In this week's Wall Street Journal, columnist Amir Taheri reports that Iran's pro-democracy movement is "deepening and growing."
On Monday, thousands of Iranian students risked their lives and safety to protest the rule of the mullahs in Iran. Some protestors allegedly burned photographs of Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a taboo-shattering move in Iran that has been interpreted as a protest against not just Ahmadinejad's fraudulent re-election but against the mullahs' repressive theocracy.
Taheri reports that protestors shouted slogans including, "Neither Hamas nor Hezbollah! I give my life for Iran!" and "Forget about Palestine. Think about our Iran!"
It would seem that these young men and women recognize and reject attempts by their repressive and corrupt government, as well as terrorists in the region, to manipulate them with the tired canard that Israel is their enemy.
A combination of factors--the brutal repression they have suffered, the growth of technology ranging from Twitter to the internet more broadly, and the courage and intelligence of the Persian people--seem to have coalesced to produce not only the beginnings of a physical revolution, but the birth of an ideological revolution in the middle east.
These brave and wise students have touched such a powerful nerve because they have begun to confront what Iraqi Parliamentarian Mithal al-Alusi calls "the Israel complex"--the cynical use, by governments and terrorist movements, of Israel as a scapegoat in diverting their people's frustrations. In shouting, "Forget about Palestine. Think about our Iran!" they seem to be saying they are not interested in perpetuating a pointless and brutal conflict, but in dealing with the real issues of their lives.
To paraphrase Golda Meir, there will be peace in the Middle East when the Arabs love their children more than they hate the Israelis. The Iranian students are sons and daughters of the middle east who have taken giant steps towards true progress in the region. Monday they stood up for their liberty and quality of life at the risk of death, and in doing so, they have outpaced the leaders of the free world in paving the way to a brighter future in the middle east and the world. This is, as Taheri writes, a "hinge moment."
The students are also crying out, "Obama! Obama! Either With Us of With Them!" With these students prepared to give their lives for freedom, for the leaders of the free world to allow the mullahs to crush them and attain nuclear capability, thereby eliminating any possibility of progress in the region for the foreseeable future, would be a tragedy of great proportion.
Following his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize on Thursday, President Obama noted that the world is watching the struggle for rights and justice in countries such as Iran.
Departing from his prepared remarks, Obama said, "These movements of hope and history, they have us on their side." He inserted the word "us," while the text of his speech said, "hope and history are on their side." This is a hopeful sign that President Obama, as leader of the free world, will not miss this opportunity to work with people who truly share our values, and to open the door to freedom in the middle east.
Here is President Obama's chance to advance the ideals of democracy and human rights that he has championed so eloquently. Given the advancement of Iran's nuclear program, he may not have long to act. Let us encourage him to advance freedom's cause in this "hinge moment" - before the door closes.