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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Civil War in Iran

Foreign policy expert Andy Martin says the conflict in Iran has become a civil war. Barack Obama is essentially powerless to act or react.

Andy Martin on the evolving civil war in Iran
Andy Martin
Executive Editor

“Factually Correct, Not
Politically Correct”



Andy Martin breaches a taboo by becoming the first analyst to call the conflict in Iran a “civil war”`

America’s most experienced independent foreign policy and intelligence analyst predicts the destabilization of the entire region

Martin says President Obama is helpless to act.

(PALM BEACH)(June 21, 2009) As I wrote on June 15th, the most terrifying night of my life was spent in the middle of a riot in Iran thirty years ago. The images of what was a living bedlam are still vivid in my memory. I jumped into a crowd of people who were preparing to attack an opposition strongpoint and rescued a woman who was probably doomed. There were crowds of opposing Iranians fighting each other, tracer rounds flying everywhere, machine guns in the distance, people rushing to the “front.” The night culminated in my arrest as an alleged spy. I have never had another night like that, neither before nor after.

Even after leaving Iran, I went back. Watching the constant images of the violence in Tehran today reminds me of my earlier experiences. You can almost feel the tension and terror of a taunt crowd, just before it explodes. A civil war has begun.

I am experiencing the emerging Iranian civil war in a multitude of ways.

So what do my feelings tell me?

First, Joe Biden was ridiculed during the campaign for predicting that Barack Obama would be “tested” in the first six months of his administration. Iran is that challenge.

What Biden did not understand was that the “challenge” he anticipated would not come from a direct threat to the United States but rather from the need to navigate policy in the unknown byways of what is becoming the Iranian civil war. (Yes, I am the first analyst to use the term “civil war.”)

Because of my reputation as a critic of Barack Obama (and that is a correct characterization of my views) I am usually criticized by Obama’s opponents when I apply impartial analysis to BHO’s actions or don’t reflexively attack his every action. But my sense of personal integrity and independence compel me to write what I believe, not what some people want to hear.

I have two completely contradictory views on what is unfolding in Iran.

First, within the United States, Republicans are winning the Iranian presidential election. They are demanding tough words and concrete actions. Politicians will always play to their “base,” and the Republican base feels frustrated and helpless watching events in Iran. There is a tremendous temptation to “do something.” Something. Yet nothing could be more detrimental to the foreign policy interests of the United States.

Second, despite criticism of Obama’s restrained approach, and perhaps despite Obama’s own misguided beliefs behind his limited actions, his policy in Iran is the correct one.

Obama is caught in a situation where he will almost certainly lose politically, but where has to run the risk of loss in order to maintain the strategic stability of his foreign policy.

Published reports Saturday night indicated that presidential candidate Mir Hussein Moussavi has stated he is ready for “martyrdom.” If this statement is true, then the challenge facing Obama has just metastasized far beyond his control.

No revolution can survive without a martyr; indeed, every revolution often begins with an act of self-denial and martyrdom. “Martyr” comes from the Greek word for “witness” and can invoke both observation and testimony or disclosure.

The long night I endured thirty years when I risked my life and was arrested, occurred in Moussavi’s home town of Tabriz, located in the Azerbaijan region of Iran. Moussavi’s “roots” become critical to comprehending what he has now done and to explaining where the Iranian civil war is headed. Azerbaijan is a very different part of Iran. Although Moussavi’s strongest support comes from the great urban areas, including Tabriz, Azerbaijani Moussavi’s independent streak is driving his willingness to suffer the consequences of risking his life.

The leading opposition ayatollah to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was an Azerbaijani. No doubt that rebel religious leader (who favored a form of government nearer to separation of church and state) was close to Moussavi. No one has previously made this connection; but now it is out in the open. The Azerbaijani angle will prove crucial in the days ahead.

What transpires inside a human being when they literally move beyond their own bodies to become a sacrificial vessel for rebellion or revolution? No one really knows. If Moussavi has indeed passed into that zone, where he has abandoned and renounced his own personal needs, he has become the missile that will hit the ruling junta in Tehran with lethal impact.

The Russian Revolution managed to hang on for seventy years. That was in an age when communications were nonexistent to primitive. Today communications are instantaneous.

The thirty-year-old “Islamic” revolution appears to have reached its end on a truncated timetable.

