Fareed Zakaria at PostGlobal

Fareed Zakaria

Editor of Newsweek International, columnist

PostGlobal co-moderator Fareed Zakaria is editor of Newsweek International, overseeing all Newsweek's editions abroad. He writes a regular column for Newsweek, which also appears in Newsweek International and often The Washington Post. He is a member of the roundtable of ABC News' "This Week with George Stephanapoulos" as well as an analyst for ABC News. And he is the host of a new weekly PBS show, "Foreign Exchange" which focuses on international affairs. His most recent book, "The Future of Freedom," was published in the spring of 2003 and was a New York Times bestseller and is being translated into eighteen languages. He is also the author of "From Wealth to Power: The Unusual Origins of America's World Role" (Princeton University Press), and co-editor of "The American Encounter: The United States and the Making of the Modern World" (Basic Books). Close.

Fareed Zakaria

Editor of Newsweek International, columnist

PostGlobal co-moderator Fareed Zakaria is editor of Newsweek International, overseeing all Newsweek's editions abroad. He writes a regular column for Newsweek, which also appears in Newsweek International and often The Washington Post. more »

Main Page | Fareed Zakaria Archives | PostGlobal Archives

No Velvet Revolution for Iran

When we see the kinds of images that have been coming out of Iran over the past two weeks, we tend to think back to 1989 and Eastern Europe. Then, when people took to the streets and challenged their governments, those seemingly stable regimes proved to be hollow and quickly collapsed. What emerged was liberal democracy. Could Iran yet undergo its own velvet revolution?

It's possible but unlikely. While the regime's legitimacy has cracked -- a fatal wound in the long run -- for now it will probably be able to use its guns and money to consolidate power. And it has plenty of both. Remember, the price of oil was less than $20 a barrel back in 1989. It is $69 now. More important, as Zbigniew Brzezinski has pointed out, 1989 was highly unusual. As a historical precedent, it has not proved a useful guide to other antidictatorial movements.

The three most powerful forces in the modern world are democracy, religion and nationalism. In 1989 in Eastern Europe, all three were arrayed against the ruling regimes. Citizens hated their governments because they deprived people of liberty and political participation. Believers despised communists because they were atheistic, banning religion in countries where faith was deeply cherished. And people rejected their regimes because they saw them as imposed from the outside by a much-disliked imperial power, the Soviet Union.

The situation in Iran is more complex. Democracy clearly works against this repressive regime. The forces of religion, however, are not so easily aligned against it. Many, possibly most, Iranians appear to be fed up with theocracy. But that does not mean they are fed up with religion. And it does appear that the more openly devout Iranians -- the poor, those in rural areas -- voted for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

There is one way religion could be used against Iran's leaders, but it would involve an unlikely scenario: Were Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani to issue a fatwa condemning Tehran from his base in Najaf, Iraq, it would be a seismic event, probably resulting in the regime's collapse. Remember, Sistani is Iranian, probably more revered in the entire Shiite world than any other ayatollah, and he is opposed to the basic doctrine of velayat-e faqih -- rule by a spiritual leader -- that created the Islamic Republic of Iran. His own view is that clerics should not be involved in politics, which is why he has steered clear of any such role in Iraq. But he is unlikely to publicly criticize the Iranian regime (though he did refuse to see Ahmadinejad when the latter visited Iraq in March 2008).

Nationalism is the most complex of the three forces. Over most of its history, the Iranian regime has exploited nationalist sentiment. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini came to power by battling the shah, who was widely seen as an American puppet. Soon after the revolution, Iraq attacked Iran, and the mullahs again wrapped themselves in the flag. The United States supported Iraq in that war, ignoring Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons against Iranians -- something Iranians have never forgotten. The Bush administration's veiled threats to attack Iran over the past eight years allowed the mullahs to drum up support. (Every Iranian dissident, from Akbar Ganji to Shirin Ebadi, has noted that talk of air strikes on Iran strengthened the regime.) And it is worth remembering that the United States still funds guerrilla outfits and opposition groups that are trying to topple the Islamic Republic. Most of these are tiny groups with no chance of success, funded largely to appease right-wing members of Congress. But the Tehran government is able to portray this as an ongoing anti-Iranian campaign.

In this context, President Obama has been right to tread cautiously -- for the most part -- to extend his moral support to Iranian protesters but not get politically involved. The United States has always underestimated the raw power of nationalism across the world, assuming that people will not be taken in by cheap and transparent appeals against foreign domination. But look at what is happening in Iraq, where Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki boasts that U.S. troop withdrawals are a "a heroic repulsion of the foreign occupiers." Of course Maliki would not be in office but for those occupying forces, who protect his government to this day. A canny politician, though, he knows what will appeal to the Iraqi people.

Ahmadinejad is also a politician with considerable mass appeal. He knows that accusing the United States and Britain of interference works in some quarters. Our effort should be to make sure that those accusations seem as loony and baseless as possible. Were President Obama to get out in front, vociferously supporting the protests, he would be helping Ahmadinejad's strategy, not America's.

The writer is editor of Newsweek International and co-host of PostGlobal, an online discussion of international issues. His e-mail address is comments@fareedzakaria.com

Comments (56)

AbuNawas Author Profile Page:


He gets paid to write all that hype and empty slogans.

He will not stand a chance to discuss the Middle East with someone who is actually from there on Al-Jazeera.

I dare Fareed Zakaria to go on Al-Jazeera.

On Newsweek, no one has a clue about the subject he is writing about to begin with.

ordak100 Author Profile Page:

Mr. Zakaria is still searching for the elusive Cakewalk (and WMDs) in Iraq and some how his computer has developed a short circuit to put it all in a blender with "Velvet Revolutions" and "Regime" and a few other trendy, reactionary words. That is all.

The fact remains that when 80+% of Iranians go to vote, they have accepted the system in their country and that is a system of government, not a "regime".

