" American threats serve the current political system and weaken the opposition, Razzaghi believes.
As water boiled for tea, he continued. "I'm not so optimistic about the future of things we hear regarding American threats and plans for a "Greater Middle East.' You can look at history and the interference of the US in Iran fifty years ago, which caused the Islamic revolution twenty-five years later. We don't know how American actions will affect the future, but I don't think they will bring democracy to Iranians in the long term."
Nor does Shirin Ebadi, a human rights lawyer and the most powerful woman in Iran. In 2003, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, becoming Iran's first-ever Nobel laureate and the only Muslim woman to receive the honour. At her office in Tehran, she wielded a letter opener like a sabre as she described the human rights issues for which she has endured arrest and imprisonment. While she vocally opposes many of her government's actions, she is even more vocal in her opposition to regime change and military intervention. Change, she believes, must be internally generated, as has been the case in parts of the former Soviet Union.
"I never believe in foreign pressure," she told me, her hair protruding from beneath a white scarf. "I believe in Iranian public opinion. Look at Iraq and look at Kazakhstan. In Iraq it was foreign pressure and in Kazakhstan it was people pressure, from the bottom up. How much have they hurt Iraq Yet with no casualties, the people in Kazakhstan won."
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