Regime change in Syria and Iran will come only if people unite as in Libya
The citizenry in Iran and Syria must take up their own collective responsibility and shake off fear to depose their dictators, as the people did in Libya. Democracy promotion from outside simply isn't practical or effective.
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Now that the challenge to Qaddafi’s regime is coming to an end with a violent uprising that forced a long-ruling autocrat out of power, all other dictators in the region will certainly undertake their own risk assessments and try to adopt strategies to reduce their vulnerability to a similar scenario.Skip to next paragraph
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It remains to be seen whether Mr. Assad and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards can manage to continue terrorizing their fellow citizens extensively enough to win a chance of dying in their own bed. Leaving aside wishful thinking, what is certain is that the Syrian and Iranian regimes, even though they have lost their moral and political legitimacy, are doubling their efforts to crush and fragment civic actors precisely in order not to end up like Egypt or, now, Libya.
In doing so, they have created enormous obstacles to the nonviolent transition in these countries.
Nonetheless, ending the reign of terror in Syria and Iran is not totally blocked if the formerly cowed citizenry takes up their own collective responsibility, as they did in Libya, to end human rights abuses. However painful it might be to admit, the time is long past for “dictator containment” by an international community that seeks to guide leadership succession and create a space for moderate autocrats.
Democracy promotion from outside is simply not practical or effective as long as the people are not willing to band together and, at the risks and costs to their own lives, to shake off the fear and depose their dictators. As Machiavelli said, “Men are driven by two principal impulses, either by love or by fear.”
Dictators like Qaddafi, who had long professed to love his people while cultivating an image of himself as a father figure feared by his children, have proved to be fooling only themselves. The truth is that at the end, dictators are neither loved nor feared. Sooner, if not later, that same truth will visit Syria and Iran.
Ramin Jahanbegloo, one of Iran’s best-known dissidents, headed the contemporary studies department of the Cultural Research Bureau in Tehran until his arrest in April 2006. He was released that August and now lives in exile in Canada, where he teaches at the University of Toronto.