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Iran: a deeper look at post-election events

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Below are some excerpts from articles on Iran that provde some further depth and analysis. I suggest reading the complete articles by clicking on each title. You can also follow regular updates on events at the Lede.

 

History suggest the coup will fail

Patrick Cockburn - The Independent

[Nima: This article provides some much needed historical background]

The methods of protest are very similar [to the 1979 Iranian revolution]. This is hardly surprising because the demonstrators seeking to get rid of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad understandably hope the type of unarmed mass protest that worked against the Shah will succeed again. Mass rally and public martyrdom are part of the Iranian revolutionary tradition, just as the barricade is part of the tradition in France. A difference between 1978-9 and today is that the Iranian government has no intention of letting history repeat itself.

Nor is it likely to do so. The Iranian revolution was carried out by a broad coalition from right to left which had religious conservatives at one end and Marxist revolutionaries at the other. The Shah and his regime had a unique ability to alienate simultaneously different parts of the Iranian population which had nothing in common. His cruel but poorly informed Savak security men convinced themselves that communists and revolutionary leftists were the danger to the throne and not the Shia clergy. They were not alone in their delusion. President Jimmy Carter recalls an August 1978 CIA memo, drafted five months before the Shah took flight, firmly concluding that Iran "is not in a revolutionary or even a pre-revolutionary situation".

 

Iran's crisis: The opposition weighs its options

Tony Karon - Time

[Nima: In the complete version of this article, Karon writes that former president Rafsanjani has called for a united opposition political bloc to face Ahmadinejad. I believe that it was in fact one of Rafsanjani's close allies who made this call.]

Parliament will not be decisive, but it could be significant in any longer term strategy of an opposition movement that claims the mantle of the Islamic Revolution. It must approve the president's budget, and it has the power to impeach him. It must also approve and can dismiss cabinet ministers — as Ahmadinejad discovered in 2005, when the legislature rejected his first three nominees for oil minister, and again late last year when it fired his Interior Minister for faking a degree from Oxford University.

Currently, Ahmadinejad's own coalition controls 117 of the 290 seats in the majlis, while the reformists control 46 and pragmatic conservatives aligned with Rafsanjani and Mousavi have 53. Five seats are reserved for religious minorities, and 69 are in the hands of independents, among whom the opposition will presumably be lobbying hard for support against the president.

Whatever happens in the streets in the coming days, the opposition to Ahmadinejad, which has one foot deep inside the regime and the other in civil society, may be girding for a long-term campaign against the president's power grab. The end result is likely to be some form of compromise between what remain factions of the same regime — albeit factions with increasingly catastrophic differences. But the question that will be in play in the weeks and months ahead is which side will have to give up more.

 

Washington and the Iran rotests: Would they be allowed in the US?

Juan Cole - Informed Comment

The fact is that despite the bluster of the American Right that Something Must be Done, the United States is not a neutral or benevolent player in Iran. Washington overthrew the elected government of Iran in 1953 over oil nationalization, and installed the megalomaniac and oppressive Mohammad Reza Pahlevi, who gradually so alienated all social classes in Iran that he was overthrown in a popular revolution in 1978-1979. The shah had a national system of domestic surveillance and tossed people in jail for the slightest dissidence, and was supported to the hilt by the United States government. So past American intervention has not been on the side of let us say human rights.

More recently, the US backed the creepy and cult-like Mojahedin-e Khalq (People's Holy Warriors or MEK), which originated in a mixture of communist Stalinism and fundamentalist Islam. The MEK is a terrorist organization and has blown things up inside Iran, so the Pentagon's ties with them are wrong in so many ways.

[...]Moreover, very unfortunately, US politicians are no longer in a position to lecture other countries about their human rights. The kind of unlicensed, city-wide demonstrations being held in Tehran last week would not be allowed to be held in the United States. Senator John McCain led the charge against Obama for not having sufficiently intervened in Iran. At the Republican National Committee convention in St. Paul, 250 protesters were arrested shortly before John McCain took the podium. Most were innocent activists and even journalists. Amy Goodman and her staff were assaulted. In New York in 2004, 'protest zones' were assigned, and 1800 protesters were arrested, who have now been awarded civil damages by the courts.

