Jordan and Ganji: Revolution in Iran needs U.S. support

Opinion piece by Robert Jordan, diplomat-in-residence and an adjunct professor at SMU's John Tower Center, and Darab Ganji, a political economist and guest lecturer at the Center.

By Robert Jordan and Darab Ganji

Last week as the mullah regime staged its celebration of the 31st anniversary of the "Islamic revolution" and declared that it is a nuclear power, massive numbers of Iranian protesters courageously defied the brutality of the system by peacefully expressing their legitimate demands for freedom and human rights.

Meanwhile, the ruling mullahs continue to refuse to acknowledge that Iran is at a historic crossroads. Could this be the beginning of the end for this revolution? What has led to this pivotal point, and is there a role for Western democratic countries in this burgeoning new freedom revolution in Iran?

The mullah regime came to power in 1979 claiming to champion freedom, independence and self-sufficiency, promising paradise on earth. Today it is one of the most repressive regimes in the world with an economy in shambles. In the midst of this downward socioeconomic spiral, four key factors are hastening the demise of the Islamic Republic system.

First, the Iranian people, particularly the young and the women, have become emboldened by the success of their protests, having seen the tremendous force of their civil disobedience movement. They also have witnessed their homegrown movement resonate globally despite brutal attempts by the regime to crush them and impose an international media blackout.

Second, the regime's economic crisis is deepened by Iran's fast-changing demographics. More than 70 percent of the Iranian population is under 30 and more than 55 percent is under age 24. These young people desperately seek freedom, equality, human rights, economic opportunity, modernity and a better life – all of which they realize the mullah regime is incapable of delivering.

Third, the international community has observed the regime's brutal nature. Its blatant attempts to suppress peaceful protests in Iran, its sham elections and its empty promises of social, economic and political reform have not gone unnoticed.

Finally, and perhaps most important, is the broadening of the rift within the mullah regime and the Islamic Republic establishment itself. Unfortunately for Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the entire establishment, the genie is out of the bottle. The chasm is too great to ever be reconciled.

Today, the Islamic Republic knows that the principal threat is the increasing discontent of the Iranian people, especially the youth. The regime's increasing desperation is revealed by the heightened degree of its brutality, including the large-scale arrests, rape and torture in prisons, kangaroo trials and summary executions that are gaining significant publicity within Iran and abroad. The ruling mullahs' ruthlessness is only adding to the determination of Iranians to throw off their yoke of oppression.

The United States no longer has the luxury of time in dealing with the mullah regime. The Obama administration cannot afford to engage in further rounds of fruitless talks while the mullahs aggressively seek nuclear weapons, continue their support for international terrorism, subvert the Arab-Israeli peace process, abuse human rights at home and promote radical Islamic fundamentalism in the region and beyond. Success for the Iranian people's freedom movement would certainly become a powerful stabilizing force for the Middle East region and beyond.

In order for the world community to avoid two bad alternatives – a nuclear Islamic Republic of Iran or the military option – it is high time for the United States and other Western democratic countries to formulate a policy to publicly and resolutely support the homegrown freedom movement in Iran while concurrently imposing stricter, targeted sanctions on government officials and the Revolutionary Guards.

For Iran, the time has come for a new revolution – a freedom revolution.

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