"Thanks, Ken. Don't toss those turbans in the closet just yet. Today in Iran, we've got mostly theocratic with a 10 percent chance of democracy by mid-decade. In the meantime, expect scattered freedoms for a while. The extended forecast, right after sports."
If you're one of those types who likes to contemplate evil in convenient "axis" form, consider this: Of the three countries that comprise the Axis of Evil, Iran is the most involved in international terrorism. It funds Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and other groups that attack civilians. It is believed responsible for the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 American soldiers. It ships weapons to Palestinian terrorists. Iran is ruled by the political successors and appointees of the Ayatollah Khomeini, the man who held our embassy staff hostage for 444 days and dubbed us The Great Satan (as opposed to all those mediocre Satans gumming up things for everyone).
Now, if you're one of those types who enjoys awkwardly mixing metaphors, let's toss a shade of gray into the stew, shall we? Iran is the only country in the Axis with a legitimate and strong political movement trying to take the reigns of power away from the freaky theocrats responsible for the terrorism. Iran's President Mohammad Khatami was elected by 80 percent of Iranians on a platform of liberal democratic reform. Iranians also have voted in three consecutive pro-reform Parliaments. For weeks, Iranians have been taking to the streets by the thousands to protest the death sentence of Hashem Aghajari, a university lecturer who got himself in trouble with the law for stating publicly that Iran's religious authorities have too much power and shouldn't be allowed to lead Iranians around like blind monkeys. How's that for a mixed metaphor?
While we're on the subject of Iran-Contra-dictions, also consider this: When we were plying the Taliban with virgin daiquiris and strippers in our efforts to run gas pipelines through Afghanistan, Iran was supporting the Northern Alliance. But the country also hosts several anti-Saddam political groups (which, if they're treated like I am by my Iranian family, are too full of dinner, dessert and tea to mount a serious opposition to much of anything). Iran recently apprehended one of bin Laden's sons and turned him over to Saudi authorities.
Contrast Iran's contributions to the War on Terror with those of our so-called allies in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Saudi money still flows to al-Qaeda, while bin Laden is widely thought to be hiding in or near Pakistan, the country that incubated the Taliban in the first place.
So where does this leave us? First of all, it means that we should be a little subtler with our foreign policy. Continuing to go all Axis of Evil on their asses is likely to strengthen the unwashed political hand of Iran's terror-loving religious freaks. Also, we should heed Iran's legitimate fear of unchecked American military might near its borders. After all, the CIA overthrew their last real democratic leader in 1953 and installed an American puppet king. Like most countries, Iran doesn't want to be bombed or bullied by other countries. Conducting our pre-emptive military activities in the Middle East under the umbrella of an international coalition (as opposed to an impulsive, overly righteous president) would help assuage that fear. Foreigners can be so touchy sometimes.
Now make like a tree and beat it.