Did Saddam Hussein's fall and the formation of a fledging democracy in Iraq encourage and embolden regime-threatening dissent in Iran?
The anti-Iraq War crowd, many of whom suffer from Give-George-W.-Bush-No Credit-for-Anything Disease, says, "No, of course not." How dare anyone even suggest that the former President was correct, if not about the rightfulness of the war itself, then about his argument that a "free and peaceful" Iraq would provide a "dramatic and inspiring example" to the Middle East and the Muslim world. Good Lord!
The Iraq War-achieved-zero crowd begrudged Bush nothing even after the democratic Cedar Revolution in Lebanon. Never mind that Walid Jumblatt, a Lebanese Druze Muslim leader, said: "It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting (in 2005), 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world."
As to Iran, The New York Times quoted a pundit-blogger who, when protests began this past summer, wrote, "(N)o Iranian ... has mentioned Iraq as an inspiration for the demonstrations, nor has any leader of their opposition cited their Iraqi neighbors as a model or a source of guidance."
Meet Mohsen Kadivar. In May 2004, Time magazine profiled this Iranian intellectual in a flattering article called "The Critical Cleric -- Reclaiming Islam for a New World." Newsweek called him a global leader "to watch in 2005." His criticism of the Iranian regime landed him in jail. He now teaches at Duke University, and PBS's Charlie Rose interviewed him in July.
What does this cleric says about Iraq's possible influence on his native country? In February 2005, he said: "I think the Iraqis can make what we wanted to create but were unsuccessful: a real Islamic Republic. By that I mean a republic with Islamic values, democracy with Islamic values ... (where) the clergy has no special rights. If they have a good government with Islamic democracy and without any special or divine rights for the clergy, the Iranian government won't be able to justify its situation to the Iranian citizens."
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