Fear is clearly taking hold within the halls of power in Tehran, and one wonders if both the Ayatollah and the U.S. are thinking hard about the year 2019.
It may not be a coincidence that Iran is planning attacks on U.S. forces, according to intelligence reports, and assuming an increasingly hostile posture – or that the U.S. is responding to these moves in most serious fashion, including sending a carrier strike force into the region.
The Iranian military is apparently using boats to move short-range ballistic missiles in the Persian Gulf, with a possible eye toward assaults on U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, and even Iraq and Syria. Commercial transport in the Red Sea could also be threatened.
Why might some kind of confrontation be culminating now? Yes, Tehran sees the U.S. is getting very tough, enforcing sanctions against the terrorist-financing Islamofascist state harder than ever, having pulled out of Barack Obama’s 2015 Iran nuclear agreement. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps was also just classified a terrorist organization. Amidst this screw-tightening, the Tehran-funded terrorist militia proxy in Gaza last week fired hundreds of rockets into the interior of U.S. ally Israel.
But conspicuously looming above all that in the minds of the Iranian populace is the fact that we are only several weeks away from the 10th anniversary of the mass street protests sparked by the questionable landslide re-election of Iran’s hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Anniversary of an Opportunity Lost
The regime reacted to the demonstrations by inflicting beatings, torture and bullets, including the IRGC’s shooting of 26-year-old philosophy student Neda Agha-Soltan. Video of her lying in the street fatally wounded was seen by millions around the world. Yet she was just one of dozens killed in the three months after the disputed election.
The episode was a test of leadership for President Obama, who had been in office for less than five months. Days passed and then, in even the Washington Post’s estimation, Obama “remained as quiet as possible.” The new President’s eye was on a historic nuclear deal with the bad guys in power in Tehran; replacing the mullahs would pre-empt that place in history.
It was a lost opportunity for the United States to help the Iranian people discard their shackles, rid the world of a future nuclear menace, and possibly turn a sworn enemy regime into a grateful friend. Iranians getting the “Change We Need,” to quote Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan, would have to wait for another U.S. President.
There are signs that this might be the year, though. For one thing, last year saw numerous protests against the regime. Usually, those in power place a falsely positive spin on such occurrences, but one member of parliament called 2018 “eventful” and warned “there will be a catastrophe” in 2019. Another cautioned that the poor are increasingly being “seen as a group of wronged and oppressed people, which will lead to the middle class identifying with them.”
The National Council of Resistance of Iran, a democratic coalition seeking to replace the Islamist regime with a secular government, earlier this year said: “The year 2019 is going to be defining Iran and for its leadership … This is evident even through the simple fact that the regime acknowledges the popular unrest instead of denying it.”
Helping Iranians Help Themselves
The Iranian people may be the most Western in their attitudes in the entire Muslim Middle East, with a large majority under 30, and with plenty of dissidents in influential walks of life – students, professors, clerics, and labor leaders. The idea of helping them topple their oppressive rulers is far from new, and the U.S. could have been providing them material and moral support for decades.
“During the Cold War, the fax machine was a revolutionary instrument,” Foundation for the Defense of Democracies scholar Michael Ledeen noted in his 2007 book “The Iranian Time Bomb.” Today, “satellite phones, laptops, servers, phone cards, software to beat the regime’s ‘filtering’ of the Internet” could be provided by the U.S. government to Iranian freedom fighters – with our military forces looming in the background.
Such support for Iranians might go far toward the ousting the Ayatollah Khamenei and his henchmen without the U.S. undertaking an Iraq-style invasion. Which would make for the remarkable irony of Donald Trump, critic of President George W. Bush’s intervention in Iraq, making a reality Bush’s daunting assurance that the “untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world.” Some might describe it as reaching the neocons’ end without employing the neocons’ means.
Are thoughts of such a scenario behind the obvious growing fears of supreme ruler Ayatollah Khamenei and President Rouhani? Or behind the White House’s growing focus on Iran – with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo canceling a trip to Germany to visit Iraq? The preponderance of “coincidences” suggests it might be.
— Written by Thomas McArdle
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