The U.S.' obsessive media coverage of Iran puzzles me. I see no reason why the disputed presidential election and the following violent street protests in Tehran should be treated as a major world event. Even the expected North Korean launch of a ballistic missile toward Hawaii has suddenly become less threatening to U.S. national security than the prospect of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad remaining the Iranian president for another 4 years.
Why all this fuss about Iran?
We're being told that the results of the election have been "stolen." (Although signs of massive election fraud in favor of Ahmadinejad is impossible to ignore — even the Guardian Council has tacitly acknowledged that — there is no evidence, either, of the victory of his major rival, Mir Hossein Mousavi). So? Elections are being stolen everywhere. Some irresponsible folks even claimed that a presidential election was stolen in the United States in 2000. What should one then expect from Iran, with its lack of democratic traditions and a murky political process? Besides, one of our best friends, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, doesn't allow any elections at all; yet I don't remember this fact being chewed up by political analysts 24/7.
We're also being told that after all, it's not about elections, but rather about "freedom and democracy." I'm all for freedom and democracy, but I simply want to make sure that we're talking exactly about those two things. For now, what I see on my TV screen is a crowd of people wearing green ribbons and scarfs — and we all know that in this part of the world, green doesn't symbolize clean energy — setting on fire trash cans, bicycles, and buses and chanting "Allah Akbar" and "Death to Dictator" (please, note: not "Down with Dictator" and not "Trial for Dictator", but "Death to Dictator").
(True, we also see "Where is my vote?" signs in English, reminding me of Russian "democrats" who always switch to English before being arrested for violation of public order.)
I thus applaud the honesty of the former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, who in his June 21 interview with Fox News spared us from pulling a fast one about freedom and democracy and called for what he and his neocon pals have been calling all along: the "regime change" in Iran.
The major reason why so many in Washington cannot take their eyes aways from the images of Iran is that deep down, they dream that the street protests in Tehran will miraculously morph into the 2003 Rose Revolution in Tbilisi or the 2004 Orange Revolution in Kiev, eventually transforming Iran into a U.S.-friendly state. A "reformer" Mir Hossein Mousavi as an Iranian Mikheil Saakashvili? Or Victor Yushchenko? Wouldn't that be great?
The Tbilisi allusion is especially appealing. Here we have the Georgian president Saakashvili who, in November 2007, sent riot police to violently disperse peaceful street protesters and then, in January 2008, won a second term in office in what many in Georgia called a "rigged" election.
Since the beginning of April, the opposition to the Saakashvili regime has been holding street protests accusing Saakashvili of creating a "police state." Our reaction? We have assured him of our support and pretty much told the opposition to get lost.
(A lesson to all aspiring leaders of "democratic" states: attend Columbia University and speak "fluent English").
The Iran media coverage serves one additional, however tactical, purpose: it allows the media to ignore the recently increased violence in Iraq, a country that is an Exhibition A of our "freedom and democracy" export project.