IRANIANS OUTSIDE SHOULD LEARN FROM THE ISRAELI DIASPORA

An interview with Michael Ledeen*

By Ramin Parham

PARIS 12 Mar. (IPS)         "If Iranians in the Diaspora were as engaged in the future of their nation as Jews outside Israel are engaged in the future of Israel, Iran would be a democratic country today", says Michael Ledeen, a veteran American journalist, historian and political analyst.

In an interview with Mr. Ramin Parham, the editor of the French section of the Paris-based internet daily "Iran va Jahan" (Iran and the World), the outspoken and often controversial Ledeen also says that the Bush Administration would, in the coming months, "sooner rather than latter", do more to support the Iranian struggle for freedom, but, he adds, "it is also true that Iranians, and especially Iranians living abroad, should also have done a lot more".

After having placed the Islamic Republic in an "Axis of evils", along with Iraq and North Korea, President Bush, in a statement issued last July, said he would "no longer" support neither sides of the present Iranian leadership, shifting his backing to the Iranian people and their unabated struggle for changing the ruling and unpopular theocracy to a secular democracy.

By refusing to take part in the last elections for cities and rural councils, a great majority of Iranians, proved, if anything, that they do not support any of the present wings of the clerical-ruled leadership, thus giving a strong boost to the United States in its confrontation with the European Union concerning the ways to deal with the Islamic Republic.

In his view, among the today's three "Evil" nations, Iran is the one that could be transformed into tomorrow's "axis of progress".

"Iran surely can. The Iranian people have shown themselves ready for such a transformation", he said, adding: "I tend to be cautiously optimistic about the Iraqis as well. North Korea is a different story altogether, and I fear it will be a long time before those poor people can learn the habits of mind of a free society".

Pressed to say which country (ies) in the Middle East seems ripest for a democratic change, Ledeen cites Iran and Iraq, where the United States is reported to working for ruling it directly for a period of time after it brings down the present dictatorship of Saddam Hoseyn, as it did for Japan and Germany after the unconditional surrender of these two nations.

"It's clear that Iraq will shortly have to endure another war. I don't think that will be necessary in Iran or in Saudi Arabia", he said.

"Syria is a bit of a mystery (among other things it has the lowest level of internet usage of any Middle Eastern country). I think that democracy has taken root most everywhere, albeit with enormous variations from country to country. In the last wave of the democratic revolution, the Reagan years and the immediate aftermath, many countries managed a peaceful transition from tyranny to democracy. Spain established the model after the death of Franco, and much of the world followed, first in Latin America, then in the old Soviet Empire.

"Moreover, while I am sure that we are at a major turning-point in world history, I am not at all sure that this means we will be seeing totally new ideas. I am rather inclined to believe that, with the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Communist vision, we may see another expansion of freedom in the world. As Bernard Lewis says, the current tyrannies in the Middle East are offshoots of fascism, rather than the outgrowths of Islamic thought or tradition. So the Middle East may well be transformed in the near future. You might call it "catching up" with the historical events of the late 20th century.

Asked if he sees and end of the (Washington's led) war on terrorism, Mr. Ledeen says it all depends if the United States and its allies see it "through to the end, or settle for half a loaf".

"As I argue in "The War Against the Terror Masters", at a minimum we have to bring down the four regimes that constitute the engines of terror (Iran, Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia) and replace them with something more democratic and civilised. And of course we have to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure and arrest or execute the leaders. Then I think we will need to deal with countries like Libya, North Korea, etc. ENDS LEDEEN INTERVIEW 12303


* Editor's note: Dr. Michael Ledeen, is a National Review Online Contributing Editor, resident Scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute and an expert on U.S. foreign policy.

His research areas include states sponsors of terrorism, Iran, the Middle East, Europe (Italy), U.S.-China relations, intelligence, and Africa (Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe). A former consultant to the NSC and to the U.S. State and Defence Departments, Dr Ledeen has also written on leadership and the use of power. His latest book is entitled "The War against the Terror Masters: Why It Happened. Where We Are Now. How We'll Win". St. Martin's Press.; 1st edition (September 10, 2002).

ISBN: 031230644X

His interview with Mr. Parham was published by "Iran va Jahan" on its 3 March issue.

Highlights are by IPS