Sunday, June 14, 2009

Iranian Opposition Arrests Are For "Traffic Violations"

I watched part of the press conference today by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinajad today. I heard his claim that the reporting of what was essentially a stolen election was "slander" by Western journalists. He claimed that the arrests and violence with riot police seen beating protesters was just the normal sort of thing that happens when people "leave a soccer stadium". I listened to him claim that everyone is equal in Iran and that the people arrested were being "fined" by the police for violating traffic laws. He repeatedly claimed that 40 million people voted in Iran and that "safeguards" the elections. He insisted that there is "no partisanship" in Iran as in the West, that everyone remains friends and nobody asks who you voted for in Iran. All of this was to justify his government's claim that President Ahmadenijad was reelected with 63% of the vote despite the fact that they have not released any vote tallies and that all polls and press reports prior to the voting indiciated a likely opposite result.

Despite President Ahmadenijad's claims to the contrary it is clear to all the world that is willing to look at Iran honestly that what exists is a theocratic totalitarian state, not a democracy in any sense of the word. This is, of course, the same President Ahmadenijad who denies the Holocaust and wants to wipe Israel off the map and says so to thunderous applause at the U.N. This is the same President Ahmadenijad who sees his country's quest for both nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technology as a "right".

Today The New York Times and The Jerusalem Post are reporting that President Obama is still determined to enter into direct talks with Iran in spite of the stolen election. This makes the previous report that that the U.S. administration is not accepting the election results ring hollow. It is time for President Obama and his administration to end their timid, almost acquiescent, approach to Iran. If the President ever needed a justification to change his policy towards Iran he has it in this stolen election. U.S. policy needs to return to one that recognizes that Iran simply will not engage in any meaninfuly negotiations and is effectively immune to diplomacy. If Iran does enter into any talks with the West in general or the United States in particular it is simply to buy time to allow the nuclear and missile programs to be completed.

Three and a half years ago I used this blog to call for U.S. military action to end the Iranian nuclear program. The point I made then is that the consequences for the U.S. and the world as a whole would be much less severe and fewer lives would be lost if the U.S. rather than Israel took such action. I still believe that is true but I also believe that the Obama administration will never do any such thing. We know that last September Israel was prepared to go ahead with such an attack. It has been widely reported that President Bush effectively vetoed the action and that Prime Minister Olmert decided not to act without American support. Earlier this month we had the spectacle of Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman assuring the Russians that Israel will not attack Iran and that this is an international problem, not an Israeli one per se. Never mind that the international community, as demonstrated in April at the U.N. Durban II conference, would be perfectly content to see Israel destroyed and that Iranian leaders have promised to do just that.

The "election" in Iran demonstrates clearly that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is very much in charge and that Iran's President will be whomever Khamenei decides will be President. The people of Iran, whom President Ahmadenijad insists have "total freedom", have no say whatsoever. The aftermath of the election, with internet services blocked, newspapers shut down, and the opposition either arrested or under threat of arrest, signals clearly that nothing is going to change in Iran. Their desire to destroy Israel and to have a leadership that proclaims that openly has not changed.

What needs to change is the timid response by the United States and the equally timid response by Israel at America's behest. Americans need to remember that there is only one nation that the Iranian leadership hates more than Israel: the "Great Satan", the United States. With a theocratic regims that believes that an apocalyptic battle will set the stage for the return of the 12th Imam, the Islamic messiah, it would be foolish to believe that given nuclear weapons and the ability to deliver them that Iran would not use them. This sham election should serve as a reminder than nothing short of military action will prevent that. I said it three and a half years ago and I repeat it now.

At the very least President Obama needs to untie the hands of Israel's leadership. Failing that it is time that Prime Minister Netanyahu realizes that he cannot count on the United States to prevent Israel's destruction. Israel must act to safeguard her citizens and her survival with our without U.S. approval.

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