If you want to get a sense of the depth of the hatred of the Iranian people toward the regime that has ruined their country and made their lives an unremitting misery, you have only to look at the remarkable sermon preached in Tehran by the Ayatollah Ahmad Janati on December 20. The Ayatollah Janati is one of the regime’s most-influential and authoritative figures, since he is the head of the Council of Guardians, the final voice on policy and theological matters, so it is worthwhile to pay close attention to his words.
He spent a lot of time on the very hot topic of public-opinion polls in Iran. Several unfortunate souls are being tortured in Iranian prisons for the crime of asking the Iranian people what they think about their leaders, and then publishing the extremely negative results. Janati, in language that would have made Stalin blush, defines those involved in the process — whether answering pollsters’ questions or announcing the results publicly — as enemy agents.
His rage was kindled by a recent poll in Isfahan — long the most politically active city in the country, the center of support for Khomeini during the revolution of 1979, and today the city that supports the regime’s most-effective clerical opponents, the Ayatollahs Montazeri and Taheri — in which the people were asked two very important questions about recent Iranian history. The first was why the revolution had succeeded. The second was whether they felt the sacrifices of the Iranian people in the long war against Iraq were justified.
The answers to the first question were shocking (so shocking, in fact, that I doubt the figures are accurate): 70 percent said that the British and the Americans wanted to create turmoil in the country for pursuing their own interests and 25 percent said that the Shah was ineffective and did not put up an effective resistance, and thus his regime fell. No one said anything about Khomeini’s efforts.
The answers to the second question — do you think our sacrifices were justified? — were equally devastating. In Janati’s own words, “85 percent said we deplore what we did and we wish we would not have sent our children and we regret that we participated…in these efforts. The same percentage have also said that we deeply regret that a revolution took place in Iran and they say why we should have a revolution?!”
Then Janati accused the Ministry of Information of failing to carry out its responsibilities. Why are not such people being dealt with harshly? Why are they left free to spread their subversive ideas and support our enemies?
These are the words of a regime that knows its days are numbered. Whatever the real numbers (surely there was at least one poor soul in Isfahan who thought Khomeini had something to do with the downfall of the shah), the overwhelming majority of the Iranian people have turned thumbs down on their leaders, and they are not the least bit afraid to say so. Indeed, with every passing week, violent action against the regime intensifies. Over the past few days there have been armed battles in several cities, most notably in the Ahvaz region, where an oil pumping station was burned to the ground by an enraged mob, and pictures of Supreme Leader Khamenei, former President Rafsanjani, and the hapless current President Khatami were burned in effigy. In the oil region of Khuzestan, there have been violent clashes between demonstrators and security forces, and oil workers are now joining the demonstrations. In coming days there will be demonstrations by teachers and women — celebrating the anniversary of the happy day when women were freed of the obligation of wearing the hijab decades ago.
Meanwhile, as President Bush prepares us for the coming battles, the leaders of the regime are doing the same, providing Hezbollah and its allies in al Qaeda, Islamic Jihad, and Hamas with better weapons — including new missiles of North Korean design with chemical-laden warheads — and coordinating stratagems with Baghdad and Damascus. As I have warned in the past, we had better be prepared for a regional war, not just a limited action in Iraq alone.
Had we acted quickly after the fall of the Taliban, we could have had the luxury of moving deliberately against Iraq without having to worry about effective assaults organized by Syria and Iran, but those days are long gone. The terror masters are now waiting for us, and the brutal language of the Ayatollah Janati suggests that they are simultaneously preparing to use the outbreak of fighting in Iraq as an excuse for a new, more-terrible repression of the long-suffering Iranian people.
Why else would you define truthful answers to simple questions as treason? And why else would you accuse an entire city of working for the enemy?
— Michael Ledeen, an NRO contributing editor, is most recently the author of The War Against the Terror Masters. Ledeen, Resident Scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute, can be reached through Benador Associates.