- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 27, 2009

The absolute moral authority of Iran’s supreme leader has unraveled with the swiftness and absolute irreversibility of a turban caught in a ceiling fan. It happened right before our eyes and, more important, before the eyes of the Iranian people.

Iranians do not yet know what the outcome will be, let alone the fates of the courageous citizens who followed their beliefs into the streets. But a reality has begun to set in, fed and spread by the visual truths Twittered around the planet: Iran will never again be the same.

By unleashing ungodly violence to retain their godly claim to power, Iran’s theocratic dictators stripped away their own assertions of moral supremacy and bared their true immorality for all to see. We saw it in the unseeing eyes of the young woman named Neda, whose lifeless face became the lifeblood and face of a protest movement that was only about truth and justice.

Iranians also saw it in the supremely political flip-flops of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. First he declared President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad re-elected before millions of handwritten ballots could possibly have been counted. Then he agreed to an investigation of opposition candidate Mir Hussein Moussavi’s charge that the election was rigged. Next he declared Mr. Ahmadinejad had won anyway. When he ordered everyone to stay off the streets, millions defied him.

Perhaps the supreme leader and his gang can still hold power, but their hold will never again be based on faith, but fist and fear. In time, the truth will pry itself free and the dictators will fall.

But there was one thing that could have kept Iran’s supreme leader in supreme moral authority in Iran. That is if something had transpired that would have allowed the ayatollah to unleash the one force that still remains large in Iranian hearts - national pride.

And that might have happened if the United States had been led by a president who played the unrest in Iran for political gain at home. Let’s say, for example, Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, or Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, or those lesser-but-loquacious luminaries who blasted President Obama for not being forceful enough in support of Iranian protesters and not condemning the election as rigged.

But what Mr. Obama knew was that sort of feel-good politics would have given Iran’s supreme leader the chance to claim that those in the streets were dupes of the United States, tools of the CIA. And he knew virtually all Iranians know that America and the CIA backed Saddam Hussein in his long war with Iran - and they blame the CIA for being complicit in Saddam’s chemical weapons attacks against Iran.

That’s why conservatives with certified Republican hard-line credentials - but no need to pander for votes in order to earn a very fine living - know in their hearts that the criticisms of the fellow Republicans were flat-out wrong.

“It seems to me foolish criticism,” columnist George Will observed from his Sunday pedestal on “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.” “The people on the streets know full well what the American attitude toward that regime is, and they don’t need that reinforced.”

Former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger said on Fox News: “I think the president has handled this well. Anything that the United States says that puts us totally behind one of the contenders, behind Moussavi, would be a handicap for that person.”

So Mr. Obama wisely held his political passions and spoke in measured tones - until the supreme leadership supremely undid itself. Then on Tuesday, Mr. Obama spoke out on the truths we had all seen:

“In 2009, no iron fist is strong enough to shut off the world from bearing witness to the peaceful pursuit of justice. … We have seen the timeless dignity of tens of thousands Iranians marching in silence. We have seen people of all ages risk everything to insist that their votes are counted and their voices heard. Above all, we have seen courageous women stand up to brutality and threats, and we have experienced the searing image of a woman bleeding to death on the streets.

“While this loss is raw and painful, we also know this: Those who stand up for justice are always on the right side of history.”

Martin Schram is a columnist for Scripps Howard News Service.

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