Parallels Between Tehran 1979 and Tehran 2009?
There are, says BBC correspondent John Simpson, present for protests at both points in history. His reflections suggest that any pro-democracy celebrations in other parts of the world may be premature:
When I go out into the streets now and see the crowds with their green ribbons and scarves and face-paint and balloons, it occurs to me that I am looking at a coalition of interests as complex as the one that marched along the same streets 30 years ago.
Then, liberal, middle-class, Westernised people joined in the marches eagerly because they thought the religious leaders under Ayatollah Khamenei [sic] would bring about a better Iran.
Now they are joining in because they think the marches in support of Mir Hossein Mousavi will bring down the Islamic Revolution.
Yet for his part Mr Mousavi hopes he can rescue the Islamic Revolution and make it better.
I remember interviewing him in the 1980s, and I cannot say he impressed me then as being particularly liberal; rather the contrary.
All of this suggests that a hands-off approach toward Iran is the best one for US policy-makers. Iranians will have to decide the future of Iran.
This approach will make it easier for us to deal with whatever government emerges from the current Iranian crisis and, in the end, foster more positive feelings for the US and the West among the general population.
One of the major mistakes of a president I deeply admire, Dwight Eisenhower, was his direction of active US complicity in the removal of a democratically-elected government from power in Iran. We have been reaping the whirlwind from that fateful decision for more than thirty years now.
Active, even rhetorical, intervention on the part of the US at this sensitive juncture would only give Tehran’s hardliners excuse for claiming foreign meddling and legitimize harsher actions against those calling for new elections.
Iran has a large and influential middle class educated in the US and other western nations. Many want freedom. Unlike the demonstrators in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, they may be successful in attaining it. But clearly, no other people can get it for them. For now, all of us must be bystanders.
[My personal blog is here.]