May 6, 2009 (the date of publication in Russian)

Anastasia Mitrofanova


The US strategy towards Iran: is the Libyan pattern available?


The political strategy of the United States towards Iran is determined with Washington's desire to establish full control over the Persian Gulf area, as well as Central Asia, to secure its complete isolation from Russian influence. These objectives shaped George W. Bush policy, and have not changed with arrival of Barack Obama.

Official arguments against the Iranian regime could be expressed in three major statements: a) Iran is preparing to create nuclear weapons and use it against Israel; b) Iran backs international terrorism; c) Iran is ruled with a dictatorial regime suppressing human rights. These arguments are not supported with any essential proof and are formulated for mere propagandist use. They are designed rather for persuading the US population than the international community, as Washington is not going to ask for permission from anybody but itself.

Most of the US population is convinced of the advantages of the American way of life, including clothes, food, religion, and entertainment. Therefore, Americans easily accept stories about oppression of Iranians, especially women. The popular propaganda involves massive pseudo-democratic rhetoric, labels of "mullahcracy "and "totalitarianism", and even "fascism" (and simultaneously "communism"). This blanket denigration is gladly joined by immigrants from Iran.

In fact, the US concerns over Iran's nuclear program emerge not from fear from the supposed assault on Israel but with the fact that a coup d'etat in a nuclear state would be a much more complicated task. Meanwhile, according to the assumption of economist Patric Clawson, current Deputy Director for Research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and senior editor of Middle East Quarterly, Iran is regarded as an ideological menace for the United States, while its neutralization is a part of the doctrine of deterring Russian interests in Central Asia, in order to prevent revival of the Soviet Union in any form.



Therefore, the question is not whether the United States will push a regime change in Iran but which tactic is going to be chosen. By today, Washington has used three major methods of neutralizing disloyal regimes:

- a policy change without purge of the ruling establishment (perestroika), a scenario successfully implemented in Libya;

- provocation of unrest leading to overthrow of the ruling regime and ascent of a pro-American government (color revolution);

- direct military intervention with subsequent recruitment of a marionette government (enduring freedom).

At present, the United States is pursuing a peaceful change in Iran, i.e. implementation of the first or second scenario. Military intervention is not on the agenda.

Plausibility of an Iranian perestroika is doubted by a number of analysts. For instance, Ilan Berman, vice president of the Foreign Policy Council, indicates that the Iranian regime is resting not upon the authority of a single person, as it was in Iraq or is in Libya, but on a common recognition of history and common goals, tested by the revolution and subsequent war, which means that the approach towards Iran should rely not upon "change of behavior" but upon "purge of the elite".

This suggests fomentation of so-called "grassroot" anti-government sentiment of the population, demanding a democracy of a civilized, Western type. The activists are supposed to initiate a referendum on the necessity to maintain the Islamic rule. The further scenario reproduces the type of "revolution" carried out in Georgia and Ukraine. In fact, one of the earliest "color revolutions" was implemented in Romania in 1989, and involved physical elimination of Nicolae Ceausescu, as the technology was not yet enough developed to achieve the goal by peaceful means. It is noteworthy that David Frum, former speechwriter of George W. Bush, admitted in his April 2003 article that the approach towards Iran is comparable to the Polish scenario of 1980s.

Unlike the Polish and Romanian precedents, and similarly to the Georgian and Ukrainian options, Washington is planning to rely upon a student movement rather than on a workers' unrest. Simultaneously, massive support is going to be conveyed to the domestic opposition (dissenting groups, as well as mass media).



Definitely, Iran has got a potential of dissent. While the elder generation, memorizing the Shah's dictatorship, highly appreciates the achievements of the Islamic revolution, many young people view the Islamic rule as an obstacle for self-enrichment or enjoying individual liberties. Today, the share of persons below 30 comprises 70% of Iran's population. Therefore, US strategists believe in efficiency of mass unrest.

The propagandist war against the incumbent Iranian regime is waged by means of sponsoring private TV channels oriented towards Iranian youth. Relevant media projects include the Los Angeles-based National Iranian Television; RFE/RL branch Radio Farda; the Persian board of the Voice of America, etc. The US government spends at least $15 million a year for broadcasting in Farsi. The State Dept also finances translation of books, Internet and video materials educating youth in organizing non-violent social movements. Radio Farda, functioning since 2002, attracts the audience also by "non-political" entertainment programs, thus expanding the "cultural" dissenter audience that is just fond of Western music. A similar tactic was once used by Radio Liberty's Russian board, as well as Radio Kabul in 1980s.

In April 2005, the US Congress allocated $3 million for promotion of "educational institutions, humanitarian groups, non-government organizations and individuals in Iran, promoting democracy and human rights issues".



In 2001, Morris Amitay, former executive director of the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), founded the Coalition for Democracy in Iran (CDI). The organization was joined by ultra-conservative ideologist Michael Ledeen, a partner of Shimon Peres in the infamous Iran-Contra case. Mr. Ledeen is famous for the statement: "All the great scholars who have studied American character have come to the conclusion that we are a warlike people and that we love war". Enjoying support from ex-CIA Director James Woolsey, CDI distributed information on violation of human (particularly women's) rights, along with allegations of Iran's support of Mideast and global terrorism, WMD proliferation etc., and agitated for fomenting a democratic revolution in Tehran. Due to dubious reputation, the organization was unpopular among Iranian Americans. Since summer 2005, CDI is inactive.

One more US-based Iranian organization is the Alliance for Democracy in Iran (AFDII), chaired by Iranian-American businessman and scholar Bahman Batmanghelidj, vice president of Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society. It contends for the function of a unified opposition, referring to historical sympathy of Iranians towards America. The organization cooperates with Hudson Institute. Some AFDII intellectuals are linked to the Virginia-based scion of the Pahlevi family, and advocate a national referendum on restoration of monarchy. At present, AFDII advocates economic sanctions against Iran.

The Iranian Freedom Foundation, founded in 2005 by Jerome Corsi, a conservative columnist of WorldNetDaily and a severe critic of Barack Obama’s policy, is one more organization based in Washington, D.C. IFF is engaged with informing the global community on the situation under the Iranian "mullocracy" but actually focused on support of oppositionist groups. It should not be confused with a much older moderate organization with a similar name based in Maryland, established as far back as in 1979 by Ali Akbar Tabatabai, press attache at the Iranian embassy in the United States during the reign of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi.

The American Alliance for a Democratic Iran, chaired by David Lesar, is a militant anti-totalitarian group, enjoying excessive funding, with close links to Israeli institutions, involving a number of leftist liberal Anglo-American and Iranian-American intellectuals and scholars.

It is currently hard to estimate the extent of plausibility of "color revolution" planning for Iran. Dealing with Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, Washington was originally not inclined for a military intervention, hoping to stimulate domestic destabilization and a coup d'etat, but this scenario proved inefficient. In case a military option is chosen, Iran is most likely to undergo a sting assault on nuclear facilities. Still, it is not clear whether this operation would be efficient enough to hammer Iran into bygone ages in case it still remains an Islamic republic. The objective of a regime change may be postponed for a certain time, but the option of military attack will be raised sooner or later.

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