With the graceful motion of a chef, Chief of Staff Moshe "Boogie" Ya'alon whipped the wooden spoon out of the Middle Eastern cauldron, tasted, and informed his client of the results: In Iran, there is a ripeness for getting rid of the rule of the ayotallahs; Syria is still an unripe state.
Tomorrow in the taste tests, perhaps we will also check the situation of Vladimir Putin and take a whiff of how the stew in Turkey is proceeding. This is the beauty of the division between the far-ranging, world-embracing strategic vision that marks out diplomatic goals and the tactical, bleeding everyday. Between kibitzers who have purchased good seats for the international games and the dullness of street ball games. Some of the fans forget exactly which field they are playing on. What do Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) have to do with us? Who are Hamas and Jihad? We go for the big time - first Iraq, then Syria and, after Syria, Iran. At that same time, let no one meddle in the home game.
What made the chief of staff put Iran at the top of his menu? Whether Iran is "ripe" for getting rid of the ayotollahs is an interesting question but of no practical consequence, especially as ripening is an amorphous expression of which only the results can testify to its existence. For six years now, ever since Mohammed Khatami was elected president of Iran, there has been a prolonged and persevering erosion of the status of the conservatives. Even Khatami's sweeping victory wasn't born in a day. In contrast to Iraq, Syria or Saudi Arabia, and even Egypt or Jordan, the public in Iran can openly demonstrate its disgust with the regime. It can freely elect the government, the parliament and mayors; it can open a liberal newspaper to replace every one that is closed; men and women are no longer afraid to gather in cafes or travel to vacation sites in the mountains. Iran is not a paradise of democracy. The real power is in the hands of benighted and dangerous clerics who are waging a war for survival, because they recognize the power of the public and the defects and impotence of the Islamic revolution to give the Iranian people a better life.
The economic realism in Iran, which every year produces another several hundred thousand unemployed and obligates the communications minister to explain to the parliament why the cellular telephone prices are so high for such poor service, is threatening the rule of the ayotollahs, no less than it is threatening Khatami's liberal government.
But when U.S. President George W. Bush linked Iran to "the axis of evil," sworn liberals also took to the streets and chanted anti-American slogans. Yes, these same liberals want America on their side but not over them and not as a threat. This is the nature of power struggles in non-democratic or quasi-democratic states and even in states that ripened into democracy. National feeling is stronger than hatred for the regime.
When Ya'alon speaks about Iran's "ripeness" for getting rid of the ayotollahs' regime, this is not the diagnosis of a cultural scholar or a political scientist who observes internal events from afar and ponders the way regimes change. Ya'alon, who prefers "burning into consciousness" as an effective way of bringing about rapid change, is apparently amusing himself with another possible model for the external implantation of a regime, even though the initial experiments have not yet yielded satisfactory results. Afghanistan is rapidly reverting to what it used to be and Iraq is still under the ministrations of a foster family. The American experiment in the artificial transplant of a regime in Iran in 1935 paved the way for Khomeini's revolution about 25 years later. This experiment, which was considered the formative event of the hatred of America in Iran, lives on in the Iranian memory no less than the Islamic revolution that took place only 24 years ago.
If this is what Ya'alon wants, it is better to wait and see how the homemade experiment in creating a Palestinian regime works out before offering Israeli merchandise of this sort to the Iranians.
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