Sunday, June 21, 2009

My agreements with Iran's protesters

Iran's government is in need of reform. And as thankful as I am that there is at least one country in the region that is not either directly occupied by the US or ruled by a pro-US stooge dictator, Iran would be even more effective at standing for the values of its citizens if it offered its people more freedom.

A large amount of Iran's wealth is taken out of its normal economy and redirected towards people and groups with ties to the Iranian government. If I could make one reform in Iran, it would be that this corruption would be cleaned up.

On the issue of the economy, we do have to remember that the US is working as diligently as it can, even under Obama, to hamper Iran's economic growth because US policy-makers correctly see a wealthy but still independent Iran as a strategic threat to Israel. Even countries that at the moment are reliably under US control, Egypt for example, have Western-imposed limits on their access to technology for this reason.

Any independent Iranian government would face economic hostility from the West and it is only partially fair to put the responsibility of every economic shortcoming in Iran on the shoulders of Iran's present regime.

So given that Iran will necessarily be confronted by richer nations that have an interest in keeping Iran poor, it is all the more important that opportunities be spread evenly to the people with the most talent, instead of distorting the economy in favor of those with family in religious or government positions.

Iran is also a country with a large Muslim population. Religious people have a tendency to want their religious views reflected by their government. Iran should and must do a much better job allowing every Iranian to make his or her own personal decisions regarding religion.

Iran's government does, in its constitution and the statements of its leaders, show respect for the institution of voting. Somehow Iran has to come up with a way to produce candidates for office that is open to all Iranian viewpoints but it not subject to foreign manipulation the way the elections of 1953 were. That is a hard problem to solve. The current system where all candidates are vetted by the Guardian Council is in need of major improvements. I'm not sure what specific improvements to suggest though, because there are a lot of resources that would be devoted to installing a new Shah if it was possible.

I'm writing this to be clear that I do not believe the current Iranian regime is beyond reproach, or that I'll always support it because it is the enemy of my enemy. But in a fundamental way, my opinions on Iran's government cannot supercede the views of the Iranian people.

While I do believe Iran's government has many problems and there are a lot of areas that it should reform, I do not want to see Iran's government replaced either by chaos or by one of the region's usual stooge dictatorships. I was worried at points during the election dispute that the road might have lead to one of those outcomes, worse than Iran's current situation.

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