Changing Our Approach to Regime Change in Iran
By: Reza Bayegan
It is not only the Israeli government or the hapless Neocons in the United States who dream of a regime change in Iran. Every honest, intelligent Iranian wants the same thing but feels unable to bring it about. There are a multitude of individuals, organizations and think tanks outside Iran whose business is supposed to be finding a way of dislodging the Iranian regime. Nevertheless many of these entities are happy holding court where they are in Washington, Los Angeles, Paris and so forth. They are addicted to pocketing the benefits and enjoying the privileges of a virtual kingdom outside the country. Returning one day to a free Iran where they would have to learn the ropes anew and work hard to prove themselves to the local population will defeat their purpose. My words here are not directed to these political impostures and mountebanks.
I am rather addressing the leaders of those political campaigns who sincerely seek to find a way out for millions of desperate Iranians plagued by the double whammy of oppression from inside and the threat of military strike from outside. To these leaders I would like in all humility to offer a few suggestions. Let me make it clear that I have not discovered any political breakthrough or any ingenious military tactics to recommend to these individuals, but rather am offering them a change of attitude that I think might be helpful.
First of all my dear campaign leader for regime change in Iran, please give poor Machiavelli a break and beware of applying his ideas to your activities. ‘The Prince’ is not a recipe book for concocting fast political food. Instead of looking for some self-serving quick fix, invest in the loyalty of the people you are working with. Earn their respect and rely on the kindness and sympathy of those you are trying to liberate. Remember that the art of leadership does not consist of setting man against man. If you think of people as numbers, pawns and vehicles, this attitude sooner or later becomes evident in the conduct of your campaign and the way you organize and direct your regime change activities. Instead of bringing people together you then have the opposite effect of tearing them asunder and making yourself despised by everyone.
Learn to take personal responsibility for failures in your campaign and generously distribute amongst your team members the credit you receive for victories. Your struggle against a regime that has dug its claws deep into the lives and consciousness of Iranian society will face many hard battles. You have to learn to tackle a multitude of obstacles with a great deal of wisdom and grace. Fight with courage and fight with what you have instead of waiting for what you ought to have. No great leader whose country has been under attack has ever tarried for the alignment of all favourable circumstances before marching on to face the foe.
Keep in mind the words of Colin Powell who said, “Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” The way you deal with everyday problems of your regime changing campaign is a pattern and microcosm of what you have to offer the whole country. In other words your approach, your attitude, and the daily performance of your duties is part and parcel of the ultimate victory you are trying to secure. Remember that actions speak louder than words.
Enlist the help of intelligent, stable people and don’t waste your resources and the valuable campaign time with prima donnas and nincompoops. No one of course expects you to surround yourself with geniuses. Geniuses are few and far between in any nation’s human stock. Nor should you worry about finding doctors or holders of honorary degrees. Iranian people have seen enough of characters like Dr Ahmadinejad, Dr Kordan etc to last them a lifetime. Only remember that after thirty years of being dished out heavy-duty balderdash Iranians have trained noses to smell baloney from a mile away. So raise the standard high for what you are offering them.
It is not sinful to receive help from the international community as long as you don’t forget who your constituency is. You want international help to fight a campaign for the liberation of your country and not the other way around. Remember that Bush and Blair shall pass away but the support of your own countrymen is what ultimately determines your success or failure. So when you go behind the microphone remember that the real audience that matters to you are in Shiraz, Tabriz, Dezfoul and Savojbolagh and not in Paris, London or New York. Learn from Charles de Gaulle and his fight for a free France. He was able to work with the Allied Powers and at the same time convince his countrymen that he was not an American or English puppet, but first and foremost a French patriot.
Once and for all stop the vicious circle of tribalism and factionalism that has wreaked havoc in your country since time immemorial. Don’t give in to the ingrained habit of dividing your compatriots into those who are with us and those who are against us. The tendency to compel people to conform to one’s image of what an Iranian should be is a dangerous moral disease of tyrants. Don’t hyphenate your people as nationalist Iranians, religious Iranians, communist Iranians and so on, but love and respect them as daughters and sons of the same land, all entitled to the same equal rights and privileges.
Take heart in Barack Obama’s election, or if you can’t, at least don’t eat your heart out. Even Shimon Perez the Israeli president thinks his election is a positive event for the whole of the Middle East. Don’t worry about the American government sitting down with Ahmadinejad or his puppeteers around the same table. Are you worried they might fall in love and the Americans will waltz with the mullahs into a new horizon and forget about you? Let’s hope they do. For the day the Americans pull the plug from the Iranian opposition, will be the day the Iranian people will have the opportunity to see who is able to stand on his own two feet and who can not. And if you still can stand up and fight after such an event, your countrymen will respect you and love you for it. Something they have been unable to do in the past three decades.
So believe in yourself and in the rightness of your stand. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and fight a good fight with all your might. Good luck.