Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Friday, February 02, 2007

Understanding the Iran Crisis

In an open hearing of the Committee on Foreign Affairs on Wednesday entitled “Understanding the Iran Crisis”, Chairman Tom Lantos opened the discussion by affirming the urgency and significance of the hearing, as well as the general necessity of the international community recognizing Iran’s growing influence and arrogance in the region. It is no longer a secret that Iran has embarked on a quest to develop nuclear capabilities. Thus Rep. Lantos considers this to be a critical time for the United States to use its diplomatic arsenal for preventing confrontations and pursuing the establishment of democracy in Iran. In reading the testimonies submitted by the three honorable witnesses, Dr. Abbas Milani, Co-director of the Iran Democracy Project at Stanford University; Dr. Ray Takeyh, Senior Fellow for Middle East Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations; and Mr. Enders Wimbush, Director of the Center for Future Security Strategies at the Hudson Institute, Rep. Lantos recognized that the vast majority of the Iranian people despise the current theocratic regime. Consequently, he said that the opportunity to enact change must be seized immediately if we are to achieve viable success in stabilizing the situation in the Middle East.

Milani began by declaring that he considers negotiation the only fruitful path towards establishing democracy in Iran. He emphasized the significance of recognizing that military intervention most likely only yields chaos and greater hardship and will undermine both authority and legitimacy. Thus, he said that it is imperative to recognize that democracy cannot be imposed from above. While the issue of Iranian human rights was not a major point of emphasis in Milani’s testimony he did assert that, “Human rights are always on the table, never off the table.”

Wimbush discussed the importance of radio in advocating and strengthening the forces of change – a voice of democracy as a strategic communication tool. He mentioned how, in the last decades, there has been a “dummying-down” in the content of broadcasts in Iran, evidenced by the fact that Iranian radio now mainly plays American popular music. Wimbush said that it is imperative that Iranian radio stations began transmitting informative analysis and programs with substantive content. He believes that if we hope to see a truly democratic Iran, we must make attempts to develop a healthy Iranian civil society in which individuals and groups are able to act openly to pursue their interests. According to Wimbush, if this is not achieved, the dynamism and ambitions of the Iran populace, and in particular the entrepreneurial elite, will not be constructively directed.


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