Americans never used such bold, reactionary vocabulary against the USSR or China (both communist countries with no elections). But again, since Eisenhower, Americans are still waiting for Cuba to collapse within 6 months! ha, ha, ha......

AbuNawas Author Profile Page:

Fareed Zakaria is neither Arab or Iranian. He is not even Middle Eastern and he does not speak either of the languages spoken in Iran or the Arab world.

Someone please tell us one single thing this violent demagogue got right about the ARAB or the PERSIAN Middle East in the last 8 years.

Fareed Zakaria is Indian, folks. He is not from the Middle East.

I call on the international court to go after individuals like Fareed Zakaria who have directly and openly called for the use of violence against entire nations.

To all people of conscience in the Middle East:

Do not welcome Fareed Zakaria in your countries. Violent individuals like him should be sent to the Hague to stand for his role in putting millions of innocent lives at risk.

To all people of conscience in Iran:

Just think of what would happen to you if Zakaria called for bombing your country.

The violence Fareed Zakaria feels entitled to call for and justify with impunity has killed 1 million innocent people in Iraq.

The reason people like Zakaria continue to use their positions to promote violence is because they are not held accountable.

We can make these killings and destructions stop.

daveprice74 Author Profile Page:

You know what's odd? Every time I hear this liberal canard about how Iranians resent American "support" for Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war -- which amounted to a handshake and a smile, during a period when Iraq was the world's largest importer of arms -- I never hear any mention of the possibility they might be grateful we spent much longer containing and ultimately removing their mortal enemy.

Wouldn't it make more sense for them to resent the French, Germans, and Russians who were arming Iraq (at considerable profit) and opposed Saddam's removal?

This is a bigger deal than most people realize. For decades, Iranians were cut off from Najaf. Now millions of them visit Iraq every year -- where they now see real democracy, which is why they're now demanding their own.

knjincvc Author Profile Page:

chatard Posted June 29, 2009 8:32 PM
"Lame column; lame apology for Obama's ineptness."

You are repeating someones talking points.
cheney/bush left the USA in a VERY deep hole, which of course was their intended goal. Plus create fear of everything.
Do you recall in 2004 GWB wanted to invest Social Security funds in the stock market, he knew the market was tanking and his Hail Mary was to divert SS to the market. That would have saved him and destroyed our safety net which has been corporatist republican goal for years.

POTUS Obama played the Iranian situation correctly, another war is not in the best interest of the USA.
If you believe it is then get ready to bring back the draft, are you willing to do that??
Probably not!

salmunalfarsi Author Profile Page:

cyberfool : "It is said that the Iranian power structure wants 3 things: National control, influence over the Shia crescent and to be recognized as a major player in the Islamic Conference (OIC) and in that order. Well, they maintained national control."

You might consider the idea that a small group of immams and Council 'experts' (who incidently control the Guard, Hezbollah, Hamaz, Basra and Kuwaiti Shiite 'special groups' and the large 'special group' of their former territory in Azerbaijan) around the Supreme Leader in Iran might have a much larger ambition than the Crescent and OIC. There is considerable evidence coming from Qum, Iran through Baghdad (an Iranian word itself) that the Supreme Leader might be attempting to create a new Caliphate that all of Islam is supposed to surrender to. Such a Caliphate is also in a position, after nuclearization, to control slightly less than two thirds of the world's remaining consumable energy. That would explain why nearly half of the oil revenue in the country goes to international operations rather than the Iranian people who 'own' it and why the 'Calphate' is so adament about opposition and transperancy.

nacllcan Author Profile Page:

Fareed Zakaria point about Sistani is sound. But he twists the truth when he says of the Iran/Iraq war: "The United States supported Iraq in that war, ignoring Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons against Iranians".

Saddam Hussein attacked Iran when there were no diplomatic relations between the US and Iraq which was on America's rogue nation list. Relations had dissolved in 1967 and would not resume until November 1984. Consequently not so much as a US made bullet was in Iraq's huge and modern arsenal when Saddam attacked. His weapon suppliers were Russia, France, China, Germany, etc., but not America. Two months into the war Iraq attacked Susengard with chemical weapons. Soon Iran replied with its own mustard gas attacks. It was the USSR which trained Iraq's poison gas technicians in Leningrad, and the French and Germans who sold Saddam cutting edge, billion dollar chemical labs, who supported that, not the US.

At the outset of the conflict it was Iran that received US military aid. It was the US whom the Iraqis hated. The USS Stark was later struck by two French made Iraqi Exocet missile fired from a French made, Iraqi F-1 Mirage that killed 37 sailors. The pilot was supposed to have been punished, he never was.

Only when successful Iranian counterattacks threatened to break into the Gulf and put the Ayatollah's hands on the oil faucets, America's jugular, did the US intervene. We stiffened the failing Iraqi army with satellite intelligence, so that it could anticipate Iran's thrusts. In 1990 the authoritative Swedish arms watchdog SIPRI, found that less than 1% of Iraq's arsenal had a US provenance.

Fareed Zakaria plays into the fiction that Saddam was a US creature, that he was tacitly acting on behalf of the US in attacking Iran which was holding US hostages, and that his chemical warfare, was US supported.

He is not a straight shooter.

chatard Author Profile Page:

Lame column; lame apology for Obama's ineptness. Did the United States underestimate Latvia, lithuania, Estonia, Poland and dozens more? 1989 was "highly unusual"??? 1989 was the culmination of meaningful, forceful, intelligent, moral foreign policy. 1989 was a hallmark. 1989 was a shining city on a hill. 1989 was America - a force for good. Brzezinski is less than a footnote in history. No one knows who he is, let alone cares what he says. It is the same old sad story for the poor, the oppressed, the unfree - whether in America or abroad. The left wing elite in America is happiest as long as the poor, the oppressed and the unfree maintain that status.

edbyronadams Author Profile Page:

"I wonder if any of Fareed's readers have considered the possibility that the Iranian regime would like nothing better than to provoke a military confrontation with the United States, in order to "unite" the country against an external threat and thereby preserve the revolution?"

