According to several recent reports, the Obama administration is now considering more forceful action against Iran in Iraq. This is as understandable as it was inevitable; as I wrote many months before the invasion of Iraq, it is folly to expect to maintain decent security there so long as the current regime remains in power in Tehran. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his henchmen cannot tolerate the existence of a free, stable democratic society in its Shi’ite neighbor to the West, nor in Afghanistan to the East.
The Iranian tyrant is threatened by an ongoing mass uprising by his own people, and he desperately wants to demonstrate that the Islamic Republic can destroy and eventually dominate any would-be free state in the region. No surprise, then, that just as Iran arms, funds, indoctrinates and trains its proxies in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is providing all manner of assistance to Bashar al Assad in Syria to crush the insurrection there, and is supporting Islamist forces in other Arab countries, notably Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, to wrest control of the evolving governments from the hands of the freedom-seeking people who were in the front lines of the successful revolutions.
President Obama’s search for an effective strategy to thwart Iran’s murderous activity is driven by two developments: the mounting tempo of violence against American and allied troops and civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the failure of his “outreach” to the mullahs. After two and a half years, the president has apparently realized that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will not clasp our outstretched hand; he wants to kill, kidnap and humiliate Americans whenever and wherever possible. At the same time, Khamenei and his henchmen are mounting all manner of charm deceptions: releasing some political prisoners (even the two American “hikers” convicted of espionage), calling for Syria’s dictator to talk nicely to his victims, promising to be forthcoming on the nuclear question, and even permitting his arch-rival, Green Movement leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, to leave his heavily guarded house for a few hours to chat with his daughters. But such ploys no longer seem to entrance this administration. By now it is evident that Iran does not want a bargain with the United States. The Ayatollah Khomeini declared war on us in 1979, and he and his successors have waged that war ever since. Yes, the Iranians are quite capable of tactical retreats; I am told that Khamenei has ordered his killers in Iraq to refrain from attacking Americans, in order to deny us an excuse to reduce or delay our withdrawal. But the overall strategy remains the same: kill and dominate the Great Satan (us).
If we are going to fight back, what is the best method? Covert action—something between pure diplomacy and open conflict—is the favored method of this administration, which has greatly increased America’s use of lethal drones and US Special Forces against Iranian killers and (mostly Arab) proxies. But our most effective weapon against the Iranian regime is political, not military. Khamenei fears his own people, as can be seen from the iron fist he has deployed against them. He is so frightened by any sign of freedom in Iran, that he has even taken to arresting young people who engage in water fights in public parks.
He is right to be afraid; the Iranian people are the silver bullet aimed at the dark heart of the Islamic Republic, and we should support them, openly, vigorously, and non-violently whenever possible. If it was proper to support the Libyans against Colonel Qaddafi, all the more reason to support the Iranians against Khamenei, who, like Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, not only oppresses his own people but is the driving force behind the terrorists who kill, maim, and kidnap Americans.
Presidents Bush and Obama both had several clear opportunities to support the Iranian people against the regime, most recently during the mass uprisings after the infamous electoral fraud in 2009 that kept President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in office. Each time, we walked away, either because we had been gulled into believing we could reach a modus vivendi with Khamenei, or because we feared terrible consequences if we called for an end to the theocratic regime and supported democratic revolution.
The kind of covert action reportedly under White House consideration will not defuse the Iranian time bomb. Only regime change can accomplish that. No matter how many Iranian terror masters and their Arab and Afghan proxies we may kill or capture, the Iranians will continue their war against us; “death to America” is their motto and their mission.
We know how to bring down totalitarian regimes like Khamenei’s and Assad’s. We should do to them what we did to Gorbachev: build a strike fund for Syrian and Iranian workers, demand the release of political prisoners (by name), broadcast the real news about their countries to the people, get communications technology and—if they need it—funding to the dissidents. It doesn’t require bombs or bullets, just the will to bring down the tyrants and a combination of common sense and wit.
The president finally brought himself to say “Qaddafi must go” and “Assad must go.” It is now time to say “Khamenei must go” and act accordingly.
And it’s time for some of the would-be presidents to do the same. Any American revolutionaries among that crowd?