Abraham Lincoln was not elected to wage a civil war; he sought to save the union. He ended up fighting a war in order to succeed. Gorbachev and Yeltsin did not believe their demands for reform would bring down the Soviet empire; on the contrary their goal was to preserve and liberalize the existing system. But they demolished a government that was already dead.

Likewise, Moussavi did not become a presidential candidate to eradicate the Islamic revolution. But he too has fallen into the unplumbed and uncontrollable clutches of history. He has become a martyr to, of all things, open and honest elections, freedom of speech and respect for the human rights of every individual.

Republicans and conservatives, of course, are demanding stirring rhetoric strong action from Obama. But this is one time when Obama must stand virtually mute. Yes, he has proclaimed support for universal rights of peaceful assembly and free speech. And yes, as bloodshed escalates his remarks can also increase in intensity. But no, the Republicans are wrong.

It is precisely by being a bystander that America will exercise its greatest influence over events. The very essence of a civil war is that the conflict is between two competing domestic narratives. When the conflict is between slavery and freedom, there is very little outsiders can add. When the test concerns communism versus free markets, likewise bystanders are helpless. When the question is whether there will be separation of mullah and state, no one can insert themselves into this most personal of conflicts.

Ironically, Obama faces a multiplied and magnified threat of the same dimension I faced thirty years ago. If I had fought back, or raised my voice, I was a dead man (a rifle was pointed at me). I had to stay quiet. It was wrenching. A friend who came to my aid and raised his voice was threatened with getting both of us shot. I said “thanks,” and asked him to go away. I had no idea what I faced, but I knew I had to stay calm and stand still. And alone.

In a global sense, Obama faces the identical crossroads. He sees the Republicans nipping at his heels, and he probably wants to offer more vigorous encouragement to the demonstrators. He certainly sees that his carefully calibrated approach to Iran, seeking a deal with the existing regime, is disintegrating.

Because U. S. understanding of Iran is notoriously deficient, Obama has been given no clear conception of what could unfold (he better be reading this column). So he is antsy. And so is his staff. Who expected the “great challenge” to come from a civil war in Iran? Who?

How do you respond to a civil war? How do you react when people of a nation are killing each other, when neighbor is bludgeoning neighbor, when literally “all hell breaks lose?”

Throughout the Cold War American leaders repeatedly faced similar challenges.

President Eisenhower was urged to “bomb Hanoi.” In 1954. He resisted the temptation. Two years later, the Hungarian revolution created calls for direct U. S. action. Ike again resisted calls for intervention.

In 1968, I sat on the Danang River in Vietnam and watched from the sidelines as a revolution unfolded in Czechoslovakia. Then came the Russian invasion. Alexander Dubcek was the martyr in that conflict.

During the Islamic revolution in 1979, President Carter was castigated for failing to attack to free the U. S. Embassy hostages. In all of the foregoing instances, “conservatives” called for robust action, and action was exactly the wrong approach.

Ronald Reagan finally won the Cold War without ever dropping a bomb or launching an invasion in Europe. The Soviet Union imploded without any U. S. action. Reagan made the hostages “too hot to handle” and the ayatollahs relented.

The “Islamic Revolution” is now doomed. But whether it falls in five hours or five days or five months or five years, America is helpless to determine. Much as we like to think we can influence, and even control, events we are helpless observers as the civil war in Iran expands.

No, Islam is not going to disappear as a force in Iran. But Islam as a controlling set of principles to organize a complex modern society has failed.

The inevitable “liberalization” which we are likely to see in the months and years ahead will not be because American military power was projected anywhere, but simply as an unanticipated dividend of the implosion of the Iranian theocracy.

The sixty years of the Soviet empire are likely to be compressed as a result of modern communications into the thirty years of the doomed Islamic experiment.

No one, not even the anointed one some people have been waiting for, Obama himself, can control the pace of the Iranian civil war. No one.

Politically, Obama has been thrust into the same situation as Jimmy Carter. He appears weak because he can’t project strength. If he attempts to act strong, he will be immeasurably weakened.

So what does all of this mean politically?

First, Obama is not acting because he is powerless to act. There is no time at which a foreign military power is as helpless as when another nation is undergoing the catharsis of a civil war.

Second, Obama will pay a price domestically for exercising restraint internationally. He is powerless to do otherwise.