That has certainly occurred to me and seems much more likely than the pie-in-the-sky scenario spun by E.J. Dionne last week that Iranian weakness could lead to genuine negotiations with the US.

Soulstranger Author Profile Page:

The legitimacy of the current regime in Iran will depend on it's ability, over time, to satisfy the needs of its people.
From an economic perspective, the regime is a failure. There may be an analogy with the Soviet Union, in that regard.
I wonder if any of Fareed's readers have considered the possibility that the Iranian regime would like nothing better than to provoke a military confrontation with the United States, in order to "unite" the country against an external threat and thereby preserve the revolution?
The best indication of the fragility of the Islamic Republic, from the perspective of its leaders, might be its willingness to engage in behavior that could lead to a military conflict.
From that perspective, perhaps we should key an eye out for Iranian adventurism in Iraq and/or Lebanon over the next several months.

knjincvc Author Profile Page:

eheath1 Posted June 29, 2009 3:48 PM
"The neo-cons who mock President Obama and his diplomatic style want to create as much tension and violence as possible in Iran, to get the next war going. It gives their lives meaning.

Attacking Iran will have the same affect as invading Iraq.

Oil prices will skyrocket, that's what gives their lives meaning.
Follow the money!!

fgoepfert1 Author Profile Page:

This sounds like more Obama camp MSM spin.
The only reality is that that Iran, Israel, China and N. Korea, Russia, and much of Central and South America will run Obama into the ground, as he tries to shape the world for his Saudi puppet masters.

dmfarooq Author Profile Page:

Mr. Zakaria : You have correctly noted that "... where Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki boasts that U.S. troop withdrawals are a "a heroic repulsion of the foreign occupiers." Of course Maliki would not be in office but for those occupying forces, who protect his government to this day. " . President Obama's measured , restrained and targeted reaction on Iran situation has been the correct policy . I believe the U .S . should keep supporting democratic forces in Iran for empowering all the people at the lowest economic echelons , students and pro democracy forces . I believe the Iranian people have become enlightened enough to reject mullahs' control over their national aspirations . In the final analyses it is the Iranian people who matter most , to determine the path they will take to freedom . Nevertheless , unlike Russia Iran has oil revenue , a disciplined security force , and great Satan as enemy to unite a substantial political force in Iran . The ruling elite including Mullahs junta will exploit these resources to face and control political unrest for a while . It is hard to predict any time frame or direction where the current Iranian political unrest is headed to ! We will witness a change sooner than later .

jewishmother Author Profile Page:

The author writes: "Our effort should be to make sure that those accusations seem as loony and baseless as possible."

"OUR" effort? Who the hell are "we"? What's wrong with this paid for Muslim sellout/MOONAFIQ (hypocrite)?

You, my friend, are alone with Obama and Bibi and a handful of wright-wing nuts on this. The rest of us are more afraid of empire than we are of Iranian internal politics.

He writes that we should "make sure Iran's accusations seem as loony and baseless as possible". But but but... The accusations of the Iranian regime vis-a-vis our orchestrating a coup attempt in Iran are not loony or baseless. What's with this "SEEM LIKE" thing? As in through media control?

What an embarassment, this guy. I hope his mother can't read.

W O W!!! What a lack of shame!

cyberfool Author Profile Page:

It is said that the Iranian power structure wants 3 things: National control, influence over the Shia crescent and to be recognized as a major player in the Islamic Conference (OIC) and in that order. Well, they maintained national control.

The real casualty in this is the Iranian dream of the emerging Shia crescent. Very little has been mentioned about this. But the theory was that the accendancy of an anti-western Iran and the overthrow of Saddam would allow the Shia to take charge in Iraq & Lebanon and have influence in Syria and possibly even take control in other Arab countries. The problem is that the Shia-dominated democracy in Iraq does not seem real keen on the events in Iran and while Lebanon has reasonably free and fair elections, events in Iran don't make people want to follow the Iranian leadership.

As to how their strong-arm tactics will be viewed at the Islamic Conference remains to be seen. Since some repressive governments have blocked access to the news on the unrest, that serves as a litmus test. The ones that blocked the news of the unrest will be reluctant to criticize at the OIC, while the ones that did allow the news to be covered will be reluctant to be too friendly with Iran. In any case, I think they loose influence in this arena, although it will be less costly than in the Shia crescent.

edbyronadams Author Profile Page:

There is no doubt that the mullahs will retain power in Iran but it is at a cost and that cost is high for them. The idea that the government of Iran represents a way forward for oppressed Muslims in the world dies with the naked display of power over a disaffected populace.

From now on, the rhetoric of Tehran and their supported militias across the Muslim world rings hollow.

tariq_mehmood_52 Author Profile Page:

fareed zakria is out of his wits- if he ever had it. He has always played a double game- trying to project himself as a realist while rarely managing to conceal his allegiance to the zionist led war mongers and Islam bashers.His Islamic name is a superb camoflauge.
The demonstration in Iran are merely US sponsored and a despicable effort to weaken the heart-throb Ahmadinijad, not of Iran but of muslim world, including middle east.The so called uprising will evoperate in thin air and Iran will emerge as a role model for other Muslim nations to emulate. Fareed, you can only make a bigger fool of the the otherwise fool Americans and earn the riches .so keep on

GaryEMasters Author Profile Page:

Some things take longer than others. Sooner or later does not mean "never."

cms1 Author Profile Page:

The idea that a revolution is shaping up in Iran is attractive and a hopeful idea for those of us in the West. But, but, but, it certainly is NOT a revolution in any traditional sense.
The Iranian people who rose up were disputing a fraudulent election. They simply demanded that their votes be counted fairly as it appeared to them that an overwhelming victory could not possibly have been declared after only 2 hours.
Remember they are not in the United States where Florida was declared for one person, and then, oops, declared for the other. And, we live in t.v. land where reality changes moment to moment while we sit around believing it.
The Iranian people who are disputing this election put the American citizenry to shame. Where were WE when Florida descended into chaos and the Supreme Court declared itself unable to go along with a recount?
Sitting around, scratching our collective heads, while the neoconservatives ran right over a spineless opposition party and proceeded to create a domestic and international diaster for the whole country.
The Iranian people can expect to be under the yoke of their current leaders for many years as most of the "revolutionary" citizens will be executed.

