- The Washington Times - Monday, August 12, 2002

While we debate the whether, when and how of the campaign to topple Saddam Hussein, America can ill-afford to ignore developments elsewhere in the Middle East. Last Monday, according to our sources, demonstrations against the radical theocratic regime of Ayatollah Khamenei erupted in virtually every major Iranian city.
The mullahs tried to suppress the demonstrations by arresting many of the demonstrators. They even restricted international telephone service in an attempt to prevent the world from knowing about the heightened level of Iranian protests against their repressive government. Unfortunately, they seem to have succeeded at least in the latter regard. Iranian unrest is one of the least-reported stories today, and one that deserves much more attention.
According to Reza Pahlavi, son of the late shah, these demonstrations are part of a plan to make peaceful resistance a commonplace and demonstrations continuous around Iran. Also last week, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a prominent Iranian cleric, Ayatollah Taheri, resigned to protest the regime's unwillingness to address Iran's problems. Ayatollah Taheri's letter of resignation said that the regime had failed to solve Iran's many problems, and was guilty of failing to maintain the rule of law and allowing "mafia-like groups" to operate freely in the political arena. Some 125 members of the Iranian parliament signed a letter expressing support for Ayatollah Taheri.
Ayatollah Khamenei's regime appears to be increasingly isolated and vulnerable. Its vulnerability naturally raises the question of how American interests can be advanced. President Bush took the first step in answering that question with his July 12 statement on Iran, one which was apparently aimed at distinguishing between our distaste for the repressive government in Tehran and our friendship with the people of Iran. "[T]he people of Iran want the same freedoms, human rights and opportunities as people around the world," Mr. Bush said. "Their government should listen to their hopes … As Iran's people move toward a future defined by greater freedom, greater tolerance, they will have no better friend than the United States of America."
Mr. Bush is absolutely right to distinguish between the Iranian government, which is a financial and operational supporter of terror, and the many Iranians who wish for the return of the constitutional government they had before the 1979 revolution. But the president's statement is only a foundation for a policy. What comes next? Shall we give financial assistance to the Iranian opposition? Should we finance radio and television broadcasts into Iran? Should U.N. Ambassador John Negroponte be using the Security Council as a "bully pulpit" to call for international condemnation of the ayatollahs? Should, as some advocate, an aggressive campaign of covert action be undertaken to speed the fall of their regime?
These and other options should all be debated. And, while the opposition's strength is growing, our policy should be more active. If, as it appears, most Iranians want freedom, and by achieving it they will rid the world of a dangerous terrorist regime, how best can we help them accomplish their objective?

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