Iran Descends into the Maelstrom
The N.Y. Times features riveting coverage of today’s protests and blood running in the streets of Teheran and Tabriz. As I always say in commenting on developments there, one never knows what the future will bring and I could be wrong in what I’m about to write. But we seem to have entered a strange, very dangerous twilight zone in which either the best or the worst could happen. This is eastern Europe just before the Wall fell. It is South African just before Botha decided that he must cede power to avoid a civil war and national bloodbath. It is 1992 and Yeltsin facing down the tanks prepared to overthrow the regime.
But it could also be China just before the Tianamen Square crackdown. The only difference being that China had a relatively unified government under Deng Xiaoping while Iran’s power is much more fragmented and chaotic. I don’t believe there is a unified Iranian command which can overwhelm the opposition as the Chinese government did after the massacre.
The assassination of Mir Hossein Moussavi’s nephew by regime thugs indicates that even the regime loyalists have begun to lose their bearings. It is precisely these types of lunatic gestures by those in nominal power which will drive the few remaining Iranians who support them, away in disgust. Further, the government’s theft of the body and its chutzpahdik warning to the family not to mourn his death is far beyond cruel, and will redound to the shame of the thuggish operatives who performed this vile deed.
Also, the mullahs’ eager embrace of violence against their fellow countrymen during the nation’s foremost religious holiday, when any form of violence is normally eschewed in commemoration of the violence committed against the founder of Shiism, also indicates the regime is becoming unmoored.
There were some very moving passages in the Times’ coverage which also begin to indicate the kinds of defections from the ranks that one sees when power is devolving from the incumbents to the insurgents:
There were scattered reports of police officers surrendering, or refusing to fight. Several videos posted on the Internet show officers holding up their helmets and walking away from the melee, as protesters pat them on the back in appreciation. In one photograph, a police officer can be seen holding his arms up and wearing a bright green headband, the signature color of the opposition movement…
I am also impressed with the opposition’s bold appropriation of Shiite religious imagery in order to destroy the government’s claim to religious authenticity and coopt the Shiite faithful into its movement:
“This is the month of blood, Yazid will fall,” the protesters shouted, equating Ayatollah Khamenei with Yazid, the ruler who ordered Imam Hussein’s killing.
While I have not seen the opposition thus far proving able to mount a knockout blow to the regime; with tactics like this they are definitely proving sophisticated in their ability to undermine its credibility with the faithful who maintain its power and legitimacy.
I want to return to an important theme that may not appear relevant at first to this post. It is simply ridiculous at a time like this for the U.S. and its western allies to be contemplating punitive actions against Iran. The situation there is simply far too volatile and it would be exploited by the regime to denounce its opponents and thereby preserve power.
We need to do one thing and one thing only: support the overall concept of human rights and denounce violations of the sort that occurred today. This will speak louder than anything else about what are our true priorities. If we muck about with sanctions or God forbid play with fire by calling for armed force against Iran regarding its nuclear program, we are simply playing into the hands of those we hate and undermining those we support.
There are those in the Israeli government and among the neocons here who don’t believe there is any difference between radical mullahs and reformers in Iran. As far as they’re concerned it’s foolish to make a distinction or to modulate policy to benefit one side or another. But this attitude is a deeply pernicious and wrong-headed one which we must rebut strenuously. That is why the Times’ editorial decision to publish Alan Kuperman’s op ed calling for blood against Iran as the only way to solve the nuclear crisis is so troubling. This is precisely what the policy debate does NOT need to entertain as it will prove disastrous to our own interests and to Iran’s as well.
19 thoughts on “Iran Descends into the Maelstrom – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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Richard, this is a very worthy and heartfelt analysis of what is happening in Iran today. However, in my opinion, it is somewhat naive. Yes, power to the people, and yes for human rights. But one should not forget how often and for how long the US has been meddling in the affairs of Iran, from the overthrow of Mossedegh and the reinstallation of the Shah. There is no doubt in my mind that given the recent past history of US-Israeli war mongering, that the CIA and other security agencies of both countries are doing much to foment the uprising. Of course the regime looks terrible in its reaction to it, but can you imagine what would happen if such taking to the streets happened in the US? The bloodbath would be much worse. Perhaps, WILL be a lot worse.
Is there any evidence of US manipulation on the scale you seem to be suggesting? I’m seriously asking. If not, then it’s no different from talking about Saddam’s dreaded WMD program. Speculation about such things without evidence is worthless and might actually be harmful in various ways, both to the Iranian protestors (who will be hurt if there’s a widespread and false belief that the CIA is behind them) and also to people trying to expose real US wrongdoing. (My own personal experience of this was when I tried to convince some ignorant friends that the US had tortured innocent people to death and when I told them that books and articles had been written about this, they replied that books and articles had been written saying that Bush/Cheney were behind 9/11. Unfortunately they were right about that.)