smfeb2002 Author Profile Page:

I think Fareed underestimates the power of religion, especially in the Islamic world.
Throughout history, there are very few examples of people successfully toppling a religious regime. As was the case of Medieval Europe, religious regimes tend to get corrupt and wither away from the inside rather than be defeated by a revolution from its own believers.
A long economic recession, coupled with infighting among the mullahs, along with increasing free and prosperous neighbors (unlikely anytime soon) is probably a more likely path to Iranian regime change.
This is a Yuppie revolution in Tehran and I suspect it lacks nationwide support.

rkerg Author Profile Page:

After all is said and done, aside from the obvious winners and losers of the election in Iran, one winner is undoubtedly the Likud party of Israel.
These guys have been beating the drums for more than a year for an attack on the suspected nuclear sites in Iran. Last year the Bush administration told them to cool it but that hasn't stopped them from using their lobbyists in DC to continue to push the idea. Now, after this latest Iran outrage,
the American left and right might disagree about what Obama should or could have said when the protests started, but, both the left and right are now less likely to object if the Likudniks of Israel turn up again with another plan to attack Iran.

robinhood2 Author Profile Page:

Man, this guy is really a hater.... Has no spine.. Stand for something and follow through... I will not be a victim...

eheath1 Author Profile Page:

The neo-cons who mock President Obama and his diplomatic style want to create as much tension and violence as possible in Iran, to get the next war going. It gives their lives meaning.

foxjh Author Profile Page:


There is no effort involved in not making accusations. There is only stupidity involved in making them. The fanatics in Iran will believe we meddled anyway, even if the Mullahs don't tell them that. They consider it a fact in any case. But the educated classes won't automatically think we meddled unless we give them a reason to do so. Then they might believe what the regime is telling them. We don't want to give them a basis to do so. Their fate is in their own hands beyond that. We can't make a revolution for them.

jbritt3 Author Profile Page:

I imagine I'm not the first poster here to observe that accusations from the Tehran regime that President Obama has "meddled" in Iran's election seem only to reinforce the conviction that Obama was right to avoid saying anything that might be called "meddling." The point of exerting effort to avoid accusations that were bound to be made in any event is not obvious to me.

We'd do well, in this situation, to think in less apocalyptic terms. The Iranian regime might have inflicted a fatal wound on itself by rigging the vote count of the June 12th election, or it might not. It's not much help to American policy to try and work out historical explanations and analogies about why one or the other is true. Only time will tell us that. What we know is that the Iranian government's action inspired substantial discontent within Iran. Discontent on that scale may not overthrow the government, but it won't be forgotten anytime soon either.

The question is how the United States can take advantage of the situation, seeing that the Iranian government is now the object of suspicion by many of its own people. For the last 30 years, the bane of American policy toward Iran has been a lack of reliable sources of information about Iranian politics and the way its government operates. As long as the Iranian regime were hostile to us and not unpopular among Iranians, this problem was impossible to solve. That's not true any longer.

There have been splits revealed among senior Iranian clerics. The Iranian economy and the government's management of it is under severe criticism in Iran. The Iranian security services have taken a major step forward as a visible pillar of state power. Lastly, the Iranian government felt it necessary to take actions against mass demonstrations that many Iranians regard as arbitrary and unjust. These facts should make possible many opportunities for the United States and its allies to make things more difficult for that government in the months and years to come. We may be better able to take advantage of them if we put ideas about "transformation" and "revolution" on the back burner, recognize that the current Iranian regime is likely to be around for a while, and set about making all the trouble for it we can.

foxjh Author Profile Page:

For once, I generally agree with the comments here. But Obama got it right the first time when he did not make a big deal out of the election. He already had them on the ropes after his Cairo speech, after W. and Cheney had spent 8 years boosting Iran's influence in the Middle East. The subsequent posturing only pleases the U.S. Neocons and Ahmadinejad, who are the last persons in the world you should pay any attention too.

cgillard Author Profile Page:

We should know, the western triumvirate of military-merchant-missionary won us the new world.
With our God on the dollar bill similar to the fresco in the Capitol rotunda of George Washington as God, kind seals the deal on our nationalist religion. The nationalism of all countries has been religious in one manner or other and always gives the soldiers a free pass to heaven in exchange.

maadcet Author Profile Page:

You need to learn a little bit more about that region (India, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan etc). Just knowing the wordprocessing and spell check does not give you the right to disseminate baseless and useless information to the public which is deprived of untainted information to begin with. Just having a Muslim name does not automatically make you an expert on matters you frequently write your opinion. You really remind of some Kori-Chamar from Bombay.

smokberry2002@yahoo.com Author Profile Page:

Iranians will be the last people on earth to gain freedom. The last good leader Iran had was 2500 years ago.
I really don't see much hope for the people.

KarimAbdulTares Author Profile Page:

Brother Fareed, PLEASE have a new photo taken of you. You look scarey, Man. Was it a white guy who took that photo? Let a brother take the next one. And don't wear a white shirt and tie like you are an intern on Wall Street. Put your "native" on, Man.

I read a book once about Iran. Well, not a book really, more like a series of articles. Well, not so much as a series of articles as a bunch of weblog posts to an article like this one.

I'm persuaded that no one understands Iran, least of all the locals. I mean who would have thought that a little rigging in a general election would bring out the Iranian Green Party and a week-long riot in all the urbs? No one. If the Imams had expected that they wouldn't have allowed the election in the first place.

Personally, I believe Mahmoud won the election, and I believe he won it fair and square. The day after the election, the Post published an op-ed piece from two unknowns about polls taken in Iran. The polling results were 2 to 1 in MA's direction, and the vote tallies were the same.

