Thursday, February 11, 2010

Iranian regime keeps protests in check

To many observers it looks as if the regime won in Iran today. Andrew Sullivan was particularly active tracking events and linking to live-bloggers. Green Movement protesters came out on the 31st anniversary of the Islamic republic/dictatorship, but the regime was prepared with thousands of police and security people. They were able to keep protesters away from the official gathering at which Ahmadinejad gave a speech announcing that Iran is now a "nuclear state" because it is enriching uranium to 20% U-235, which is said to be enough for medical purposes, whereas it takes 80-90% enriched uranium to make a bomb. The police were often brutal with the Greenies, and several leaders were arrested. But what many of us had hoped for -- that the anti-regime protests would be so massive that it would be obvious that the regime was on the verge of falling -- doesn't seem to have happened. Still, Iran will not emerge from this period unchanged, I suspect. Whether the Greens can force reforms -- the mildest would be reducing or eliminating the veto power of the mullahs and ayatollahs -- remains to be seen.

It would be disastrous for the U.S. to get involved with overt or covert support for the greens (and almost certainly harmful to the cause), but there is one step the U.S. could take that would make some sense and correct an injustice. Back in the 1990s, at a time when the Clinton administration was hopeful of an opening with Iran, it agreed to designate the Peoples Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI) or Mojahedin e-Khalq (MEK), an opposition group that opposed the shah before it opposed the mullahs, a terrorist organization to please the Iranians. Since the the EU and UK have done through investigations and determined that the designation is unfair, and decided to lift it. By keeping PMOI/MEK on the official terrorist list the U.S. is in essence siding with the regime. Lifting the designation would be an act of neutrality. The U.S. should do it tomorrow at the latest.

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