Iran protesters: Strength in decentralization, says former White House Iran aide
Gary Sick, who was the chief White House aide during Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979 and the hostage crisis that followed, says the Green reform movement has a surprising strength. Tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of Iran Thursday.
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Sick says targeting Mousavi and the others is unlikely to quell the Green Movement, which has swelled since its inception last year despite a harsh government crackdown. The opposition calls for government reforms include a request that the supreme leader be chosen by elections.Skip to next paragraph
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Unlike the 1979 revolution, when Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi was overthrown and people rallied around Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as he delivered sermons and instructions from his exile in Paris, the Green Movement "is much more like a mangle of nerve centers interacting with each other, communicating with each other on a live basis,” says Sick.
Moreover, the Green Movement is likely to be as nationalistic and supportive of uranium enrichment and an independent nuclear production facility as the current regime, he says.
Ahmadinejad announced Tuesday that Iran had begun enriching uranium to 20 percent, a level considered “high-enriched” uranium and on the way to the 90-percent enrichment required for a nuclear weapon. Though technical analysts have expressed doubt this is true, the West and Russia criticized Iran for pushing ahead with its nuclear program.
More sanctions ineffective
President Barack Obama warned this week that more sanctions for Iran are likely, though Sick doubts they'll prove useful. Instead, he advocates further negotiations on how the West could help Iran purchase medical isotopes on the international market instead of producing the fuel itself.
“We’ve been putting sanctions on Iran since the '70s. They’ve now got a nuclear program. That’s not a sign of a successful policy. And what’s our continued response? Sanctions. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize that’s probably not going to solve the problem.”
Along with opposing the White House's calls for sanctions on Iran, Sick promotes a hands-off attitude toward Iranian politics. While the Green Movement calls for democratic reforms, Sick says the best the US can do is stay out of Iran’s business.
“If we start meddling in Iran, that will be discovered very quickly, and that will undercut the legitimacy of the opposition. It’s a homegrown thing, and that’s its strength,” he says. If the West interferes, “first, we’ll probably do it badly, and second of all, whatever we do will be used against us and undercut the people who are in the opposition.”
Despite the Green Movement’s calls for compromise, Sick does not foresee Ayatollah Khamenei giving way: “Every time that they’ve come up to this, the regime has instead made the decision to hunker down, circle the wagons, and get tough.”
CNN, which is monitoring social media for citizen reports from Iran, has this video with scenes from today's anti-government protests: