After five nights of courageous demonstrations in Iran—where protesters faced the prospects of beatings, torture, or worse—Iranians seeking freedom from an oppressive regime once again found an ally in President Bush. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the President’s own State Department.
Speaking to reporters from the Bush family vacation home in Kennebunkport, Maine, the President said that the protests are “the beginnings of people expressing themselves toward a free Iran, which I think is positive.” This is in keeping with past statements, where Bush has expressed solidarity with the majority of the Iranian population that wants the very freedoms that millions of Americans often take for granted, not the least of which being the right to choose their own government.
Technically speaking, Iran has elections—but they are no more “democratic” than those that used to be held in the old Soviet Union. The country is dominated by an unelected cabal of twelve mullahs, known as the Council of Guardians. The panel vets all candidates for President and Parliament—including the so-called “reformers”—and has the authority to veto any legislation enacted by the legislature. What power they don’t have rests in the hands of the unelected “Supreme Leader,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who controls the military, the police, the press, the judiciary, the oil industry, and most corporations that trade with the West.
Amazingly, the U.S. State Department’s number-two official, Richard Armitage (contact), told the Los Angeles Times earlier this year that Iran is a “democracy.”
Using the “democracy” line as fig leaf cover, State has been pushing for “engagement” with the mullahs. The professional diplomats there claim that talks with the current regime will actually empower the so-called “reformers” within the government. To the extent there are true reformers in the government, though, they have precious little actual power. Since every “reformer” that is inside the government is only there because the mullahs granted approval, “most of the ‘reformers’ actually support the existing power structure,” notes an administration official.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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