 

Iran's clash of 'titans' may not resolve itself soon

Interview with Farideh Farih - Council on Foreign Relations

[Nima: Within the complete version of the interview, you might notice that Farih provides a very high estimate of protestors turnout, I would like to point out that estimates are currently very rough, ranging from many hundreds of thousands at the peak, to over a million people.]

Mr. Ahmadinejad and his supporters have made it clear that they consider Mr. Rafsanjani to be the person who is trying to coordinate all the opposition forces against Mr. Ahmadinejad. During the campaign it was clear that Mr. Rafsanjani's family is supportive of Mr. Mousavi. His daughter was participating in the campaign as well as in the demonstrations [after the election]. So at this time in Iran there is a sense among the population that Mr. Rafsanjani is a key player in pushing back this authoritarian tendency that has taken grip in Iran.  For the Iranian population to feel that Mr. Rafsanjani is still powerful enough to actually work behind the scenes in an effort to prevent complete domination of the state by the hard-liners is very important. And for them to get the news that his daughter and family members had been arrested was very disheartening, because it suggested that Mr. Rafsanjani did not have the kind of power that they presumed he has. This is very much part of the psychological game that is being played by both camps in Iran. But the ability of Mr. Rafsanjani to get his family out of prison in such a short period of time is itself a reflection that Mr. Rafsanjani continues to maintain his power and it's not as easy as Ahmadinejad's supporters think to contain his power.

 

Symbols are not enough to win this battle

Robert Fisk - The Independent

Relatives of Mirhossein Mousavi's powerful ally Ali Akbar Rafsanjani are arrested then released; Mousavi is threatened with arrest by the Speaker of parliament; yet one of the most socially popular clerics and an ally of Mousavi, Mohamed Khatami, remains untouched.

Mousavi may have been a prime minister, but Khatami was a president. To touch Khatami would take away the future protection of Ahmadinejad. And the latter's powerful political friend Ayatollah Yazdi, who would like to be the next Supreme Leader, is a threat to Khamenei. And while every bloodied body on the streets of Iran's cities will now be declared a "terrorist'" by Ahmadinejad's friends, it will be honoured by his enemies as a martyr.

Mousavi, to win, needs to organise his protest in a more coherent way, not make it up on the hoof. But does Khamenei have a longer-term plan than mere survival?

 

Momentum for change in Iran

Mahir Ali - ZNet

However, the fact that the potential alternative to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is personified by the former prime minister of the Islamic Republic who was considered close to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini serves as a reality check: a reminder that the present tussle is taking place within the context of the theocracy that replaced the Shah's odious monarchy. The struggle against that regime [,the Monarchy,] was by no means an exclusively Islamist affair: its secular component encompassed a wide range of activists and intellectuals, from liberals to communists.

A substantial proportion of those who subsequently refused to bow to the supremacy of the clergy ended up dead. The remainder were incarcerated or exiled. Mir Hossein Mousavi shares the guilt in this context, notwithstanding the claim that throughout his tenure as prime minister, there were tensions between him and the then president, Ali Khamenei. Mousavi was effectively purged from the leadership after Khomeini's demise, when Khamenei was elevated - beyond his competence, according to his many detractors - to the level of ayatollah and ensconced as Supreme Leader.

 

The Arabs watch Iran with forlorn envy

Rami G. Kouri - The Daily Star

You would think that Arab governments would be pleased to see Iran's regime toppled, or tempered by its own people. Yet, if such change were to occur through street demonstrations choreographed via a web of digital communications, whispered messages, and rooftop religious chants in the middle of the night, autocratic Arab leaders would cringe - because they would sense in this their own vulnerability to similar mass political challenges. The fact is lost on no one that the Iranian regime has effectively withstood American, Israeli, European, and UN pressures, threats and sanctions for years, but found itself much more vulnerable to the spontaneous rebellion of many of its own citizens who felt degraded by the falsification of election results by the government.

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