After Sunday’s mayhem and the murder of between 19 and 150 Iranians by the state security services, the opposition seems to have taken a deep breath today to consider where it goes from here. Demonstrations appear to have been lighter and jockeying of various forces seems to be going on behind the scenes.
All of Hashemi Rafsanjani’s children were arrested earlier today and then released, in a veiled threat to the former president to desist from his rumored backroom wheeling and dealing, either to overthrow Ayatollah Khamenei or arrange for a face-saving compromise, depending on which source you read.
The N.Y. Times publised a report asking where Rafsanjani, who has been unseen since the election, is and what he is doing:
Mr. Rafsanjani, who leads two powerful state institutions, has been working behind the scenes to find a compromise solution to the disputed June 12 presidential election, a relative said Sunday. The detention of his family members, this relative said, was a pressure tactic on the part of his opponents.
…“He is the question mark right now,” said the expatriate political analyst. “A lot of people are hoping that he is the guy who can mend it.”
Given that both Ahmadinejad and Khamenei have staked out maximalist positions, I wonder what room Rafsanjani can find for a compromise.
Speaker of parliament Larijani, an otherwise loyal ally of Khamenei, spoke out against the favoritism showed by electoral officials to “one candidate” (Ahmadinejad). This would appear to contradict the overt endorsement the ayatollah offered to the would be president at his Friday sermon. On the other hand, Larijani lashed out against the “shameful” intervention of western governments which have denounced the violence. As a possible presidential candidate himself, he seems to want to have it both ways.
Election authorities seem to have come up with a new narrative that both credits some accusations of fraud registered by the opposition, while denying the misbehavior could possibly have altered the election result:
…The authorities have acknowledged that the number of votes cast in 50 cities exceeded the actual number of voters, state television reported Monday following assertions by the country’s supreme leader that the ballot was fair.
But the authorities insisted that discrepancies, which could affect three million votes, did not violate Iranian law and the country’s influential Guardian Council said it was not clear whether they would decisively change the election result.
So it appears there is some tweaking of the official narrative in order to be able to claim it is taking complaints seriously, while not actually doing so. It is hard to know whether this is a meaningful change in approach by the ruling forces or tactical and cosmetic.
More ominously, the Times also reported:
…The government might be laying the groundwork for discrediting and arresting Mr. Moussavi. IRNA, the official news agency, quoted Alireza Zahedi, a member of the Basij militia, as saying Mr. Moussavi had provoked the violence, sought help from outside the country to do so and should be put on trial. The Fars news agency quoted a Tehran University law professor as saying that Mr. Moussavi had acted against “the security of the nation.” State television suggested that at least some of the unrest was instigated by an outlawed terrorist group, the Mujahedeen Khalq…
What is notable is the fragmented nature of the response of the governing elite. Depending on the source, statements vary from no-holds barred all out confrontation to grudging acknowledgement of grievances. It’s not clear whether the hardliners or the compromisers will win. If tomorrow brings people out in the streets in the same numbers as earlier in the week and the crackdown continues, then the fracturing is likely to continue. But there is the possibility that people have taken a deep breath and will step back from the brink, leaving the maximalists to win the day.
If you want to read about someone who fundamentally misunderstands what is going on in Iran and is happy to work his mischief, read about Bibi Netanyahu’s Meet the Press interview in which he praised the demonstrators basically for attempting to topple the regime. And note, yet again, AFP’s distorted characterization of past comments by Ahmadinejad about Israel:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday hailed the “incredible acts of courage” by Iranian demonstrators [who] “unmasked” the true nature of the regime.”Obviously you see a regime that represses its own people and spreads terror far and wide,” Netanyahu told NBC’s Meet the Press in an interview from his Jerusalem office, repeating Israel’s longstanding position towards an Iranian leadership which has vowed the destruction of the Jewish state.
…”It is a regime whose real nature has been unmasked, and it’s been unmasked by incredible acts of courage by Iran’s citizens,” Netanyahu said.
“They go into the streets and face bullets, and I tell you, as somebody who believes deeply in democracy that you see the Iranian lack of democracy at work, and I think this better explains and best explains to the entire world what this regime is truly about.”
…”I think something very deep, very fundamental is going on, and there’s an expression of a deep desire amid the people of Iran for freedom,” Netanyahu said.
Unfortunately for Bibi, the Iranians are not trying to topple their form of government, they are trying to reform it. Neither Bibi nor the neocons see any difference between Ahmadinejad and Moussavi. As far as they’re concerned even a win by the latter will mean business as usual. Which is why Bibi hopes that ultimately Iranian unrest will lead to an overthrow of the entire Islamic political apparatus in Iran. Bibi won’t say that on American TV. But it’s what he hopes and dreams for. It’s not what Barack Obama wants, nor necessarily is it what Americans want. That’s why the Israeli leader attempts to couch his ideas in terms Americans understand like “freedom,” “democracy,” and “tyranny.” This is motherhood and apple pie to the American ear. Regime change, invasion and bombing are not. But follow Bibi down the road as plays the Pied Piper, you’ll surely end up in that place.
Also, don’t forget the cruel irony of Bibi praising the Iranian people for clamoring for freedom in the face of the bullets of the oppressors, while he denies such freedom to Palestinians and showers on them the very same bullets the Basij fires on crowds of Iranians demonstrators.