A ‘white hat’ emerges from Iran’s many ‘black hats’

July 28th, 2009
Published in The San Francisco Examiner July 20, 2009

Revolutions, to be successful, ultimately require that leaders evolve who not only lead the charge for change, but also motivate the masses to join the cause. Iran’s post-presidential election initiated a revolution for change — one the government has used brute force to stop — yet no such leader has evolved.

Although opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi provided an opening for this revolution, he never really emerged as the people’s choice to lead. In fact, as the demonstrations gained strength, protesters were emboldened to display signs emphatically stating Mousavi was not the substance of the revolution — he was merely the trigger.

Despite Mousavi’s disagreement with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei about election results favoring Khamenei’s crony — the Napoleonesque President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — the Iranian people were never fooled, recognizing even Mousavi represented part of an old guard who supports brutal suppression of any opposition.

No names from among the Iranian masses have gained attention internationally as taking this leadership role, but one can well understand why. Every effort is being made by Tehran’s mullahs to identify, arrest and, based on one mullah’s recent rant, to then “deal severely and ruthlessly with the leaders of the agitations.” It’s clear such leaders will be executed (some already have been) for waging war against God — i.e., the mullahs.

It’s interesting, however, in the turmoil and fear of the mullahs’ retribution against protesters that engulfs Tehran, a “white hat” has emerged. And, ironically, he’s from among the government’s authoritarian ranks of “black hats.”

His actions were passive, but they involved defying the mullahs’ orders — for which he will pay a heavy price. Yet, what he has done should give Iranian demonstrators encouragement that there may, perhaps, be more like him out there. If so, such white hats could play a significant role in cracking the foundation of the mullahs’ power base.

The man is General Ali Fazli.  He’s a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war whose allegiance to his country is beyond reproach. He was, until recently, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Tehran, which was brought in by the mullahs to restore order.

Several weeks ago, he was ordered by his theocratic leaders to fire upon demonstrators. He refused to do so — for which he was arrested. Despite his prestigious position within the IRGC and probably being close to retiring, by his refusal to kill his countrymen, the general became a lone voice for sanity and moral responsibility to the Iranian people within a sea of theocrats spouting venom, hatred and death to all opposing them.

In choosing not to follow orders, Fazli knew he was sealing his fate. But he possessed the moral courage to do what he knew was right, despite the fact imprisonment or death now awaits him.

It will take such courage by many others in positions of authority within the Iranian government before change can be realized. We can only hope Fazli represents only the tip of an iceberg of opposition.

Absent a beam of similar moral responsibility somewhere within the dark depths of the mullahs’ core coming to light, there’s little chance the Iranian people’s dream for change will be recognized by this revolution.

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