Who will win the showdown between brutish theocratic dictatorship and reformism? So far, clearly the thugs backing Ahmadinejad and Khamenei have the upper hand. But will the reformers and their millions of supporters acquiesce? Will this be a replay of Khatami’s reign during which brave student resistance was smothered by unremitting repression and violence? Or has the genie escaped from the bottle? Have so many millions of Iranians had a taste of democracy and freedom that they simply refuse to go back?
Hossein Moussavi, who remains under house arrest along with 100 other key opposition leaders, has announced a mass demonstration for tomorrow to be followed by a national strike Tuesday. The putative government has rejected the call for a demonstration thus setting up a potentially lethal confrontation. Who will give in in this game of political chicken? Will the opposition brave death to protest? Will the thugs pull out all stops to smother the resistance in its cradle?
Both opposition presidential candidates issued new statements denouncing the election and calling for further resistance. In fact, Mehdi Karroubi made this astonishingly bold statement:
“I do not consider Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president of the republic.”
A moderate clerical group also called for annulling the result:
Those resisting the election results gained a potentially important new ally on Sunday when…the Association of Combatant Clergy issued a statement…saying that the vote was rigged and calling for it to be annulled. The statement warned that “if this process becomes the norm, the republican aspect of the regime will be damaged and people will lose confidence in the system.”
Mr. Moussavi called for the clergy to join his protest in an open letter late Saturday. It is difficult to say how influential the statement by the association, made up of 27 moderate clerics, will be in Iran’s complex and opaque power structure, but Ayatollah Khamenei, who has the last word on many important matters, is sensitive to clerical opinion.
Ayatollah Khamenei issued a second clueless statement supporting the tainted election:
“Elections in Iran are the soundest, the healthiest of their kind,” he said to cheering supporters. “Some people inside or outside the country … say that the vote has been disrupted, there has been fraud. Where are irregularities in the elections?”
It seems clear that the coup plotters see Moussavi as a potential spoiler. Besides being placed under house arrest, Ahmadinejad made the following threat against his opponent that is characteristic of overreaching dictators everywhere:
“He ran a red light, and he got a traffic ticket.”
While this is intended as humor, it is the type of joke the cat tells the mouse before he pounces and swallows it for breakfast. The question remains–will Iranians allow themselves to be swallowed whole in the maw of repression and injustice?
The NIAC blog reveals that Republican Rep. Mike Pence has called for Obama to come out against Ahmadinejad, which would be the most foolhardy thing the U.S. could do. Mitt Romney too, calls for precisely the wrong response:
“What has occurred is that the election is a fraud, the results are inaccurate, and you’re seeing a brutal repression of the people as they protest.””The president ought to come out and state exactly those words, indicate that this has been a terribly managed decision by the autocratic regime in Iran,” said Romney, who has not ruled out another run for president in 2012. “It’s very clear that the president’s policies of going around the world and apologizing for America aren’t working.”
The president is maintaining a studied silence, which speaks volumes both to Iran and the rest of the world. Unlike in the law, silence does not mean assent. It means disapproval. But studied disapproval. Withholding recognition of this stolen election is about as strong a statement as the U.S. can make. But make no mistake, it is eloquent silence. As Trita Parsi has said so eloquently, for once this is not about us. This is about Iran. It is for the Iranians to decide what direction their country takes. We have done enough meddling in the world over the past eight years. Our history with Iran is so fraught with hatred and mistrust that taking a step back is the best thing we can do.
On a related matter, remain vigilant about this type of neocon exploitation of this situation, emanating from Dennis Ross’ United Against a Nuclear Iran:
“President Obama offered the hand of diplomacy to the Iranian people. Iran has rejected that hand. Since President Obama’s inauguration we have seen more nuclear enrichment from Iran and more missile tests. And now Iran has reelected President Ahmadinejad – a hard-line, holocaust-denying radical. America and the international community must increase Iran’s economic isolation and Americans can take action today to do just that.”
– Ambassador Mark D. Wallace, President, United Against Nuclear Iran
Undoubtedly, others in Tel Aviv (and their minions in Washington) are also burning the midnight oil seeking ways of working this crisis to their advantage. We must not let the pro-war crowd exploit this. Cooler heads must prevail. This is the type of situation at which Barack Obama excels. It’s like a chess game. You have to weigh all of the intangibles before deciding what action to take. The neocon push for rash, precipitous action must be resisted at all costs. Remember Iraq?
Your question at the top reminds me of a quote I heard that Khomeini (the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran) said: “Anyone who thinks that that the Islamic Revolution was carried out only to make the price of watermelons lower doesn’t understand anything”.
The New York Times article pointed out something that I had thought of before….that the clash we see between the supporters of Ahmedinejad and his opponents has a major factor of class and culture behind it (i.e. the poor and rural population likes him, the educated urban elites oppose him). This would indicate that the struggle is not one so much for “democracy” but rather over which groups/cliques will control the regime.
Why cant you accept that Ahmadinejad won? Perhaps the elections were honest. Did you personally see fraud? Where was Jimmy Carter-if he were present, he could have monitored it
It is a struggle for democracy, at the very least partially fair elections. This is minimal.
Iranians had to realize that their votes and the elections, really mean nothing, that they cannot choose their leaders. What they may have thought they had, they don’t have. They are faced with the reality of this election being a sham and having Ahmadinejad shoved down their throats, having to swallow the fact that they live under a dictatorship.
This is not a time for the US or any outside force to interfere. It’s a pregnant moment.
Just recall that not all mass demonstrations led by students against a dictator are advocating democracy. For example, the demonstrations that led to the downfall of the Shah of Iran.
The definition of democracy is people having power, supreme power is vested in the people and their consent, the supreme authority is the people ( not the ayatollahs)- it’s not what they may or may not advocate which is secondary, it’s that they advocate. This is the drama unfolding- the clash between authoritarianism and democracy, where the people have a say, or at minimum give consent. It’s a very beautiful thing to see happening. We should be with them in spirit and keep out of it.
Donald Johnson says
While I agree that the Iranian government is behaving like a bunch of thugs and I hope this mess ultimately leads to more freedom for Iranians and the downfall of the theocracy, don’t be so sure that the election results were fraudulent. Maybe they were and maybe they weren’t–the experts seem divided on this or just admit that they don’t know. Here’s one piece by pollsters who think the results were consistent with their own findings–
Richard Silverstein says
I’ve been reading many sources directly from Iran, many more than I link to or reference here. There is universal conviction among Iranian sources including those quoted from the Interior Ministry itself (which conducted the election) that it was entirely rigged from start to finish. As far as I’m concerned anyone who believes otherwise is either a fabulist, Pangloss or an Iranian henchman.
“entirely rigged from start to finish”
This may be and probably is but why so transparently so? and not foreseeing the probable reaction!
Donald Johnson says
Well, you might be right–I certainly don’t know. The information changes day by day and I’ve read commenters who seem to know something about the area who urge people to be cautious about what we hear.
I think, though, that a statement like “As far as I’m concerned anyone who believes otherwise is either a fabulist, Pangloss or an Iranian henchman.” in response to a blog comment is unnecessary. You might consider the possibility that people don’t all read exactly what you’ve read and might disagree in good faith, rather than treating disagreement as evil. For instance, a day or two ago I read a pseudonymous commenter at Obsidian Wings who is a Middle East specialist (though not about Iran) and he said that the two Iranian experts he knew were being extremely cautious about concluding anything just yet. Perhaps they’ve changed their minds by now.
Donald Johnson says
And here is the polling data from the pollsters who I linked to above (pdf file)