Daniel Korski

Iran’s Dubček moment

Iran's Dubček moment
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Even though the Second Iranian Revolution may, for the time being, be quelled by the Mullahs, many different foreign policy factions in the West see the events of the last few weeks as good for their preferred Iran policy.

Writing in the Guardian, Jonathan Freedland argued it has helped the anti-war contingent. Now that the world has seen how freedom-yearning Iran's youth is, how can anyone condone a bombing campaign against Iran's nuclear facilities that may kill some of the Twitter-using students?

But a very senior US official, who spoke on background, told me that the State Department, at least, see the incipient revolution as good for its potential post-engagement Iran policy. How, the rhetorical question went, can Europeans ask for leniency towards the regime when it has shown itself to be so barbarous?

Others, in turn, have worried that the unrest will make the Iranian regime even more eager for a nuclear weapon. Better for Ayatollah Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad to move the conversation on from the election (which divides Iranians) and onto nuclear enrichment (which unites Iranians).

I belong to the group who think the world is different today than a few weeks ago. The regime may speed up their nuclear programme but it is hard to see how they could get more serious than they already are.

Yet it is absolutely clear now that many Iranians (probably a majority) want to live in a normal, Islamic democracy that looks more like Turkey. The people filling the streets, confronting the regime's thugs and yelling from their rooftops at night have now had their "Dubček moment",  something only the neoconservatives believed in a few years ago. But just as the events in 1968 in Prague signalled the end of Communist Czechoslovakia it took 30 years before that end finally came. In the intervening time, many innocent people had to die. But there was an end.

The Second Iranian Revolution can be delayed, at a high human cost; but it cannot be deterred. The "Arc of History" does bend towards freedom. That means Iran will have a different government in my lifetime, one that can be trusted with nuclear technology. In the meantime, if Iran does not take up Obama's engagement offer when it ends in a year's time there will likely be more support for coercive measures including sanctions.