Sure. There were voting irregularities, but that isn't exclusively an Iranian problem. We have that problem here. Democracy is a tough old bird, and just when you think the results are cooked the bird takes another breath and pecks you in the eye.

Obama got great advice when someone told him to keep his mouth shut on the Iranian election. And the administration was doing just that until Biden broke ranks. But Biden is just the crazy old coot who's a heartbeat away from the Oval. No one listens to him.

Then there were the Republican complaints. These guys have no power in Washington, except the power to make Obama dance to their tune. Now Barack has opened his mouth, inserted his Michael Jordans, and made himself appear to lack empathy toward Iran. Was it worth it?

I don't think so. But then I don't understand Iran either.

pgr88 Author Profile Page:

China faced a similar situation in 1989 - it kept political control, but increased economic freedom and opportunity greatly. Iran does not have this option.

Iranian society is in collapse. Drug use is rife, the birth-rate has collapsed, and corruption is rampant. The Mullahs can hold on a while longer, but at what cost? Anyone wishing to destroy Iran once-and-for-all should hope the Mullahs stay in power.

writinron Author Profile Page:

I've heard many comments that Obama isn't doing enough--and very few comments suggesting what he might do. Short of military action, what are his options? He can talk tough and make empty threats in the manner of GWB, and in the course, only strength those whom we seek to weaken.

Keep in mind, Mousavi is no radical. He's Ahmadinejad-light. How much are we willing to spend for so little gain?

Regarding an earlier comment suggesting that the left opposes Bush's "Democracy Agenda" just because it was Bush's agenda:

IF the "Democracy Agenda" has been abandoned, it is not because of Anti-bushism. It is because there is no substance to it. It is a catch phrase--not a plan of action. Here's the "Agenda":

1. Spread Democracy.

In typical Bush fashion, he did the easy part, writing the agenda, and left the difficult details to work themselves out.

The left, and most of the country, have not rejected Bush's Agenda as much as they have rejected the Bush Method. When the right finally gets it, they may be granted a chance to govern again.

Samson151 Author Profile Page:

Two things have come out of this election: first, no one inside or outside Iran regards Achmadinejad as anything but a puppet. Second, no one believes that Khameini is interested in anything but holding on to secular power.

After that, things in Iran get a LOT more complicated.

But the theocracy is in big trouble. Maybe not now, maybe not in the near future, but you can smell it coming.

stephenr1 Author Profile Page:

In his article, Fareed discounted the similarities of the velvet revolution against Communism and the outpouring of dissent in Iran by comparing some of the basic tenets including religion.

In citing releigion in Eastern Europe as being an important contributor, Fareed is wrong.

I came to the Czech Republic soon after the Revolution. The Pope came soon after, and unlike in Poland, where millions turned out for him, the Czechs stayed away. Churches here are poorly attended, and in Prague serve mostly as Concert Halls for the tourists.

So religion, at least as far as this country is concerned is not a factor.

The second point is that Fareed seems relaxed about the complete lack of support Obama has given to those who demonstrated in their millions for their vote to be counted.

He said that by not taking sides, Obama had removed the Iranian's regime ability to blame the US for its interference as a factor for the civil disobedience.

When it became clear that the Supreme Leader (would Obama have addressed Hitler as Der Fuhrer in deference? - Probably) was blaming the US anyway, Fareed seeemd to believe that this proved his point.

I am not sure how he came to such logic.

Normally Fareed is a fair and balanced commentator, but I fear his admiration for Obama is clouding his judgement.

By callously dismissing the Regime in Iran's electoral process and its brutal supression of dissent as a matter of its own business, Obama showed himself to be aloof, out of touch and naive, all at the same time - not an attractive picture of the President of the Free World.

SeedofChange Author Profile Page:

Economy is a very critical factor along with Nationality, Religion and Democracy.

Russia and China are still one party communist nation with guide of Democracy. But the people are tolerating the oppression as the state is delivering.

Same goes with Mideast Mullahs and Kings. In their case, they are totally dependent on oil for their revenue.

Choke the oil lines by finding alternative energy sources. All Middleast ruler will fall.

salmunalfarsi Author Profile Page:

Fareed Zakaria, WaPo: "The situation in Iran is more complex. Democracy clearly works against this repressive regime. The forces of religion, however, are not so easily aligned against it. Many, possibly most, Iranians appear to be fed up with theocracy."

Note the definition of worshippers of Azazel (Shaitan): (1) Their manners are impeccable; they are well groomed; they fit perfectly within any human society. They are likely to be eloquent talkers who lace their speech with impressive human desires. (2) While easily provoked to frustration or rage by believers and especially Kafur, their display of feeling is little more than an illusion. Their consciousness is the will of Azazel. To the nafiqun worshippers, other people are tools to get them what they want: money, sex, and especially power over others. (3) Worshippers of Azazel practice Taggiyah with all they meet and do not repair the damage they've caused to others because the damage was their only intent. When they lie, cheat or steal, the act exists solely for them as nafiqun ; they believe it should have no repercussions or real world effects. (4) Their only quest is to serve themselves in Azazel’s image and, if this entails taggiyah or even dhimmi genocide, they will do so. If one catches them in lies, they are brilliant at changing the subject, placing the onus on the other person (It is always ‘them’, whether Bahia, Coptic or Muslim, that is wrong), denying their involvement in the deceit.

If the theocracy of Qum, Iran and their puppets in Tehran call themselves a legitimate government, who do they really serve? Are the 'experts' and 'immams' of Qum trying to set up a theocracy that gives them control of people rather than serving them so that the people in all their spiritual variations can enhance their INDIVIDUAL spirituality. Do they serve Shaitan when the 'experts' repress the growth of the human spirit, especially when the oil wealth of the Iranians goes to imperial adventures around the world?

yeolds Author Profile Page:

The minor details the neo-con Editor of Newsweek has left out:


This citation puts to rest the honesty of Mr. Obama'ws Cairo speech, and reveals the same to be the height of USA hypocricy!

