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An Open Letter On the Coming Revolution in Iran
[February 7, 2003]

By John Bragg

The Internet is a powerful tool for international understanding. This writer, through a chain of various links, found the web log of an anonymous Iranian girl. She had quoted the parts of President Bush’s State of the Union speech on Iran.

"Different threats require different strategies. In Iran, we continue to see a government that represses its people, pursues weapons of mass destruction, and supports terror. We also see Iranian citizens risking intimidation and death as they speak out for liberty and human rights and democracy. Iranians, like all people, have a right to choose their own government and determine their own destiny — and the United States supports their aspirations to live in freedom."

She was unsure and anxious as to exactly what this meant for her country and for her future. I wrote to her, to help explain America to her. Having written, I realize that my response could help explain the situation in Iran to the world.

This is an edited version of my letter to her.

I teach high school in America. I'm sorry if I sound patronizing, but I'm writing this not knowing how good your English vocabulary is, and I know what problems my kids have when I teach a lesson and then I find out that they didn't know a key word.

About what Bush said about Iran:

It's always difficult to believe too much in what a politician says. It's really difficult when he doesn't say exactly what he will do. But he certainly took the side of the demonstrators against the ayatollahs. He says the Iranian people have the right to choose—not the ayatollahs.

There are basically three sides in Iran, the conservatives, the reformers, and the people. Up to now, the reformers and the conservatives have worked together, arguing but not breaking apart. The people have supported the reformers, but every time the conservatives act, the reformers back down. Increasingly, the people regard the reformers as no different from the conservatives.

Situations like this in history have ended up with two answers—either the government will stay in power and crush the demonstrators, or there will be a revolution and the government will fall. Remember that for the people in the government, this is a game where the people who guess wrong about what will happen can die. For the government to win, the government (conservatives and reformers) has to stay together. They stay together either because they believe they are right, or because they think that the government will win and are afraid. Reformers who challenge the government will be killed (or at least jailed) if the government does not fall.

For the revolution to win, the people in the government with guns have to either join the revolution (or just not fight) because they think that the revolution is right, or because they think the revolution is going to win anyway. The last defenders of the government will be killed during or after the revolution, so no one in the government wants to be the last to join the revolution.

I think that what Bush wants to do is scare enough of the Iranian government that they stand up to the conservatives, join the revolution, and the revolution wins.

How will the US scare people in the Iranian government?

The Iranian government only has so many soldiers that they can rely on. When the US takes over Iraq, the Iranian government will want to put a lot more soldiers near Iraq "just in case." Those soldiers cannot put down demonstrators in Teheran or Qom. Will there be enough soldiers and other security forces to put down the demonstrations? Maybe, maybe not.

Also, when the US takes over Iraq, we will find all kinds of information in Saddam Hussein's government buildings. The world will also find out all kinds of bad things that we knew about the Iraqis but couldn't say, because saying would tell how we found out. The world may also see awful things from the Iraqi government that most Iraqis don't even know about yet. Are there things about the Iranian government that people in the government don’t know? Maybe, maybe not.

People in the Iranian government will also see the awful things that the Americans let the Iraqi people do the people in the Iraqi government. Could the same thing happen in Iran? Maybe, maybe not.

And the world will see the Iraqi people dancing in the streets when their government is gone and the Americans occupy their country, just like in Kabul.

The Iranian government will also see that no one—not Russia, not France, not the UN, not the Arab League, not God Himself could save Saddam Hussein from the Americans. They will see that, if the Americans decide to invade, no one and nothing will save them. Will the Americans really invade? Maybe, maybe not. (An American invasion of Iran is unlikely, but people in the Iranian government still have to worry about it.)

The more maybes are added to the list, the more scared people in the Iranian government will be. The more scared they are, the more likely that they will join the revolution, or stand aside and not fight. The aim is that the soldiers and their leaders will decide not to try to stop the revolution, and not to be the ones on trial for shooting the demonstrators. The best thing for people in the government is to be Yeltsin, to join and lead the revolution. The next best thing is to be Gorbachev, who gave up power but is safe and is respected abroad. The worst thing is to be Ceausescu, and to try to hold power and be defeated and killed.


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