The True Nature of the Iranian Regime

I've argued for engagement with Iran and I still believe in it, although, in the name of the millions defrauded, President Obama's outreach must now await a decent interval. I've also argued that, although repressive, the Islamic Republic offers significant margins of freedom by regional standards. I erred in underestimating the brutality and cynicism of a regime that understands the uses of ruthlessness.
                                                                             -- Roger Cohen, June 14, 2009

Brutal and cynical? Really? Who would have thought that the Iranian regime could be so brutal and cynical and ruthless and undemocratic? Well, perhaps gay people, who are executed by the regime for their sexual orientation. Perhaps peace-loving Baha'is, who are mercilessly persecuted by the regime. Perhaps Iranian Jews, who are forced by the regime to abase themselves before gullible Western journalists. Perhaps the families of women stoned to death after being accused of adultery by the regime. Perhaps the dissidents of the universities, who know that a country led by a dictator who calls himself "Supreme Leader" isn't actually an incipient democracy. Perhaps the liberal Shia reformers, who know that their country has been hijacked by obscurantist fundamentalists. Perhaps Israel, which is regularly threatened with extermination by these same obscurantist fundamentalists. Perhaps men like Elie Wiesel, who know that Holocaust denial is a crime against history. Perhaps the moderate Arab states of the Gulf and beyond, who quake in fear of a nuclear-armed Iranian empire. Perhaps the International Atomic Energy Agency, which watches helplessly as the regime defies the demands of the U.N. Security Council. Perhaps the families of Iranian terror victims around the world, including those in Argentina, where Iranian agents bombed a Jewish cultural center, killing 85 innocent people.

I'm sure there are others who could have told us about the nature of this regime, if only we had asked. 

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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