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Liberal Iranian
Liberal as in Liberty and Freedom. Iranian as in Cyrus and Ferdowsi.
Friday, September 29, 2006
Fighting Terror and Promoting Democracy
After depicting the unsatisfactory situation of the press freedom in his native Morocco, Jamai Aboubakr, a contributer to Washington Post's PostGlobal weblog, concludes with the following remarks:
"[T]he Arab world has seen some profound hypocrisy. While advocating democracy in the region, the Bush administration was relying on human right abusers to aid it in the fight against terrorism. These human rights abusers, heads of state, high ranking security apparatus officials and the like were and are the ones who are the most opposed to the flourishing of a truly free and independent press. It is hence the duty of the western, and more particularly, the American civil society, press, Human right NGO's to expose this situation. It is the only way to help tilting the balance in favour of genuine democratic forces in our countries."
While I see the merit in "exposing [Western] hypocricies," I believe it is by no means "the only way" or even a sufficient way of tilting the balance in favour of democratic forces.

We should note that fighting Islamic-fundamentalist terrorism is itself an important step in promoting democracy in the Arab and middle-eastern countries. The terrorists, whether in power (as in Iran) or on the loose (as in, say, Saudi Arabia), are one of the most important roadblocks in the social fabric of our countries to democracy. So, as they lose their actual and supposed power, the chances of victory for democratic forces get better.

Admittedly, this is a delicate matter and Western and especially American policies have not been without serious mistakes. However, as a critical operation for the protection of ordinary people's lives and also in the global effort to promote democracy, some compromises and deals with less-than-prefect players are necessary. What must be added to such deals is transparency in their terms and the overarching principle of promoting democracy with which they must be in line.

The last point is very important and should not be taken just as a rhetorical add-on to political speeches. There must be concrete items of any such deal that implement this program. For instance, when signing a deal with, say, the authoritarian government of Pakistan whose cooperation has been vital in combating the Taliban and Islamic extremists, the West and especially the US must put in concrete demands for the protection of people's lives and freedoms, changes to school curricula in order to educate the population on the principles of freedom and democracy, reforming the courts and rolling back the inhumane practices of the Sharia law, etc.

Simply put, fighting terror does not only happen in the battlefields and skirmishes. More importantly, it happens in classrooms and courts and other parts and layers of the society. It is the resolved intention of a partnership of the democratic forces of our societies and the free world (their governments, civil society, etc.) to open up our societies and to create the necessary institutions of democracy that is the only way of tilting the balance in favour of both parties. 
Thursday, September 28, 2006
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Should international forces still leave Afghanistan to their previous oppressors? No, no, no! 
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
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Human Rights First starts a campaign for the imprisoned Iranian activist who is now being tortured. 
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
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Mr. Ignatius, a Washington Post columnist, is looking at the virtual dialogue between Iran and the US through indirect signals and is looking forward to suggestions from Iranian bloggers. This is the second and final post of my contribution to this debate. The first post can be found here.

What I will try to describe is the following: (i) a working, yet simple theory of the nature of the Iranian regime; (ii) the objectives that must be pursued by the American foreign policy; (iii) a practical strategic program in order to achieve these objectives. Parts (i) and (ii) have been posted before. In this post I will describe part (iii).

Foreign Policy Program: Dealing with Tyrannies

I hope it is by now clear what should be done in order to achieve the above objectives. Free countries of the world must devise strategic foreign policy plans that deprive the tyranny from the single most important goal of its dealings with the outside world, i.e., its survival through outside help while holding the power inside. Such a program need not be necessarily military, but it needs to be strict about the survival tricks of the tyranny's foreign policy. All such maneuvers must be denied.

Let's focus on the case at hand, namely, Iran's nuclear crisis. Obtaining nuclear weapons is a vital survival task for the regime in Tehran. There is no question of whether Iran is "really" pursuing nuclear weapons, since Iran is a plurality. It is the tyranny in Iran, not Iran as a nation, that is after nuclear weapons. In today's world the tyrannical regime of Iran can be given no guarantee by the outside world short of an indefinite security deal to be dissuaded from seeking nuclear weapons. This is precisely why the religious dictatorship in Iran has so far rejected all offers on the table for its "peaceful" nuclear program that would objectively deny it the possibility of obtaining nuclear weapons. A nuclear Iranian regime may still be toppled by boiling pressure from inside, as the Soviet bloc was, but we have no idea or working theory of how that hypothetical situation may be materialized in the foreseeable future of Iran. The regime in Tehran knows this very well. Thus, an American foreign policy seeking the spread of democracy around the globe must reject the notion of coexisting with a nuclear Islamic Republic before the fact.

