Thursday, March 31, 2011

Where Is The Outrage?

by Abbas Milani

New Republic

March 30, 2011

For 42 years, the world did business with Muammar Qaddafi, even as it knew about the brutality he was inflicting on his own people. Too often, there was no outrage in the West about Qaddafi’s crimes. Now, if the same pattern is not to be repeated in Iran, one must ask: Where is the outrage about that country’s endemic brutality and its kleptocratic theocracy? Specifically, where is the outrage about the fact that the four leading figures of the Green Movement—Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karubi, as well as their equally defiant wives, Zahra Rahnavard and Fateme Karubi—have been under arrest now for six weeks? While military intervention in Iran is not an option as it was in Libya, it would still be helpful and morally justified if the world didn’t forget about the serious crimes that are taking place there on a daily basis—and if American leaders showed more consistent outrage about the plight of the Iranian people.

Over the course of three decades, the Islamic Republic has unleashed a reign of terror on Iran, arresting tens of thousands, executing several thousand, and forcing some three million Iranians—including hundreds of journalists, writers, dissidents, scientists, physicians, scholars, and entrepreneurs—into forced exile. In 1988 alone, according to numerous credible reports, on direct order of Ayatollah Khomeini, close to 4,000 prisoners, serving time on earlier charges, were summarily executed in what was clearly a crime against humanity. If one adds up all the bloodshed and violence in Iran since 1979, there is hardly a regime in the Middle East, including Syria’s and Libya’s, that has shed as much blood and caused as much heartbreak to keep its despotic hold on power. The ruling regime in Iran—effectively at this point a partnership between Ayatollah Khamenei and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps—is literally and metaphorically getting away with murder.

Yet, in recent weeks, even as Tehran has put Green Movement leaders under house arrest and cracked down on protesters, developments around the world have helped it to escape scrutiny. There have been occasional exceptions to this pattern—such as a strong March 21 Persian New Year message from President Obama, in which he made clear that he stands with the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people—but, for the most part, the revolt in Egypt, the war in Libya, and the devastating earthquake in Japan have pushed Iran off the front pages. Moreover, the ill-advised Saudi incursion into Bahrain has provided the Iranian regime with an occasion to grandstand about siding with the democratic aspirations of the people there.