When Bush Comes to Iran
The view of American tough talk from Tehran.
But such statements enrage Kamran and the rest of Tehran's young and struggling middle class even more than the threats of military attack. It's not so much the fact that not a penny of the $75 million for "democracy" has been accepted by any organization inside Iran. It is that Bush's comments only exacerbate the paranoia of the Iranian government, resulting in further suppression of dissent, greater international isolation, and less opportunity for Iranians like Kamran to achieve their "full economic potential."
That explains why Iran's most prominent advocates of democracy have repeatedly asked the president to stop reaching out to them. Noble Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, who is also Esfandiari's lawyer, has argued that Washington's policy of "helping" the cause of democracy in Iran "has made it more difficult for the more moderate factions within Iran's power hierarchy to argue for an accommodation with the West."
On my last visit to Tehran I asked Kamran what the United States could do to foster democratic reform in Iran. "Just leave us alone," he said wearily.
Then, after a beat, "And please, no bombs."
Reza Aslan is the author ofNo god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam.
Photograph of Iranians by Majid Saeedi/Getty Images.