Um, I don’t mean that I suffered harm–I meant that there’s a sort of Gresham’s law when it comes to US atrocities. False or poorly supported accusations against the US sometimes can be used to discredit accurate ones via guilt by association.
If your question is directed to me, yes, there is plenty of evidence (on various websites), but you’ll have to do your own research. I don’t have references at hand.
Richard may want to post the op-ed piece I sent to him from today’s NYT, which suggests the same.
You mean the Selig Harrison piece
(That’s in the global issue of the NYT,not in the US version–apparently they don’t want to hurt the delicate sensibilities of their American readers.)
Anyway, he’s talking about ethnic insurgencies and now you remind me I had heard about possible links to the US (I think last year,but I’m not sure), but not the protests we’re talking about here–in fact, according to him the “reformists” have no interest currently in linking up with the other ethnic groups.
I also recall reading a lot of talk in the far left blogosphere last summer about how the CIA was really behind the protests, but little or nothing in the way of actual evidence in any blog post I saw. I’m sure the US would in fact try something like this if it could, but whether it really has that sort of influence in present day Iran is another question.
I disagree. I have little doubt that the CIA & Mossad are doing their damndest to undermine the nuclear program. But that’s diff. than fomenting the uprising. Obama specifically mentioned the mistake the U.S. made in overthrowing Mossadegh during his Cairo speech. He’d look like a total idiot if he then turned around & did the same thing this time around.
Obama is more and more looking like an idiot for saying things in speeches then turning around and doing the opposite. One only has to cite healthcare, closing Guatanamo, torture, the bailouts. Not one thing he campaigned on has he followed through on. Iran’s nuclear bomb program is a side show, used to distract everyone from the real reasons the US and Israel are fomenting trouble in the region.
“Not one thing he campaigned on has he followed through on.”
Didn’t he say in the campaign that he would escalate in Afghanistan or something to that effect? :o}
Richard, I agree that the situation seems to be at a crossroads. I don’t think the IRI will fall and be replaced by something truly democratic – though I suppose there is always hope.
I do not think that military action would be a good idea. Sanctions might be necessary if the IRI continues to refuse to take steps to clearly demilitarize its nuclear weapons program. I think you misread the understanding of a large percentage the Iranian people; a lot of them know very well who to blame for sanctions, as they know who to blame for the Bush-scale ineptitude and outright criminality of other recent IRI actions both at home and abroad.
If you knew anything about Iran, you would know that conspiracy theories about Israel and the CIA are superfluous. The many thousands of protesters risking their lives in the streets are responding to widespread and numerous wellsprings of domestic opposition and have perfectly rational Iranian motives and grievances. They are nobody’s tools.
Yes, the US meddled and removed Mossedegh 56 years ago. It also convinced the Shah to leave power 30 years ago. And Pres. Obama has refused point blank to meddle in these grassroots protests. The interference that bothers a student at Tehran University, however, is an incident in which the Basij attacked the university dorms. What bothers a merchant in Tabriz is the feeling that his vote was stolen. What bothers a doctor in Isfahan is police brutality.
Please stop looking for habitual demons and making habitual excuses for a brutal regime; start listening to what Iranians in many different political camps are actually SAYING. Look at the IRI regime through their eyes, rather than through the two-dimensional lens of your wish to attack Israel or the US.
Your attempt to paint the IRI response as restrained is ridiculous. In the US, peaceful demonstrations against government policy are not banned, newspapers are not closed down for insulting the president, the government does not put religious leaders under house arrest for disagreeing with government policy and there is no unelected religious Supreme Guide. In terms of dealing with domestic opposition, the IRI actually IS pretty restrained – compared with Arab regimes like Libya, Sudan and Egypt; or compared to China in Tiananmen or Tibet; or compared to Zimbabwe. It’s NOT restrained compared with the US, by any means.
The real Iran is a fascinating and complex place. Please don’t reduce it to a two-dimensional shadow of your pet prejudices.
Though I usually consider the source, and discount personal attacks,Z, I must take exception to your’s on me.
First, you know nothing about me. I happen to know a lot about Iran . I have studied it, and have many Iranian friends. I won’t bother to repeat the charges, I’ll let the facts speak for themselves as they emerge. That said, I have no love for the repressive Iranian regime, and I feel terrible that the Iranian people suffer under it. But I also believe that US/Israel stirring up trouble is not helpful. Let Iran solve its own internal problems. They need help from the US like Iraq and Afghanistan needed help.