Another outcome that the American foreign policy must avoid is making security and economic deals with the Iranian regime solely on the issue of nuclear crisis. This is exactly what the tyrannical regime is seeking for its survival. Instead, the US must actively seek to promote the chances of establishing a democracy in Iran. The US and her allies must deny the regime the chance to use their nuclear program as a playing card to win more feeding tubes for its decaying body. This can be done through a variety of tactical plans, such as banning the government officials' trips, targetted economic sanctions that affect the government's vital veins, and at the same time establishing direct aid to the people of Iran, for instance, through academic, economic, and social transactions with trusted individuals and organizations. The free world may also make economic agreements with the regime in a transparent fashion in return for opening up the political situation inside. This is the best way to give the fruits of a better economical and political situation to the people of Iran, and especially the forces of democratic change. However, the free world and the Iranian freedom activists must implement measures and programs to follow the adherence of the regime to its commitments under such agreements if they are to bear any pleasant fruit.

The strategy of the proposed American foreign policy program can be summed up as punishing the tyranny and rewarding the people. 
Monday, September 25, 2006
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Mr. Ignatius, a Washington Post columnist, is looking at the virtual dialogue between Iran and the US through indirect signals and is looking forward to suggestions from Iranian bloggers. The next two posts are my contribution to this debate.

What I will try to describe is the following: (i) a working, yet simple theory of the nature of the Iranian regime; (ii) the objectives that must be pursued by the American foreign policy; (iii) a practical strategic program in order to achieve these objectives. In this post I will describe parts (i) and (ii). Part (iii) is posted separately.

Iranian Regime: How Tyrannies Survive?

The Islamic Republic regime of Iran is a tyranny. For the purposes of this writing, the detail mechanisms of the IR tyrannical rule in Iran's conditions do not matter so much. They do matter, however, when one is devising specific or tactical policy plans, which is beyond the scope of this piece. Instead I limit myself to the general mechanisms of the tyrannical rule, which should be adequate for planning strategic policies.

A tyranny sustains its rule internally through a cycle of repression and misinformation to keep the society closed. This could go on indefinitely if people would or could still produce efficiently and live happily under tyrannical rule. However, a direct consequence of tyranny is that it cannot possibly employ the society's various internal capacities effectively. Against exponentially mounting economic and social hurdles, a tyranny invariably needs a mechanism through which it can supply the needs of the society from external sources without compromising the powers of its rulers. This is the most important function of a tyranny's foreign policy. It is also its Achilles' heel.

Foreign Policy Objectives: The Case for Democracy

What should the objectives of the foreign policy of a free country, or collectively, of the free world be toward a tyranny? This is a contentious issue. Understandably, any foreign policy does and must pursue the interests of the people for which the policy has been devised. I argue that the foreign policy that best serves the interests of the people of a free country is one that promotes and seeks the establishment of a democracy anywhere in the world. Most importantly, it must seek the replacement of tyrannies with democracies.

There are many moral and practical reasons for my argument. Instead of going through them in detail, I present one reason that is often mistakenly used in opposition: security. By its nature a free country's first task must be the protection of the lives and freedoms of its citizens. This raises the issue of security as an important foreign policy objective. However, lasting and reliable security can only be negotiated and acheived with democratic countries.

A tyranny may tactically accept or even initiate security agreements, but the purpose of such agreements is to supply its needs without compromising its tyrannical rule. So, it may soon calculate that the current security agreements are not enough or necessary for its survival, at which point it would see no need to honour them. A democracy, on the other hand, has no such incentive and even strong disagreements between democracies never create direct security problems for the parties. More importantly, democracies have every incentive to find a solution for their disagreements and continue to cooperate with each other on many levels seamlessly and often quietly even though they might vocally disagree on a few issues. For recent examples of the two cases one may look at the relationship between US and Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, on the one hand, and the US and France or Germany, on the other.

In short, a tyranny, even a friendly one, is always a security threat. A democracy, even one that disagrees with us, is never so.

Read the rest here. 
Sunday, September 24, 2006
IHRAG Alert: Mousavi Kho'ini Tortured
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Rusell Berman, a Stanford professor, brings to our attention a "small detail" about Khatami's speech at Harvard's Kennedy School for Government:
"Maybe if the relatives of Kazemi had not made into such a big political issue it could have been resolved a lot quicker and more to their liking."
As always, when it comes down to earth, Khatami sides not with the victims, but the murderers and tyrants. (Found via: Shiro-Khorshid-Forever.)