Third, ultimately the 2010 election is not going to turn on what happens in Iran. Iran was a problem, and Iran will continue to be problem. Obama’s star will rise or fall not based on what happens in and what comes of the Iranian civil war. Obama’s political prospects are controlled by the American economy and nothing else.

In closing, I am reminded once again of the great legacy we received from the founding generation of Americans: separation of church and state.

America has no “established” church and yet we are the most religions of nations. Mullahs have tried to impose Islam on a great nation. The people of Iran are in rebellion. All they are asking for is the freedom to choose. To choose when and when not to pray; how and how not to dress; when and when not to think as they wish.

But whether a dictatorship is run by religious extremists in Iran, or political extremists in the former Soviet empire, or by a local madman as in Venezuela, these regimes inevitably collapse.

This I know: On Monday, June 22nd the United States of America will open for business. Some of us love Barack Obama (I am not among that deluded minority) and some of us reject Obama (yes, that’s me) and some of us are disillusioned with Obama (a growing group). We will have our say, and we will vote in adequate but not perfect elections in 2010.

We have room for Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow on one side and Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly on the other, and everyone in between and even outside those four corners (I’m in there somewhere). And out of this great gumbo every day there comes a national commitment to peaceful debate and decision.

So, God bless America. And please ask him to keep his mitts off our government. Right now he has his hands full in Iran.

I wish the wonderful people of Iran peace and freedom. It is your battle to win or lose. Today, tomorrow, whenever. Your “religious republic” is dead. What will follow in its place, and when, is unknown. As for Mr. Moussavi, “welcome to the club.” History called. You answered. Now what?

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Andy Martin is a legendary Chicago muckraker, author, Internet columnist, radio talk show host, broadcaster and media critic. He has over forty years of broadcasting background in radio and television and is the dean of Illinois media and communications. He is currently promoting his best-selling book, Obama: The Man Behind The Mask and producing the new Internet movie “Obama: The Hawai’i years.” Andy is the Executive Editor and publisher of

Martin comments on regional, national and world events with more than four decades of experience. He has over forty years of experience in Asia and the Middle East, and is regarded overseas as America’s most respected independent foreign policy, military and intelligence analyst. He holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Illinois College of Law and is a former adjunct professor of law at the City University of New York. He is an announced candidate for Barack Obama’s former U. S. Senate seat.


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Blogger Solidus said...

I also believe that a civil war have taken place in Iran. First I would like to mention the government’s classification of the society according the supreme leader and his cohorts.

1- The ones who keep allegiance with the government i.e. the ‘friendly ones’
2- The ones who are part of the government but do not abide by supreme leader i.e. the ‘unfriendly ones’
The friendly ones have always wanted their own people within the government but disappointingly had to share their power with the unfriendly ones. The first time that Khatami emerged into the political arena people were almost jaded by the election’s fiasco and government had inferred that it could win the elections if it squandered money on urban areas and if it called on IRGC and paramilitary basij forces to vote for pro-government candidates( or friendly ones). In fact the government’s policy failed about Khatami to some extends since they harshly curbed his activities.

In the recent elections the same policy was again followed but this time with a greater resolve. On the one hand Musavi’s candidacy was assented in order to instigate people to ballot but on the other hand Mr.Khamnei personally stated his stance by taking Ahmadinijad’s side which led to IRGC commander’s declaration of their will to defend a phenomenon named after Ahmadinijad.

Mr.Musavi’s latest declaration issued on June 21st in noteworthy of mentioning. He has noted people that: “Do not let the deceivers to steal your pioneering role in defending the revolution’s (1978 revolution) yielded virtues”. In the contrast Ayatollah Khamnei’s mouthpieces have publicly issued a religious decree calling street protests a big sin.

This has been enough to cut the society into two opposite parts and to make people take sides on the political game in which the friendly ones are clashing with unfriendly ones while both accuse each other to have derailed from Islam and 1978’s revolutionary virtues.

But from the people’s perspective who is not really involved with so called revolution’s virtues, there exists a totalitarian system that has to be taken down so that Musavi or anyone else is an excuse for such intent. As an Azerbaijanis I am a proponent of Mr.Musavi in spite of the fact that he is part of the system that has devastated South Azerbaijan (we use South Azerbaijan to refer to the Turkic provinces within Iran). The reason is that I can legalize my fight this way within the Iranian definition of Law.

3:26 PM  

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