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Imperialism ends in Iran

Matt Zalaznick

W., Dickie and Rummy had a tough time finding international allies to help conquer Iraq. But Condi’s going to have a harder time digging up an alliance to attack Iran than Gary Cooper had cobbling a posse out of the cowardly townfolk in “High Noon.” Forget “New Europe.” The best she can hope to recruit is some island republic in the South Pacific willing to send a half-dozen “commandos” and a speedboat in exchange for an economic development grant. For all W.’s bluster about unacceptable, intolerable, illegal nuclear programs, America cannot invade Iran. And not just because there’s some hypocrisy in a super-power that already has piles of nuclear weapons and is designing even more pernicious bombs telling an ambitious upstart they can’t have the same terrible toys. Our main ally in the Iraq invasion, Tony Blair, cannot withstand the pressure from the homefront of another unpopular war. Unlike Iraq’s misfit regime, whose scariest friends were laughable French rhetoric, semi-anarchies like Sudan and third-rate bullies like Syria, Iran has really powerful allies and deep economic partners, like Russia. Iran, in other words, may have friends who, much more formidably than Kofi Annan and the United Nations, would stop American troops from stampeding unchallenged to Tehran. And though those creepy looking ayatollahs may be losing support at home, they do enjoy a degree of legitimacy that Saddam did not. While they were not elected, they were swept into power by a populist revolution, not a shadowy coup. Which means Iranians, however much they hate their frowning overlords, may hate foreign invaders even more.Furthermore, the administration knows there are too many things it doesn’t know about Iran’s nuclear program, like, say, where to find it. This limits the effectiveness of a hit-and-run air strike, even with the military’s terrifying technology. Finally, it’s suspected some of the facilities are in or near heavily populated cities, raising the specter of extensive civilian causalities that may be unacceptable to many Americans after Iraq and Afghanistan – especially if W. can’t convince us to feel gravely threatened by Tehran’s ayatollahs, no matter how grim their glowers and how loud their chants of “Death to America.” But also unlike Iraq – where opposition to Saddam was scarce, disemboweled and skeptical of America’s commitment after past betrayals – there is a substantial, albeit beleaguered and sometimes encarcerated, opposition to Iran’s theocracy. There is a generation of young Iranians wired to the Internet who realize there’s much, much more to life than the religious fascism installed by the Ayatollah Khomeni’s fundamentalist revolution. And, unlike dubious Iraqi exiles who were licking their chops to return “home,” many of these potential revolutionaries have never left Iran. They have a clue about what’s happening on the Persian street. There also are dissident newspaper publishers in Iran willing to risk imprisonment and worse to defy the ayatollahs. There were so many reformers itching to run for elected office that the ayatollahs felt forced to strike hordes of candidates from the ballot. These phony “holy” men prop up their totalitarian Islam with immense oil wealth. So they probably won’t just abdicate to some African safe haven like some Third World strongmen. Change will likely be drawn-out and wildly bloody. But most accounts indicate Iranians are growing so tired of their rulers they’ll spill their own blood. They won’t need Americans to die to change their regime.So instead of thundery bluster from the administration about what’s not acceptable, there should be an honest reaching out to and nurturing of Iran’s reformers. That may take more patience than post-Sept. 11 Americans have.The ayatollahs are probably going to build bombs no matter what and the more-pacifist-than-thou Europeans are misguided in offering the ayatollahs incentives to quit enriching plutonium, because that will only extend the life of a dastardly regime. So here’s a test for this and the next few administrations: spreading democracy to a country without first demolishing it. The Iranians may not need insurgents or imperialists to reinvent their country. City Editor Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or mzalaznick@vaildaily.comVail, Colorado


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