BY ALEXANDER MELEAGROU-HITCHENS
Which of the two countries looks like it is on the road to progress and true liberal democracy? Of course, things are not as simple as this, but the contrast is a poignant one nonetheless. Iraq, which shares a border with Iran, has held two rounds of free and fair elections, despite the best efforts of the Iranian regime to prevent the onset of such stability. Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has even found the time to start an anti-corruption campaign, targeting a significant number of Iraqi ministers suspected to have embezzled millions of dollars. It is also worth noting here that secular India, a close and crucial ally of the US and Britain, has recently pulled off the biggest democratic election in the world (around 715 million voters) without as much as an army AK-47 being discharged.
Iran, on the other hand, cannot even conduct an open and peaceful round of voting to determine who will be next in line to take their orders from the unelected mullahs in the Guardian Council. This Iranian gangster regime has already killed at least seven protesters (in reality, this figure is likely to be much higher than we will ever know), is monitoring and blocking all communications in and out of the country and has reportedly co-opted Hamas to do some of the required dirty work. At the very least, this type of behaviour should make things a bit more difficult for those who argue that Iran has every right as a democratic country to acquire a nuclear weapon. Unfortunately, this view is held by many in this country, including one individual who sits in Parliament and is on the take from one of Iran’s main propaganda outlets, Press TV.
Iraq still has a long way to go, and Islamist suicide bombings are still a weekly occurrence, but it serves as a model of how democracy promotion can and does work in the region. Although the election of Mousavi would not have spelled the end of theocracy in Iran, the ousting of Ahmedinejad, who is the darling of the mullahs, could have been the start of a rebellion against the Guardian Council.
This is now a crucial, and possibly historic, moment where there can be a seismic shift in Iranian politics as there was in 1979, and one which will send tremors throughout the surrounding region. The protesters must not let up, and as many of them have shown the world, secular and liberal democratic systems have much more support in the region than some would have us believe, and it is about time we helped them as we did the brave Iraqis who said ‘no’ to totalitarianism. What form this help should take will be a crucial talking point in the next few days, as any rhetorical support from Obama will act a fuel for the regime that is already portraying the protests as a product of foreign interference. One can only hope that this help will take the form of something a bit more tangible and effective than a fluffy new year’s message.