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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had reason to feel good about himself this week. Less than a month after he secured his hold on power for another four years by rigging the presidential elections, Ahmadinejad felt comfortable addressing his subjugated nation as its rightful dictator. So in a chilling televised performance on Tuesday, he triumphantly declared the stolen June 12 poll the "freest" and the "healthiest" elections in the world and promised they would act as a harbinger for Islamic revolution worldwide.
Ahmadinejad's accomplishments these past few weeks have been vast and unmistakable. By securing the unconditional support of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for his power grab, Ahmadinejad killed three birds with one stone. He ensured that the clerical hierarchy in Qom - which is dependent on Khamenei for its financial stability - acquiesced to his authority. He expanded the Revolutionary Guards Corps' control over the country by making it the indispensable guardian of the revolution. And he effectively transformed Khamenei from the "supreme leader" into a creature of Ahmadinejad's will. The moment that Khamenei gave Ahmadinejad his full support and gave a green light to the Revolutionary Guards to repress the protesters, Khamenei tied his own fate to that of his president.
This means that today Ahmadinejad is completely free to maintain and escalate his policy of international brinksmanship on all levels. From Iran's race toward nuclear capabilities, to its efforts to destabilize Iraq and Afghanistan, to its support for Hizbullah and Hamas, to its support for anti-American regimes in Latin America and its cultivation of terror networks in the Western hemisphere, to its strategic proliferation alliance with North Korea, Ahmadinejad's continued reign means that the world can expect expanded Iranian activity on all these fronts.
In the meantime, the rest of the world's response to events in Iran has been discouraging. The G-8's decision Wednesday to wait until late September to even consider stronger sanctions against Iran means that at a minimum Ahmadinejad has another three months to enrich uranium without worry. And given that US President Barack Obama is on record supporting pursuing negotiations with Iran until at least January 2010, it is hard to imagine that the international community will take any concerted action against Iran in the foreseeable future.
As he moves forward, no doubt Ahmadinejad takes heart from the supine US response to North Korea's July 4 missile launches. On Tuesday, Yediot Aharonot reported that Israeli analysts who reviewed videotapes of North Korea's missile tests concluded that alongside the various short range Scuds it sent over the Sea of Japan, Pyongyang also launched a Taeopodong-2 multi-stage long range missile capable of reaching Alaska. Tal Inbar, head of the Space Research Center, said, "The three seconds seen [of the Taeopodong-2] on the video prove how much North Korea's long range missile program has advanced."
At the same time, both South Korean intelligence and US Defense Department sources have accused North Korea of responsibility for launching massive cyber-attacks against US and South Korean computer systems over the past week. The attacks temporarily crippled multiple systems including those of the National Security Agency, Homeland Security Department, the South Korean Foreign Ministry, the Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange, and The Washington Post.
In the face of all of this, the Obama administration has been disturbingly timid. The White House's most consistent response to North Korea's belligerent moves has been to ignore them and hope North Korea decides to behave itself.
Matching their meekness toward Iran, the G-8 leaders responded to Pyongyang's most recent provocations with an announcement that they would like to become friends with Kim Jong Il. As Obama put it, "It's very important for the world community to speak to countries like Iran and North Korea and encourage them to take a path that does not result in a nuclear arms race in places like the Middle East."
OVER THE past several weeks, as the regimes in Pyongyang and Teheran have become ever more brazen in demonstrating their belligerent contempt for the West, the prevailing wisdom has argued that the West has no good options for containing or defeating them.
The traditional take on North Korea is that the world's leading missile and nuclear proliferator poses less of a burden to global stability than a post-regime North Korea filled with millions of starving people who have been cut off from the world for 60 years. By this thinking, the world is better off living with a psycho-state capable of fomenting a global nuclear war than caring for its victims.
As for Iran, as Gabriel Schoenfeld wrote last month in The Wall Street Journal, due to the gutting of the CIA's capacity to conduct covert political warfare during the 1970s, today the US lacks the capability to assist Iranian regime opponents in their efforts to overthrow the mullocracy. As Schoenfeld put it, "the US appears utterly powerless to influence the course of events."
Schoenfeld urged the US to move swiftly to rebuild its covert political operations capacity. While this certainly makes sense, in truth, the US doesn't need to build up much of a capacity to topple either the regime in Pyongyang or the regime in Teheran.
