Step up, Mr Michael Gerson, former speechwriter for George W Bush, current colunnist for The Washington Post. On the surface, one might think that Gerson's claim, "President Obama has seemed to view Iran's ongoing democratic uprising as a pesky obstacle to engagement", might be a genuine expression of concern that the US Government is not doing enough to back calls for rights, justice, and political fairness.
Iran: How Washington Views the Green Opposition — The Next Chapter
The Latest from Iran (3 December): Normal Service?
Keep reading --- and do so with a bit of historical memory.
For Mr Gerson's simple view is that Iran has been on a one-way path for 30 years: "We are seeing the consolidation of a military dictatorship. Since the Iranian revolution of 1979, the nation's clerical leaders have had a military arm -- the Revolutionary Guard Corps -- that has acted as their ideological enforcers."
One might forgive Mr Gerson for his contemporary summary, gleaned from a quick reading of the headlines, "In reaction to mass protests after the fraudulent presidential election in June, the Guard's control has expanded comprehensively," since there is a more than a grain of truth that the IRGC has expanded its political and economic interests. But to portray this as a steady, downhill process linked to the "mullahs" (you know, the "mullahs" like Montazeri, Dastgheib, Karroubi, Sane'i, Bayat Zanjani who have criticised the regime of violence) seems a bit sweeping. And it kind of obliterates not only leaders like Hashemi Rafsanjani but also Mohammad Khatami.
You know, the Mohammad Khatami who sought a thaw in relations with the United States and who was rewarded by the Bush Administration --- the Bush Administration that Gerson served --- with a cut-off of talks, threatening rhetoric, and even consideration of regime change. The Mohammad Khatami who was left to dangle in Iranian domestic politics when his assurances that an engagement with the West would be productive turned into political dust.
OK, maybe we can let Gerson off the hook for his historical amnesia given that he just scribbled speeches, rather than framed policy. But, in the present day, there is this: "The administration has reduced funding for human rights programs in Iran and looked the other way as exiled opponents of the Iranian regime have been attacked within Iraq."
Ahh, so support of the Green movement means support for the "exiled opponents" who happen to be the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MKO), the movement carrying out acts of violence since Gerson's 1979 starting point to topple the Iranian Government. The Mujahedin-e-Khalq who are still listed as a "terrorist" organisation by the State Department. In that context, Gerson's next sentence takes astounding to a new level: "In addition to serious economic and military pressure, Obama could try the strategy the Iranian regime most fears: supporting, overtly and covertly, the democratic resistance against military rule."
So the best way to confront an Iranian Government that tries to prop up its shaky position by screaming "velvet revolution" is to support a "velvet revolution" including an organisation whose acitivities put it, even for many Iranians who are opposed to the current Government, beyond the acceptable? Even the dimmest student in my second-year course on The CIA and US Foreign Policy wouldn't put forth this plan.
I'm not sure whether Mr Gerson is being cynical in his reduction of history and his advocacy of regime change or if he is just ignorant about Iran. I do know, however, that he is deceptive if he claims to be a friend of the Green Movement.
For if the nuclear issue didn't exist, Gerson wouldn't give a rat's-ass about the Iranian opposition. The dreaded prospect of Iran With Bombs is the subject of the first eight paragraphs of a ten-paragraph article. The "democratic uprising" only makes an entrance when Gerson decides that other possibilities for a nuclear victory --- sanctions "would require a number of unreliable nations to sacrifice large economic interests"; "direct military options are uncertain" --- won't work.
Even the headline writer for Gerson's piece doesn't fall for the author's false love of Iranian democracy and reform, putting on the title, "Green Leverage over Iran". Leverage? If I weren't such a Southern gentleman, I'd tell Mr Gerson where he could stick his leverage.
But I return to the start of this piece: thank you, sir, for a timely reminder. A reminder not only that, for all my concerns about the Obama Administration, its predecessor offered no hope and only the prospect of more damage. And a reminder that the Green Movement, for all the tensions over its plans and objectives, is far more than the pawn put forward by false friends.