We will talk with you without preconditions, only after we successeded in a regime change.

The regime did not change, will not do so in the near future, so what is the new line for the Administration?

steve82 Author Profile Page:

Ha Ha... When bush invaded Iraq it was apparent that he didn't understand the history of the region. Those of us who remember "Iran-Contra" know that Iran has ALWAYS been the problem. Bush jr. just wanted to get daddy's face off the floor of the Bagdad Airport. That's where infantry was initially deployed, rather than at the Armories, Museums and other more valuable assets. Wolfowitz said they would throw roses at us! Who's more stupid? Him for saying that, or US for believing it.

People get the government they deserve. We stupidly ignored the "housing bubble" and other obvious and immanent dangers, because the money was flowing; the housing market turned into a feeding frenzy. Now we are paying the price. It was no surprise--a five year old could have figured it out.

I'm happy for Chaney and all of the rest of Haliburton crew, they are making LOTS of money as did Blackwater. You'd think the public would get it by now. Stupid people-- after Vietnam (making the world safe for Walmart) folks might start believing their eyes and ears instead of listening to politicians with their own agenda.

In Iran as well as here GOD is just a prop in the play. It's not the politics nor the religion... Follow the money.

akhtarman Author Profile Page:

I am amazed at how fanatical Americans are in claiming to be experts in Irani elections, politics and culture. Pre-election polls whose results were revealed in the Washington Post, showed that "big, bad" Ahmedinejad was winning in by a ratio of 2-to-1. He was winning in all 30 of 30 provinces. He was even leading among the Azeris (Mousavi's ethnic group). I read similar things in reputable mags in the Middle East and Muslim world (e.g. Pakistani Dawn).

However, none of that matters in the West- especially the US. They know that Mousavi won. They know the elections were rigged. They know Mousavi (who helped rout the US Embassy in 1979) is the 'right man'. And they won't put up with such sham elections.

Compare and contrast this to the other autocrats in the Middle East (e.g. Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt). These 'leaders' were not leading in any independent polls (there were none), many still never even got in sham elections. They put hundreds/thousands in jail and torture them. Where are the same 'self-righteous' Americans- and other Westerners- on these leaders? Where are the Evangelicals who care about Iranian lfe so much? Obviously, they do not give a damn or they would say something. These leaders-while treating there people much worse than Iran does- but get no condemnation from Westerners.

Is it because, these leaders take a soft-line on Israel? Because they allow Americans to have hegemony over the Middle East? They play by rules that allow the US- and the Western Powers- do as they please? Who knows? All we do know is that American concerns for people in Iran is phoney and they don't give a damn about democracy. Look at their unwillingness to accept the democratically elected Hamas government in Gaza and see how much Americans love democratically elected governments. Hypocrites!!!!

bevjims1 Author Profile Page:

While I agree with most of your post I think you and many here have one little thing wrong: There is no evidence of a revolution in Iran. The protests are about the fraud. The protests are no more evidence of a revolution than the anti-war protests in America before Bush sent troops into Iraq. Even Mousavi has stated he does not want to remove anyone from power nor change the structure of the government. He just wants a fair vote counting. This is an anti-fraud protest, not a revolution.

To raise the protests up to the level of a revolution is a stretch. I agree it has destabilized the government requiring it to crackdown, which may lead to a revolution in the future. But for now the protesters are not calling this a revolution in Iran, the protesters are not asking for a change of government institutions, no one is ready to storm the Iranian parliment, no one is calling for an end of the Guardian Council. All it is was a legitimate protest with a stong government response that has caused Iranians to see what their government is truly made up of. The protests have laid the seeds of possible future revolution, but what is occuring now is not nor should it be called "revolution".

tommic856 Author Profile Page:

We under estimate the power of the information highway in regard to the ability to to trancend time and distance as never before. The internet is available to any person on the planet with a laptop and an access card to uplink itself to the internet. The Iranian people have enough intelligence and numbers to bring down the government of Iran when they want to. People must rise up to the moment, be fully prepared to die for what they believe in, be willing to sacrifice all for the benifit of all to overcome what seems like insurmountable hardship, people never release power easily and the longer they try to hold on, with more blood of even a greater number of Iranians wounded or killed the bloodier the end will be for them. Every woman and man with a computer should show their support to those who so need it now, encouragement to be free for a people is a good virtue.
thomas mcmahon
millis ma

allthingscode Author Profile Page:

lelliot4, the US makes statements all the time that contradict the way we act. We condemn countries that torture, but then we claim that we don't even though we use waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and threats. We claim we're not nationalists, even though our politicians make all sorts of nationalist statements. Heck, our politicians can even claim that we have the best health care system in the world, even though we have a lower average lifespan, higher infant mortality rates, and the highest cost of any industrialized country.

dweb8231 Author Profile Page:

The vast majority of Americans, myself included, have virtually no real knowledge of the complexities and nuance of Iran's history, culture and politics, yet we are more than ready to throw out terms like "democracy" and annoint Mousavi as "our" designated candidate.

Yes, what has happened in Iran is clearly a denial by the ruling clerks of the will of the people as expressed in their votes. But even had the more liberal elements of Iran won that election and peacefully taken the reins of power, I think it likely that the changes which would have taken place would not be a sudden adoption of "democracy" as we know it and an immediate embrace of America as Iran's BFF.

Take most of the statements you read here and elsewhere with a giant grain of salt. For the most part, they know little whereof they speak, except to frame it in terms of good guys and bad guys. To try and link all of this to the "democracy policy" of the Bush administration is indeed a joke. The Bush administration had no policies....only spin. And even if they did, I'm still looking for any spot in the world which was moved into the American "win column" as a result.

