Magazine article The Middle East

Democracy in Iran Means Peace for Middle East

Magazine article The Middle East

Democracy in Iran Means Peace for Middle East

Article excerpt

WITH WESTERN POWERS EDGING towards a full military involvement in Syria's civil war, and with Egypt's freedom movement in crisis, questions arise over what went wrong with the Arab Spring, that once held such promise of replacing decades of dictatorship and conflict in the Middle East with democracy and peace.

Western governments' moral and military support for freedom movements across the region was based on the assumption that secular and moderate political forces would capitalise on their populations' rejection of fundamentalist and reactionary religious ideologies and succeed in establishing democratic systems.

This interpretation and analysis of the socio-political forces among the Arab nations did not contradict realities on the ground, but there was one factor the West did not take into account. This was the presence of a regime, in the midst of the region, whose daily policies and long-term strategy is to make sure that all the effort and sacrifice Middle Eastern peoples exert to achieve democracy is diverted and eventually defeated. That regime is the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Support & suppression

The Arab Spring began two years ago with the democratic movement in Tunisia to remove the autocratic regime of President Ben-Ali. From day one, Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, asserted that the uprising took its ideological direction from the "Islamic Awakening", which in the vocabulary of Iran's despotic rulers, is a synonym for establishing an Islamic state ruled by clerics.

Later in the same year, at the start of the Egyptian people's revolution, addressing them in Arabic after delivering the Friday prayer sermon in Tehran, Khamenei portrayed himself as "your brother in religion", and praised the "explosion of sacred anger". He also warned against any US role in the outcome of the events in that country.

Branding the then close US ally, former president Hosni Mubarak, as a "traitor-dictator working for Israel and guilty of a great betrayal of Egyptians", Khamenei said the regime-changing events in Tunisia and Egypt "were natural extensions" of Iran's own Islamic revolution in 1979.

"Do not believe in the game which is being played by the West and America; don't believe in their role, don't believe in their political manoeuvers, which are taking place in the midst of your awakening," Khamenei warned Egyptians from the pulpit at Tehran University.

All this from the leader of a regime that two years earlier sent its security forces and club-wielding Basji militias to kill 150 young Iranians after the 2009 uprising of Iran's own pro-democracy Green Movement, when several million Iranians took to the streets, demanding political reform and freedoms, denouncing the dictator Khamenei and burning his portrait, before being silenced by a lethal crackdown.

From propaganda to an armada

While the Iranian regime's support for the radical and extremist Islamist forces in Egypt and Tunisia might remain only rhetoric and propaganda, Tehran has been forced to deny its real military involvement in assisting the regime of Bashar Assad in its aim to crush the Syrian democratic movement.

According to western intelligence agencies, only days after the start of the armed struggle of the Free Syrian Army, 150 Revolutionary Guards were sent to Damascus by the former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, after Iran decided it could not let its most important regional ally succumb to rebel forces.

In July last year the Syrian Free Army released a video that showed several Revolutionary Guards captured in the city of Horns. One of the Guards who confessed to having been sent from Iran tells the camera: "I am a member of the team in charge of cracking down on protesters in Syria and we receive our orders directly from the security division of the Syrian air force in Homs.

"I urge Mr Khamenei to work on securing our release and return to our homes," he added. …

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