Despite Ahmadinejad's success in maintaining his grip on power, it is an indisputable fact that regime opponents succeeded these past few weeks as never before in destabilizing the regime and in demonstrating its hollow core. Even as Ahmadinejad was glorying in his victory, his opponents - defeated presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi and former president Muhammad Khatami - were calling for a three-day national strike.
On Thursday, thousands of Iranians risked life and limb to heed the call to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the regime crackdown on university students. That the 1999 crackdown occurred on Khatami's orders shows that regime opponents are looking for fundamental, revolutionary change in the regime - not cosmetic reforms.
It is worth noting that Iran's current revolutionary ferment arose from the unlikeliest of sources. The June 12 elections were not supposed to pose a challenge to the regime. All they were supposed to do was pit one regime loyalist against three other regime loyalists.
The fact that the public could view Ahmadinejad's decision to steal the election from former prime minister and regime loyalist Mousavi as an opportunity to bring down the regime demonstrates clearly the magnitude of the public's rejection of the Islamic Revolution. Quite simply, if the Iranian people can take these elections as an excuse to call for the overthrow of the regime, any spark can light that fire.
WHILE A refurbished CIA would no doubt be helpful in this regard, it is not necessary. The international community already has the necessary tools to do the job. All it needs - indeed all any one country needs - is the will to actively assist Iran's disparate dissident groups who separately and together wish to see the end of the mullocracy.
Iran's borders are porous. Whether through international defense contractors or covert operatives working for any country, arms can be easily smuggled to various disaffected minorities from the Azeris to the Kurds, the Baluchis the Ahwaz Arabs, and the Baha'is. Iraq's ratlines run two ways. So do Afghanistan's.
As to the Persians, they are already taking the lead in calling for national strikes. They should be supported through Internet, radio and satellite broadcasts. Whether through the Voice of America, the Voice of Israel, Radio Free Europe, or Radio Free Iran, foreign agents can pump in truthful and relevant information about the regime and enable coordinated, countrywide unrest that could potentially topple the regime in a matter of days or weeks.
Then there is North Korea. As ailing dictator Kim Jong Il uses his brinksmanship to secure a smooth transfer of control over his malnourished slave state to his son ahead of his death, it seems as though no one in the West has a clue what to do about North Korea. The US, we have been told, is too overextended with its deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq to successfully deter or prevent North Korea from carrying out further provocations and proliferation activities. And anyway, for years we have been told that North Korea isn't really serious about its threats. As far as the "experts" are concerned, North Korea's leaders don't really mean anyone any harm. They just want to scare us all a little to make sure we don't get any ideas about bringing them down.
But the fact is that between its own provocations and its massive proliferation of missiles and nuclear technology, North Korea is an enormous threat to global security. And it is also a fact that overthrowing the regime in North Korea is the easiest, safest, fastest, and most humane way to prevent the likes of Kim Jong Il from provoking and proliferating the world into a nuclear conflagration.
All it would take to put an end to this monstrous regime is for South Korea to open up its borders. How long would it take for the last North Korean to turn off the lights when Seoul beckoned over the horizon?
THE MODELS for overthrowing the regimes in Teheran and Pyongyang are not new. Modified versions were successfully implemented just 20-odd years ago. The model for Iran is Poland circa 1981. The model for North Korea is East Germany in 1989.
Unfortunately, whereas in the 1980s the leaders of the Free World were committed to winning the Cold War against the Soviet Union by securing the freedom of those who lived under Communism's jackboot, today, led by Obama, the Free World behaves as though the Berlin Wall fell of its own devices. The will of free men and women risking everything to oppose tyranny had nothing to do with it, we are told. If we care about peace, we should appease the likes of Ahmadinejad and Kim, not bring them down.
On Tuesday, an insect wrecked Ahmadinejad's victory speech. As he bragged that Iranian democracy is a role model for the world, a large moth zoomed around him, breaking his train of thought. Ahmadinejad was brought low before his people by a moth he couldn't swat.
If a bug could humiliate Ahmadinejad in what was supposed to be his moment of triumph, surely the willing nations of the world - or even just Israel - together with the brave Iranian people can bring him down. It would certainly be more cost effective than trying to negotiate a deal with a nuclear-armed mullocracy.
And certainly the South Koreans and the Japanese can feed the starving North Koreans and free them from the bondage of their monstrous regime. Doing so would be vastly less expensive than living under the shadow of Pyongyang's nuclear-armed psycho-regime.
Just because the US is currently on vacation from its role as leader of the Free World doesn't mean that other free people cannot do the right thing.