Analogies between Secretary of State
Recall that Gorbachev was not just interested in achieving arms reductions with the U.S. He was intent on a thorough reform of Russian society. The Encyclopaedia Britannica summarizes his initiatives: "Under his new policy of glasnost ("openness"), a major cultural thaw took place: freedoms of expression and of information were significantly expanded; the press and broadcasting were allowed unprecedented candor in their reportage and criticism; and the country's legacy of Stalinist totalitarian rule was eventually completely repudiated by the government. Under Gorbachev's policy of perestroika ("restructuring"), the first modest attempts to democratize the Soviet political system were undertaken; multi-candidate contests and the secret ballot were introduced in some elections to party and government posts."
The success of these policies was limited because they were resisted by the apparatchiks — the communist bureaucrats — but there is no question that Gorbachev sent a signal that the old days of repression at home and adventurism abroad were at an end. From his first day in office in 1985, he was intent on pulling Soviet troops out of Afghanistan, a goal he achieved in 1989.
That same year, as revolts rippled across Eastern Europe, Gorbachev allowed the fall of communist regimes from East Berlin to Warsaw. Instead of sending the Red Army to impose order, he pulled out Soviet troops and allowed democracy to blossom and the Cold War to end.
Have there been any similar indications of a change of heart on the part of Rouhani and his master,
In fact Khamenei just gave a firebreathing speech calling Israel "the rabid dog of the region" and claiming it was "doomed to extinction." He also accused the U.S. of "inhuman deeds," such as the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Perhaps this can be dismissed, as the Obama administration seems to prefer, as just "uncomfortable" rhetoric, even if the rhetoric of leaders such as Hitler, Stalin and Mao has often proved an accurate guide to their actions. But there aren't many actions to point to, either, on the part of the Iranian leadership to indicate that they have decided to adopt a kinder, gentler path.
Obama administration officials have been eager to cite claims from the U.S. intelligence community that Iran has slowed its enrichment of uranium. But, leaving aside the question of whether American intelligence analysts have any better grasp of the Iranian program than they had of the Iraqi WMD program, it is eminently possible, as Israeli
Meanwhile, in Syria — roughly equivalent for Iran today to Afghanistan for the Soviet Union in the 1980s — there is no indication that Tehran is backing off from its support for the inhumane attacks of President
Nor is there much indication of Iran ending its war on internal dissent. The
"Inhuman punishments such as stoning and amputation" also remain in use, and 724 executions took place between January 2012 and June 2013, with nearly 150 executions reported in the last three months alone, with Rouhani in office. Moreover, Shaheed noted, "some 15 journalists have been arrested since January 2013 (rendering a total of some 70 media personnel and bloggers in detention); approximately 67 Internet cafes were closed in July alone, and up to 5 million websites are reportedly blocked."
Finally, "members of religious minority groups, including Baha'i, Christians, Sunni Muslims and Yarsan also continue to face severe restrictions of their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association; while ethnic, linguistic, and other minorities continue to see their rights violated in law and in practice."
This condemnation is coming, mind you, not from Israeli diplomats or American neocons supposedly bent on war with Iran. Shaheed is a former foreign minister of the Maldives who is now a visiting professor at
His report on Iran's human rights violations is withering, and taken with other evidence, it provides no support for the theory that Rouhani and Khamenei are bent, as Gorbachev was, on a fundamental restructuring of a repressive system. They might be willing to temporarily suspend their