Iran’s supreme leader gave a hardest of hardline sermons yesterday in which he said many horrible things that make anyone concerned for the well-being of Iranians frightened for what lies ahead. Most specifically, he warned the opposition that if they didn’t stop their demonstrations the ensuing bloodshed would be their fault entirely. This statement reveals the utter bankruptcy of the Iranian power elite. It is equivalent to a rapist saying his victim deserved it. When faced with hundreds of thousands of non-violent, silent demonstrators who you contemplate beating into a mass bloody pulp, you blame the victims beforehand because they weren’t sufficiently docile and didn’t accede to your command.
What does he take Iranians for? Children? In this day and age, does he really believe that he the absolute unquestioned authority of a medieval-era monarch? I certainly understand that Iran for decades was ruled by a shah, and that the authoritarian nature of clerical rule mirrors this, I simply find it hard to believe that this can go on indefinitely. Even if Iranians do not rise up and throw off the yoke of the Ahmadinejads and Khameneis now, they will at some point. Such a travesty of justice and democracy cannot forever endure.
One of Moussavi’s main spokespeople abroad made this telling comment about the transformation of Iran from a quasi democracy to a clerical dictatorship:
Mohsen Makhmalbaf, a film director, said in a hastily organized news conference in Paris. “Since Friday, a 30-year-old page was turned. We’ve fallen into dictatorship. For the first time in 30 years there have been grass-roots demonstrations with millions of people, and these demonstrations stand as a proof that people want democracy.”
His daughter Samira, also a filmmaker, said, “Until Friday we had 80 percent dictatorship and 20 percent democracy, and since Friday we have 100 percent dictatorship.”
Makhmalbaf’s full statement was published at Comment is Free and is worth reading.
One of Khamenei’s most unintentionally amusing comments dealt with the alleged fraud perpetrated during the election:
He dismissed allegations of fraud.
“Perhaps 100,000 votes, or 500,000, but how can anyone tamper with 11 million votes?” he asked as the crowd burst into laughter.
To make such a statement and even half believe it shows that Khamenei is either a fool himself or takes his countrymen as utter fools. Is this what passes for evidence? If so, it’s no wonder that citizens in their millions are marching against such noxiousness.
The Ayatollah’s self-righteous bellicosity makes us all fearful that during today’s demonstration or at some point in the near future, Iran’s rulers will unleash the full force of their fury against the opposition. I don’t even want to contemplate what this could mean. Hundreds, even thousands dead.
Is Moussavi willing to see his campaign through to the end? Will his supporters remain loyal to him even as they face crushing force in opposition? On the other hand, will a full frontal assault by the authorities not turn off even more Iranians and perhaps turn the tide against the rulers?
Interestingly, Roger Cohen has begun a shift in liberal opinion by calling for Obama to take a more engaged approach to the Iranian reformist surge:
In this city of whispers one of the whispers now is: Where is Obama? The president has been right to tread carefully, given poisonous American-Iranian history, but has erred on the side of caution. He sounds like a man rehearsing prepared lines rather than the leader of the free world. A stronger condemnation of the violence and repression is needed, despite Khamenei’s warnings. Obama should also rectify his erroneous equating, from the U.S. national security perspective, of Ahmadinejad and Moussavi.
I sympathize with Cohen’s perspective (and he is IN Iran and has a better sense of these things), but I feel torn about how a more interventionist approach by the U.S. president could be exploited by the enemies of democracy there. Perhaps Obama could draw a line by saying he does not wish to interfere in Iran’s internal affairs, but that a massive crackdown would become far more than a mere domestic dispute. It would become an international incident that would draw the denunciation of the entire world community and cause Iran’s leadership to be shunned entirely.
Only time will tell whether this statement by an Iranian journalist and filmmaker, which asserts that Khamenei’s speech today spelled his death as a real leader of Iran, can come true:
“This is the end of Khamenei and the beginning of a new era. He doesn’t hear our voice and doesn’t speak our language…today, Khamenei showed the people that he is not their leader…He sees us as enemies. Elections are not important for him. He only represents a small group of people. The problem is that he wants to suppress other groups so they cannot participate in decision-making. People feel this. They see that power is in the hands of a few. Khamenei even dislikes the old leaders of the revolution. In this regime, there’s no place for anyone with a different opinion.
…Mousavi and Karroubi are leaders of an opposition that did not vote for Ahmadinejadism. This is a result of Khamenei’s mistake who has tied his future with Ahmadinejad. This is a great movement by millions. Either Mousavi or Karroubi realize this and take the responsibility to lead it or they will retreat because of threats. But it is clear that this great power [opposition] will not remain without a leader and will not die down. Khamenei’s era is over and new leaders are compelled to emerge.