“ Sanctions might be necessary if the IRI continues to refuse to take steps to clearly demilitarize its nuclear weapons program.”
What an interesting, and revealing sentence on so many levels!
1. To the best of anyone’s knowledge Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program no matter how many times you or anyone else repeats the phrase as if it were a fact.
2. To the best of anyone’s knowledge Iran’s nuclear program is not and has never been militarized, so how can they demilitarize it?
3. How in the hell do you demilitarize a weapons program?
He wants a guarantee that Iran’s uranium enrichment program never produces weapons grade material.
SOMEONE who has the power to get out there what is really going on in Yemen and what it has to do with Iran better do so and do so quickly because there is a covert misinformation agenda going on here by our government!
The problem in Yemen recently has NOT been Al-Qaeda although there MAY be some slight circumstantial connection.
The problem has been with SHIAA Houthi rebels who are saying they are oppressed there. THIS is who Saudi Arabia has been having border clashes with, using their airforce for the first time since Gulf War I to attack and bomb. I posted the link to this on the thread about Shalit because a couple of posters had brought the subject up but my info got lost in the shuffle there.
Now Lieberman is URGING US support of the Yemeni govt to attack “Al-Qaeda” in Yemen. Obama even mentioned the widening problem in Yemen in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech. The Saudis have been going after these Houthis since November!
Please read: (read it all but I’m extracting the really pertinent part)
This sudden escalation alarmed analysts in the United States and the European Union, as well as those in the Middle East. The conflict, they fear, could evolve into a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which perceive themselves as the contemporary standard-bearers of the Shia and Sunni branches of Islam.
TAKE NOTICE: suddenly there is a “convenient terrorist” who was “trained in Yemen by Al-Qaeda”-who is on the terror watch list but NOT the no-fly list. He is able to board a plane, gets caught, spills the beans and now ALL eyes are on Yemen!
YET this also involves Iran. Why? Because Yemen designated the Houthis a terror group and who do they say is supporting them? IRAN! Then you have the Saudi air force who is trained by NORTHROP retirees, flying planes purchased from the US.
Everyone, you have to take note here-pay ATTENTION to how the public is being step by step manipulated-Congress getting ready to appropriate more monies. This problem in Yemen is an internal problem which under ideal circumstances should be able to be solved politically, but of course that isn’t the case. The US is supporting the Yemeni regime who is putting down SHIAA rebels who they claim are being backed by Iran.
Will this be one more reason the hawks in the US add to their list of why Iran needs to be attacked?
Think I’m kidding?
Do you deny the Iranian support?
No one can deny Iranian support for Houthis.
Population of Yemen:
Sunni Muslims are about 55 percent of Yemen’s population of 23 million people and reside in the coastal plains and southwestern part of the country while Shiites are about 42 percent of the population and live in the highlands.
The US is yet AGAIN getting involved in a civil war in a Middle East country. There are reports that some Houthis have joined Al-Qaeda and *now* AQ in Yemen has *issued* a call to attack all foreign interests. UM HELLO,
normally nations don’t like foreign interference in their affairs. Easy appeal heh by the bad guys? This is a purposeful escalation of an INTERNAL problem in Yemen with an eye on blaming it all on Iran.
LOOK, it’s a plane, LOOK it’s a bird! No wait, it’s AQ taking over Yemen and it’s where we need to go in and squelch these boogers.
Perhaps someone reading here knows more about Yemeni politics to be able to explain this situation in greater detail.
My fear is yet another misinformation campaign by our government which will get us involved in yet one more area which will fatten the pocket books of the military industrial complex, kill MORE people under the guise of “fighting terrorism” and ultimately HARM our nation when all is said and done.
Again-*they* are saying the Houthis are backed by IRAN.
Who are the hawks gunning for? Iran. Who is bombing the heck out of the Houthis? SAUDI ARABIA with US purchased planes and an air force trained by Americans. Yes Yemen is also apparently participating-but they are all cooperating with each other.
This bloodthirsty crackdown by the Iranian government is thuggish and appalling. What a dimwitted, repulsive regime. My heart goes out to the victimized Iranians under the jackboot. But, yes, I agree with you Gene that if we are in any way fomenting or facilitating this uprising then that is wrong and harmful, and in that scenario we would be contributing to the bloodshed. Our historic behavior toward Iran has been dark and totally unconscionable.