Citizenofthepost-Americanworld Author Profile Page:

Mr. Zakaria, in fact, “when we see the kinds of images that have been coming out of Iran over the past two weeks, we tend to think back to” democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, to his overthrow in a coup supported and funded by the British and U.S. governments, to the beastly Pahlavi Shah, that Western puppet, and to his “sub beastly” regime, to the return in Iran from exile of Ayatollah Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini, to the Iranian Islamic revolution, to the national referendum overwhelmingly replacing the monarchy with an Islamic Republic, to the adoption by national referendum of the new constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran. That, Mr. Zakaria, is what irrepressibly comes to mind.

Did we witness genuine protests? Was it all, rather, a predominantly U.S. plan to destabilize Iran? In any case, in that country of 70 million people (2007), that long prepared, meticulously planned and well-orchestrated subversive campaign, regardless of whoever may have financed, organized and led it 24-7 (we need not go into that just yet, the time will come for that), has failed miserably. In political terms, it has been a dismal failure.

Now back to only a few weeks ago. Were not the Obama man’s WORDS to the effect that he was to “engage” Iran, or did I dream that? It must have now become something rather more difficult to accomplish, one would imagine, after taking sides with those responsible for “the recent rallies (which) destroyed 700 buildings, burst 300 banks into flame, damaged 300 cars and 300 public properties, and left more than 400 policemen injured” (report from Russia, on Watching America). Just imagine what would be the reaction, in the U.S., were the president of e.g. China or Russia to support publicly a small group of people having done that out of discontent with the U.S. “regime”, on U.S. soil… then to insist on "engaging" the U.S. .... That is why, blind and fanatical as they come, those who oppose categorically political initiatives toward Iran, those who will do anything so no political solution be worked out with Iran, must be rejoicing now.

Yet when you write “Iran's regime's has been fatally wounded”, one can hear Mark Twain pointing out: "The report of my death is an exaggeration"….(New York Journal of 2 June 1897), and later insisting: “MARK TWAIN INVESTIGATING. And If the Report That He's Lost at Sea is So, He'll Let the Public Know.” (The New York Times, May 5, 1907).”

mewcomm Author Profile Page:

Does the Islamic world expend as much energy and angst trying to figure out how to get along with the West?

clearthinking1 Author Profile Page:

Dear Mr. Zakaria,

We are still waiting for your follow up column on Swat in Pakistan and Islam .

On March 1 2009 you wrote:
"The Pakistani government is hoping that this agreement will isolate the jihadists and win the public back to its side. This may not work, but at least it represents an effort to divide the camps of the Islamists between THOSE WHO ARE VIOLENT AND THOSE WHO ARE MERELY EXTREME.
Over the past eight years, such distinctions have tended to be regarded as naive. "We won the war in Iraq chiefly because we separated the local militants from the global jihadists," says Fawaz Gerges, a scholar at Sarah Lawrence College, who has interviewed hundreds of Muslim militants. "Yet around the world we are still unwilling to make the DISTINCTION BETWEEN THESE TWO GROUPS." Anything that emphasizes the variety of groups, movements and motives within that world strengthens the case that THIS IS NOT A BATTLE BETWEEN ISLAM AND THE WEST." {Capitals added}

I criticized your analysis then as being disingenuous. I have respected your status as a premier foreign policy analyst in America for years, but now we must all question your objectivity and credentials. You have presented yourself as a secular Indian from Mumbai without a specific allegiance to Islam. However, your recent articles seem to betray at least a subconscious attempt to deflect blame directed at Islam for violence and terrorism. This desire to deflect blame directed at Islam seems to be significantly limiting your ability to objectively analyze the challenges facing America and the world from Islamic terrorism.
I find it hard to accept that someone with your knowledge about Pakistan, Islam, and terrorism honestly believed that a distinction can be made between "those who are violent and those who are merely extreme."

I hope you write a follow up column about the Swat Valley deal and Islamic ideology. The distinction you made between violent Muslims and merely extreme muslims was false - as shown by the public whipping of teenage girls, invitation for refuge for Osama Bin Ladin, expansion into Buner, and other "nonlocal" global jihadist behavior. It was obvious to the rest of us then and should be obvious to you now. This time try to be objective as an AMERICAN of INDIAN descent and leave emotional loyalties to your Muslim identity behind, especially after 9/11, Mumbai, London, and all the other terrorist acts over decades that you are very familiar with.

Interestingly, you use the generic term "religion" instead of "Islam" in this article. Are you still in denial about the cause of the problem and of the lack of tolerance and democracy in Iran? Do you think most of the protesters are true believers in Islam?

lelliot4 Author Profile Page:

I can't believe the wrote the following sentence without the top of your head blowing off.

The United States has always underestimated the raw power of nationalism across the world, assuming that people will not be taken in by cheap and transparent appeals against foreign domination.

Where were you during the run up to the Iraq war?

Did you just make this up or have you talked to people in power and this is their opinion? Either way the logical dissonance is stunning.

For you to say that the United States believes no one would fall for the cheap trick that the US recently pulled on its own people, and successfully I might add, leaves me wondering if the top of my head might blow off.

pkmc83a Author Profile Page:

It is so ironic and quite hypocritical that left of center commentators like Zakaria and those who have posted up here seem to revel in the failure of the Iranian Opposition to have effected a change in the regime in that country.

The "Democracy Agenda" was a George W. Bush policy initiative. And as good loyal left of center Democrats we all detest George W. Bush, all of his minons and all of his policies. So, we detest democracy projects too?

This knee jerk reaction is as intellectually baseless as the Bush Administration's knee jerk rejection of anything Clintonian when Bush took office in 2001, including his rejection of Sandy Berger's admonition that a guy named Osama bid Laden will be his biggest foreign policy worry.

It was as wrong for Bush to blindly reject all that came before him, as it is for the Left to now blindly reject a democracy project in the Middle East.

If there is to be any rejection of the project, it should be the idea that you can introduce democracy to a nation from the end of a gun barrel. You clearly cannot. But in rejecting the methods, must we also reject the objective?

There was no American invasion of Iran, no guns, no money, we did nothing to cause the people of that imprisoned country to rise up, it was indigenous to those young people in the street.

