that cost over a half billion in a vain attempt to damage the mullah’s nuclear program, a fraction of that amount would be better spent by supplying the opposition with the means to overcome the Mullahs suffocating censorship and countering their campaign of disinformation.
A Persian saying is instructive here: A lion of the forest of Mazendaran can not be apprehended by other than a Mazendarani warrior. So, let the Iranian people deal with the Iranian problem of the IRI. They are the ones best suited for the job. Don’t try to do it for them. Just help them out.
Gordon: If America under Obama does not pursue regime change in Iran, what could Israel do to foster it?
Imani: Israel should broaden and intensify its radio, Internet, and possibly television programs for Iran in such a way that could penetrate the blocking work of the Iranian government. The programs should emphasize, time and again, the longstanding historical friendship between the Jews and the Iranians and should provide information that would counter the Mullahs’ lies leveled against Israel and the Jewish people.
What harm has ever come from the Jews to Iran? For that matter from the State of Israel? Iranian Jews have always been among the most outstanding, peaceful, and contributing minorities in Iran. Just like the Baha’is, the Jews have been abused and used as convenient scapegoats by the unscrupulous Mullahs. The Mullahs thrive on enemy-making and the Jews, Baha’is, and even Sunnis are regularly targeted to draw the attention of the masses away from the Mullahs’ exploitation and mismanagement.
Israel can help by providing the opposition the means of communication such as cell phones, computers and other devices that facilitate the opposition in connecting and coalescing. It can also help overcome the regime’s blockage of Internet sites that Iranian oppositions use to jam the regime’s airway broadcasts/telecasts as well as its other forms of communication.
Israel can do what it can to intercept any material that the regime acquires from abroad to keep its nuclear and other weapon program on track.
Gordon: How valid are the reports of Iranian Army warnings to the Mullahs and the Revolutionary Guards about oppression of the opposition? Is there evidence of disaffection among the leaders of the Revolutionary Guard and the Basij paramilitary forces?
Imani: There is no question that many in the military are alienated from the Mullahs and the Islamic regime. Yet, the majority of the disaffected people are among the ranks of lower officers since the high commanders are often servile appointees of the leader.
Nonetheless, there is a great deal of disaffection there and, given the right opportunity, history will repeat itself. In the same way that the military turned against the Shah in 1979, it is very likely that a large segment of the military will defect from the Mullahs and join the people in any serious uprising.
It is the regular military rather than the Revolutionary Guard that is most likely to harbor a significant number of people who are opposed to the regime and would be willing to fight on the side of the people.
Gordon: If the Islamic Republic ends what mechanisms could reform the country into a secular democracy? Under what international auspices would this change occur?
Imani: The Iranian people themselves are capable of setting up their own secular democratic system. Recall that Iran was the first democratic nation in the Middle East when it established a constitutional monarchy which was later subverted by Reza Shah. We are thoroughly capable of establishing our own democracy. Certainly it would not be a panacea overnight. Certainly there will be some rough spots. Yet, the Iranian people hardly need supervision by anyone or any body to do the job.
Gordon: How would a future secular republic protect the rights of ethnic minorities in Iran?
Imani: The legitimate rights of any and all minorities will be enshrined—as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—and will be as inviolable as anything. We have had enough parochialism, discriminations of all sorts and oppression of minorities. No one will be disenfranchised on the basis of any personal belief whatsoever.
Gordon: Should regime change occur, what would happen to the control of strategic nuclear and missile development programs? Would that be comparable to what the US and Russia did in the 1990’s after the fall of the Soviet system?
Imani: I believe Iran needs to maintain a reasonable defense program with the emphasis on defense and not on offensive capability. We have immense amounts of work and catching up to do to take our place among the thriving and progressive nations of the world. We will not aim to transgress against anyone and we fully expect to protect our own rights. Mutual respect and peaceful co-existence will guide our military posture.
Gordon: Should the Islamic Republic fall and a secular Iran arise in its place, what would be the impact on the region and the world?
Imani: It would be the greatest thing since the fall of Soviet communism. It would subvert virulent Islamism by creating a truly democratic secular strong nation in tandem with Israeli democracy in the heart of the Islamic Ummah. It would indeed be an answered prayer just as much for the world as for Iranians.
Gordon: Thank you Amil Imani for this timely and important interview on prospects for regime change in Iran.
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