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?
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.