And what were they demanding? Fascism? No, they have a form of Clerical Fascism, they were trying to get out from under it. Liberalism is progressivism. And what does progressive mean anyway? It means that power, both economic and political should progress out from concentrated exclusive centers to the people. America is the quintessential progressive state. We started by saying that ultimate power resided in the people, not the king. From there, power in American has spread out to White men without property, then to African Americans, then to women and then to the young. It is the tide of history that we let loose.

Iran under the mullahs is a return back to that against which this country revolted against. Power concentrated in the hands of one person, the Supreme Leader, who got they way apparently by divine selection. What could be more illiberal than that??? Yet, I see Mr. Zakaria and his followers writing like the tide of history is with this bunch and that there is no sense in trying to help those trying to undo it.

Its a good thing that people like Mr. Zakeria were not whispering in the ears of the French in 1777, otherwise, when this little band of "Oppositionists" were putting up a fight against the British Royal Crown, where would we have been had not that international power not taken a chance on our overthrow of that regime.

The Bush people were hypocrits. This sorry show makes those who opposed Bush no better.

ggreenbaum Author Profile Page:

Excellent and thoughtful comments. The "regime's" "legitimacy" has only cracked in the eyes of those who disliked it in the first place.

Let's face it, the opposition knew it was going to lose and had a plan, based on immediate (in fact, premature) challenge, and technological savvy. They tried. They tried burning down a militia building with the militia inside; when the militia not unreasonably fired on them, the seven dead immediately became "martyrs" and statistics to be brandished in the Western press. If that woman Neda hadn't died, they probably would have Photoshopped an image to have the same effect. All very clever. But it didn't work.

Time to pack it up, go home, and start thinking about 2013.

MPatalinjug Author Profile Page:

Yonkers, New York
29 June 2009

Let's not kid ourselves, Fareed Zakaria. Those street demonstrations in Tehran--which some starry-eyed observers call a "revolution" of sorts--has already gone pffft!

The Iranian regime of the Ayatollahs has successfully nipped that "revolution" in bud, so to speak. The reality is that the Iranian theocratic government has been strengthened, not weakened, by the ruthless but decisive way it has handled those demonstrations.

Note that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has even been emboldened to demand that President Barack Obama apologize for having denounced the way Ayatollah Khamenei dealt with Mr. Mousavi's demonstrations.

The question that needs to be asked now is this: What's going to happen to President Obama's offer of friendship to Iran and to his indication of willingness to talk directly with Iran's leaders? Have these gone pffft likewise?

Mariano Patalinjug

devolente Author Profile Page:

Well! comparing the post-election Iranian situation with the Velvet revolution of Czechoslovakia in late 1989,serves an anecdotal but immature example.With he present situation in Iran which is quite restive,nasty and partially chaotic, the circumstances do not allow the pro-Mousavi protesters to further outrage or exploit the situation.The supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatoolah has appeared to be siding with the incombent president seemingly under cloud in the national and international lime light, is hard to face defiant reaction by the Iranian masses.Ideally speaking,the protesters have shown a strong resolve, no matter if suppressed now through the coercive apparatus,to resent anything which tend to go against their aspirations.

GaryEMasters Author Profile Page:

Every action will have its cost. Even the consolidation of power in Iran. We will have to wait and see what happens.

ordak100 Author Profile Page:

Another cheap bark from a flavour-of-the-day at the shallow end of the thinking pool, to wit:

1. When 40 million out of 48m eligible voters (in a youthful country of 72m), go to the ballot box and vote, it is not a "regime" but a legitimate government elected by a vast majority. This means Iranians get to decide for themselves, free and away from any interference.

2. Who the hell is Ayatollah Sistani, sitting in Iraq, to tell Iranians what to do? Rather, the last few years has shown that it is Iranians that can tell Iraqis what to do!

3. I the religious government and system of Iran really regressive? where have you been Mr. Zakaria? Having advanced missile production, a worldclass stemcell research program and mastering nuclear technology over the last 30 years isn't exactly the stuff of regression! Add to it that, compared with 30 years ago, Iran is now an exporter of cars, pharmaceuticals, many other industrial products, self-sufficient in food production and .....the sole key to America's problems in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Wake up to reality Mr. Zakaria....and by the way, there was no WMD in Iraq as you had originally written about!

Honest_Abe Author Profile Page:

I am surprised Rafsanjani was not able to make something happen. We were hearing rumors he was attempting to have Khamenei removed by vote of the "Assembly of Experts" with support of some Generals in the Army. Wonder what happened to that plan or is it still in the works?

HereComesTheJudge Author Profile Page:

"Our effort should be to make sure that those accusations SEEM as loony and baseless as possible."

SEEMS, sir, Nay, it is. I know not 'seems.'
'Tis not alone my inky cloak, good sir,
Nor customary suits of solemn black,
Nor windy suspiration of forc'd breath,
No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,
Nor the dejected havior of the visage,
Together with all forms, moods, shapes of grief,
'That can denote it truly. These indeed seem,
For they are actions that a men did play;
But I have that within which passeth show-
These but the trappings and the suits of woe for a bearded singular Guard by way of a poodle-like, crumbling station anchored eternally in midst of stormy ocean and seas.
Seems, sir, Nay you know well it is.

DL13 Author Profile Page:

I can remember about 12 years ago talking with an Iranian woman who had been sentenced to death, along with 5 other Iranian women, because she was a Baha'i, a non-Muslim minority religion. She was the only one not executed by the zealots of the religion of peace. She got my respect, along with all the other women in that part of the world who have to put up with religious tyranny by those that are out of touch with God's message. I will hold them in my prayers. Where is the outrage from the women's rights groups, who should be out in the streets throughout the free world to show solidarity for what these brave women are going through?

PostGlobal is an interactive conversation on global issues moderated by Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria and David Ignatius of The Washington Post. It is produced jointly by Newsweek and washingtonpost.com, as is On Faith, a conversation on religion. Please send us your comments, questions and suggestions.