Book Review: Democracy in Modern Iran

June 16, 2010, 1:48 p.m.

Nader Hashemi in Democracy: A Journal of Ideas reviews Ali Mirsepassi's Democracy in Modern Iran. Public displays of dissent have a long tradition in Iran, and there is a liberal streak in Iran's intelligentsia. These are the building blocks of a cooperative US democratization strategy.

[...]"Democracy does not come from a blueprint dreamed up in a foreign think tank, to be imposed from above by an occupying military regime," Mirsepassi affirms, "but it is generated by populations through time and struggle. From this perspective, Iran is traveling the difficult road to democracy with more certainty and experience than many other Islamic societies." It is the eventual triumph of this movement that holds the best prospects for moderating the behavior of a regime that is viewed today with suspicion and foreboding. U.S. foreign policy should be calibrated to facilitate this inevitability. There are no easy answers to how U.S. policy can do this. Any direct or overt involvement will backfire given the troubled history of U.S.-Iran relations. But there are several policies worth considering, including: preventing the Iranian regime from blocking satellite and internet access, so the domestic opposition can better mobilize its supporters; shining a global spotlight on Iran’s human rights record; and listening more carefully to Iran’s courageous democratic opposition, especially those who have their own ideas on how the international community can best support their struggle. Finally, there is the question of moral obligation. Americans have a unique responsibility to support democracy in Iran[...]

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