Part two of a four part series by the BBC explaining why the US is focused on Iran. As normal, the BBC holds a negative view of the US position on Iran. Still it is an important series to read, -- DoctorZin
How strong is Iran's opposition?
By Roger Hardy
BBC Middle East analyst 7.31.2003
In the second piece in a special four-part series on the United States and Iran, Roger Hardy looks at US perceptions of how durable the Iranian regime may prove to be, and what might take its place.
A few weeks ago, on 9 July, Iranian-Americans gathered in Washington to show their solidarity with students in Iran who have been campaigning for greater freedom.
It was the anniversary of demonstrations in Tehran and other Iranian cities four years ago - demonstrations that were harshly suppressed.
These Iranian-Americans want "regime change" in Iran. But who should take the place of the mullahs who have ruled the country since the overthrow of the Shah in the Islamic revolution of 1979?
Some Iranian-Americans favour the restoration of the monarchy, and look to the son of the late Shah, Reza Pahlavi, who lives in exile in Virginia.
A well-known figure in the Iranian-American community is the businessman, academic and political activist, Rob Sobhani.
"I think there's a role for all dissidents, including the son of the Shah - because Iran today is thirsty for leadership, Iran is thirsty for someone with vision," he says.
Waiting in the wings
"I think what's lacking in Iranian politics today is someone with a vision. I think if that individual - a man or a woman - appears on the scene and grabs the attention of the Iranian people, with a vision of what he or she would like the country to move towards, they will certainly be the beneficiary of that goodwill, that thirst for a leader."
Reza Pahlavi is a favourite with those who want to restore the monarchy
Among the Washington think-tanks there are conflicting views about the credibility of the Iranian opposition.
Patrick Clawson, an Iran-watcher at the influential think-tank, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says: "In the external opposition, we've got the People's Mujahideen, who are a very loud and noisy group. They have very little support inside Iran, but they are a useful source of intelligence."
"Scattered in with a lot of misinformation they do have some important titbits - and so we should listen to them.
"Then there's the monarchists and Reza Pahlavi, the son of the late Shah, and he seems to have hit his stride (i.e. improved his performance), and to be learning better how to communicate.
"But a large part of that stride is to avoid any direct role in confronting the mullahs and to avoid presenting himself as someone who should run Iran in the future."
Mr Clawson and others believe the US should give material as well as moral support to the forces inside Iran campaigning for democratic change, including the students and others who have grown disillusioned with the efforts of Iranian reformists, led by President Khatami, to change the country from within.
Some of the right-wing Republicans in Washington, known as the neo-conservatives, think the recent student unrest is a sign that the regime is close to collapse.
John Calabrese of the Middle East Institute, a Washington research centre, takes a different view.
"I think the street demonstrations and protests that have been occurring over the last month or two provide yet additional evidence that there is a deep resentment, a deep alienation - a gulf really - between the regime and the population," he says.
"Having said that, it's also clear from the protests and demonstrations that the regime is resilient, resourceful, and prepared to use repression in order to make sure that the protests are kept more or less under control."
Mr Calabrese believes the weakness of the student demonstrators is their lack of leadership and organisation. He believes the prospects for "regime change" from within are low.
So the two main camps in Washington, the neo-cons and their critics, sometimes known as the realists, disagree over whether "regime change" should be the goal of US foreign policy.
On Friday, our correspondent looks at the debate over the issue of terrorism. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3110509.stm
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"So the two main camps in Washington, the neo-cons and their critics, sometimes known as the realists, disagree over whether "regime change" should be the goal of US foreign policy."
Oh great, the neo-con critics are now being touted as realists? I think the fantasies started back after we halted at the Elbe instead of racing to stop the Russians in central Europe at the end of WWII. The fantasies continued when we believed that we could "contain" the communist threat at the 38th parallel in Korea. And the Vietnamization process of abandoning our dear friends on the Vietnam conflict were just another pipe dream.
President Carter's decision to withdraw support for the Shaw's rule in Iran led to Iran's collapse to a Shi'ite theocratic revolution on the pretext that presumably involved limiting American power in the time of detente. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been impacted throughout the region since then, including the massive Iran-Iraq war and Iraq's suppression of the Shi'ites in the south and Kurds in the North, and Iran's funding of Palestinian terrorist organizations.
The real fantasy is believing that American power shouldn't be used to tip the balance when the freedom of so many is at stake. Each time we lose a country or a region to tyranny, the risk to western democracy has increased many fold. I believe that 9/11 was a result of such collapses, adding up from central Europe to Korea to Vietnam and Iran. As we backed away from our obligations, the forces of darkness became stronger!
Realism is accepting our responsibility to help the Iranian student uprising succeed one way or another, peacefully or otherwise.
It would be really nice if the foreign press bothered to find out what they are talking about. Right wing and Neo-con are NOT interchangable. They are perverting the words and slapping labels on things they know nothing about.