The Corner

What Are Iran’s Plans Now that Mubarak Is Out? What Are Ours?

Berlin — Today marks the 32nd anniversary of Khomeini’s Islamic revolution in Iran, just as the Iranian regime, while falsely claiming to support Egyptians’ right to assemble and protest, employs heavy-handed tactics to suppress demonstrations in Tehran. The failure of the West to energetically confront Iran’s bellicose policies might very well be revealed in the post-Mubarak era.

Iran’s understanding of a new Egyptian political system mirrors the fiercely anti-democratic goals of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. That helps to explain why a top Brotherhood official, Kamal al-Halbavi, says he seeks “a good government, like the Iranian government, and a good president like Mr. Ahmadinejad, who is very brave.”

If the West, particularly the Obama administration, is serious about the business of democracy-promotion in Egypt and in the Muslim world, then an accelerated round of hard-hitting sanctions ought to be implemented against Iran’s energy sector. Iran’s authoritarian regime, like those of many Arab countries, is economically fragile; the key is to turn the sanctions screws on imports of Iranian crude oil to India, Italy, and China. Crude-oil sanctions targeting Iran serve the twin goals of advancing democracy in Egypt and perhaps contributing to the demise of the Iranian regime.

Moreover, EU countries should follow the example of the Netherlands, which this past week recalled its ambassador to protest the Iranian regime’s wretched human-rights record — the first EU country to do so. A 45-year-old Dutch-Iranian woman named Zahra Bahrami was hanged last month, an execution termed by Dutch foreign minister Uri Rosenthal a “shocking act of a barbaric regime.” Bahrami’s “crime”? To replicate what Egyptian protestors are doing — namely, to demonstrate for more democracy. She participated in the 2009 demonstrations against the fraudulent election of Ahmadinejad. Iran’s judiciary framed her, alleging she smuggled narcotics.

In short, democratic change in Egypt is arguably contingent on blocking the spread of revolutionary Iranian Islam in the Middle East.

Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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