Sunday, September 20, 2009

Do Iranians Hate Israel or Their Own Regime?

There was a new chant this year at the annual anti-Israel Quds Day demonstrations in Iran. Alongside the familiar “Death to Israel” and “Death to America” was the new “Death to the Dictator.”

Quds Day is a government sponsored day of rallies and Israel bashing in Iran. While the anti-Israel nature of the event was certainly not diminished, it was challenged by a brief resurgence of the Iranian reformists, who used the opportunity to continue their protest of the unjust clerical regime.

The protests highlight the illegitimacy and oppressiveness of the Iranian regime. Even reformist former president Mohammad Khatami was not immune from the hard-liners abuses as he was attacked during the protests. Despite the fact that the Iranian regime has successfully cracked down and solidly maintains control, the reformist movement has not been obliterated.

This speaks to the tenacity of the movement. They were deserted by the West three months ago when they were at the peak of their fervor and the Iranian regime was at its weakest in 30 years. Despite acknowledging the electoral fraud, the Obama administration chose not to support the protestors because it wanted to keep a ‘good’ relationship with the current regime.

This realist policy seems to have yielded little. In a recent interview with NBC’s Ann Curry, Ahmadinejad refused to state that Iran would not develop nuclear weapons. The slippery President generally refused to answer any questions directly. The relationship with Iran continues to stagnate, as the regime persists in its dance with the West. This will surely continue with Ahmadinejad’s upcoming speech to the UN General Assembly in New York next week. It is easy to expect another round of provocations of the US, anti-Israel rhetoric, and Holocaust denials.

The fact that the US still feels the need to tiptoe around Iran and fails to provide any real consequences for the regime’s defiance and its repression of its people is unacceptable. The revolutionary spirit still lives in Iran. So much so that some of the notorious enemies of Israel, have given up an opportunity to bash the small Jewish state in favor of condemning their own government. Our fear of challenging Iran only strengthens its hand.

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