Also, it’s illuminating when you look at the way China has behaved regarding human rights the last couple decades and our respective behavior toward that country. One could easily argue that China is just as brutal and repressive as Iran, even more so, they execute their own citizens willy nilly without good cause, brutally crack down on freedoms and democratic dissent, etc. Yet they are our banker, and not only do we trade and correspond with them, we are utterly dependent on them regarding trade and our whole consumer economy relies on cheap, cut-rate (practically) slave labor Chinese manufacturing and exports.
Also, as horrible and worthy of condemnation as Iran’s government is, Israel is more brutal and murderous than Iran, yet given that fact I don’t see any NY Times columnist arguing for military action against Israel as this fellow did the other day against Iran. The stench of hypocrisy here is overwhelming.
That’s a good point about the NYT. They have an editorial today about Iran’s war on their people. I haven’t read it–maybe it’s a good editorial, but I immediately thought “They’d never write anything so blunt about Israeli crimes”. They are hypocrites at best, racists at worst.
Does anyone besides me find it interesting that “Bin Ladin’s daughter” showed up in the Saudi embassy in Iran? That it isn’t quite clear whether they were being hosted there or imprisoned? Reports both ways being made? Now MEMRI that sage of truthfullness (not) is reporting that Syria has become involved in trying to gain her safe passage? Well I’m going to be straight up straight forward with my gut feelings; something is FISHY with all these converging events. You’ve got the above mentioned events of brutal regime crackdown,you’ve got as Richard points clearly to the saber rattlers calling for intervention, their heads must ROLL, you’ve got this thing in Yemen with Iran being said to support the Houthi rebels which according to SAUDI reports has caused the deaths of over 70 Saudi military, you’ve got the Saudi air force striking these rebel forces but the Yemeni regime is officially denying it. You have a “terrorist plot on a US air carrier”coming out of Yemen, and lest we forget, Obama specifically mentioned Yemen as a new front on terrorism where IRAN is said to be involved in supporting the Shiaa in a CIVIL INTERNAL fight between Sunni and Shiaa. God knows what else is going to occur OR be said to have occurred. Oh yes, add in there that AQ has issued a rallying cry in Yemen.
This is dangerous, DANGEROUS. This bloody crackdown plays right into the hands of Joe Lieberman and others calling for intervention both in Iran and Yemen.
Is is JUST me or does anyone else see the confluence of all these events and particularly the dearth of facts being reported in our news? Is it preparing us for more US intervention? The hairs are up on my neck. There’s just too damn much going on with things getting so mixed up. Goodness only knows what we are supposed to believe and what we are being led down a garden path TO believe and for WHAT? None of us have proof of CIA support of the protests. Does that mean it doesn’t exist? No. Does it mean it does exist? No. What does exist is continued melee and no one wants intervention in Iran more than Israel-that is a fact.
Please don’t anyone put words in my mouth, I’m TRYING to figure out why all of this is suspiciously going on at once with the possibility looming of further US involvement which as Richard pointed out very well would be totally contrary to what Obama has SAID would be his policy. (that he was going to be different than those who were engaged in the overthrow of Mossadeq)
Houthi fighters in northern Yemen say they have seized control of a Saudi military post along the border between the two countries where Saudi and Yemeni forces are waging a campaign to uproot them.
According to a report released by Hezbollah’s al-Manar television network, Houthis have seized “full control of the Al-Jamrah Saudi military post” as well as weapons, communication material, military vehicles and surveillance equipment.
The report added that the northern Yemen’s Shia fighters overran the Saudi post on Monday and forced soldiers to flee. The post is said to be located in close proximity to al-Khoba in Saudi Arabia’s southern province of Jizan.
IF this is true, this is an act of war against Saudi Arabia who claims these Houthi rebels are backed by Iran.
Google this “Break the Houthi Thorn”, an article in Asharq Alawsat from JULY!!!!
NO attack on Iran can be done without SAUDI cooperation!
Saudi Arabia is HEAVILY involved in the situation in Yemen-
What kind of mood do you imagine KSA is in right now if their military post in the south was seized by who they claim are IRANIAN backed rebels?
The sabers are RATTLING-Lieberman calling for major involvement in Yemen, Saudi Arabia is right there providing intelligence and doing their own strikes and NOW IF these rebels have indeed seized a Saudi military post, this is a friggin’ POWDER KEG! Add to that the emotions of those who see the brutal government crackdown on the protesters in Iran and you have what very well could be the perfect storm developing here right before your eyes.
PLEASE pay attention to what is happening in Yemen, it has EVERYTHING to do with what could be used as justification for a strike on Iran! You don’t want to piss off the Saudis and they are PISSED! Again, NO strike on Iran can take place without their cooperation.