Behind the Scenes in Iran

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," June 9, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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BRIT HUME, HOST: President Bush has acknowledged privately that U.S. policy toward Iran consists in considerable part of trying to stall that country's progress toward nuclear weapons in hopes that a revolution will come before the weapons do. Is there any sign that could happen? Well, it's hard to tell.

But one person who tries is Michael Ledeen, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute here in Washington, and he joins me now.

So Michael, welcome.


HUME: What is going on, as best you can tell, in Iran these days?

LEDEEN: Well, one thing is constant, which is the Iranian people are constantly demonstrating their hatred of the regime and their desire to be free. In the last...

HUME: And how do they do this?

LEDEEN: They put hundreds of thousands of people into the streets, and they demonstrate, and they block out all the pictures of the leaders of the country, and they burn some of them in effigy, and they chant "Death to Tyrants."

HUME: How come we don't hear about all of this?

LEDEEN: I don't know. It's all over the blogs. It's all over the net. It's not hard to find out.

HUME: But the western news media really, basically, are not in there.

LEDEEN: Well, if you're there, you really can't report it, because they'll throw you out, or as in the case of that famous Canadian reporter, they'll kill you. They have killed foreign reporters for reporting things accurately. So it's not a high incentive for reporters to report.

HUME: So how does a man like you, intent on following this, do so?

LEDEEN: I read the blogs. Farsi is the fourth-most-popular language online, and so there's lot of Persian blogs, lots of Iranian blogs. And the Iranians tell you what's going on there. And after a while, you sort out who are the good ones and the bad ones.

Plus, I have people now — I've been working on this so many years I get e-mails, and faxes, and so forth from Iranians who report. And some of the foreign radios and televisions do better on reporting what's going on.

HUME: Tell me about this recent — they've had some excitement about their soccer team, correct?

LEDEEN: Right.

HUME: And celebrations, then what happens?

LEDEEN: Well, soccer games have always been an opportunity for political demonstrations, because it's the one occasion on which big numbers of people can come together.

HUME: Legally.

LEDEEN: Legally. And so they don't get beaten up for it. They don't get arrested or tortured for it. And so they all pour into the stadium.

And when the game's over, if it's a good outcome, then they demonstrate joy. And in the midst of the joy, they scream "Death to the tyrants, freedom for us...

LEDEEN: ... "Referendum," and so forth. And then they get beaten up, and tortured, and arrested.

HUME: Now, in one recent such soccer match — and I want you to tell me what you can about it — women were present. What's that all about? That's not permitted, correct?

LEDEEN: Well, it hasn't been permitted, but they're now pretending to have elections. And they will pretend to have elected some kind of reformer. And so in the midst of this great pretense of elections — it's not an election at all. It's a beauty contest and a charade.

HUME: Why is that so?

LEDEEN: Because they pick the candidates. The supreme leader — over 1,000 people wanted to run for president. They picked six.

HUME: And this is all done by the government?

LEDEEN: Yes, by the regime. So if anybody wants to run against the regime, they won't run at all. The only people who are permitted to run are people that the regime likes, obviously.

And then in the last case — I mean, there are still people who believe in reform, the possibility of reform in Iran, even though it's been obvious for 10 years they've had a reformist, so-called, president, Khatami, and the country is more repressive now than it was 10 years ago. So why anybody can believe in this is beyond me.

So they're pretending to hold elections. And while pretending to hold elections, they are pretending to be more reformist. So they are letting selected numbers of women in to restricted sections of the stands to watch soccer games.

But of course, the Iranians really do want to be free. And so even more women showed up at the stadium and demanded to go in. And they weren't let in during the game. But after the game, in the midst of the general confusion, demonstration, lots of them poured in, and then they got beaten up and arrested.

HUME: All right, now, the circumstances that could lead to a revolution are present or not present, in your view?

LEDEEN: Yes, they're all there. I mean, we have to say that nobody knows exactly what makes a revolution. But the one crucial ingredient that the Iranians have said from the beginning would be determinant is lacking, and that is support of the Western world, and in particular, the United States.

And I must say that this administration has really been bad on this subject because they've been saying over and over again from the beginning, for four-plus years, if the Iranians demonstrate a desire to be free, we will stand with them.

Well, they show it every day. There are demonstrations all over the country all the time, and we are not concretely doing anything for them.

HUME: What could we — what could this administration do?

LEDEEN: Well, they could do a lot. For one thing, they could defend the political prisoners. I mean, the leading dissident journalist in the country, Akbar Ganji (ph), who had been arrested and savagely tortured, was released for a few days to go home and talk to his friends and neighbors.

HUME: Why do they do that? Why would they let a guy like that out, to let everybody know how bad it will be if you end up like he does?

LEDEEN: Yes, it's a way of intimidating everybody else, because everybody that sees you, sees how awful you look, and how terrible it is, and then they drag you back. So I think psychologically it's an even more horrible punishment than just the torture by itself.

HUME: So your view is that Condoleezza Rice, and George W. Bush, and other senior officials ought to be out there pounding the table.

LEDEEN: You bet. Just as we stood up for the (INAUDIBLE) Nixon dissidents in the Soviet Union, we should be, by name, demanding these people, and demanding that they be released, and demanding greater freedom...

HUME: Why do the — what do you take the policy to be that does not include this?

LEDEEN: Well, it's appeasement. I mean, we're not saying anything. We haven't done anything.

And we should be giving money to the various language Farsi-language broadcasters, some here, some in England, some in Sweden and so forth, some in Germany, to go on the air and share with the Iranian people the now- demonstrated techniques for a successful, nonviolent revolution. So they should hear interviews with Kurds, Georgians, Ukrainians, Lebanese, et cetera...

HUME: How-to books.

LEDEEN: How to, yes.

HUME: Great. Michael Ledeen, great to have you.

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