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Iran: More unrest and arrests; the republic's three decades of history; and questioning what next

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Below are clips from articles analyzing the current situation in Iran. For hourly updates on events, you can visit Nico Pitney's blog at the Huffington Post or the New York Time's the Lede.


Ahmadinejad Slams Obama; 70 Professors Arrested; Wednesday Protest Violently Attacked

Juan Cole - Informed Comment

The BBC is reporting that a victory celebration by the Iranian elite to which 300 prominent persons were invited ended up being poorly attended, with 105 guests not showing up.

[...]The LAT reports that 70 professors have been arrested in Iran for meeting with Mir Hosain Mousavi, the opposition leader who alleges that the vote in the recent presidential election was rigged. The report in Persian is here. They are members of the Islamic Association of University Teachers.

Hundreds of rock-throwing demonstrators tried to gather in downtown Tehran on Wednesday afternoon, but they met a phalanx of determined security forces who dispersed them by main force. Some 1,000 protesters were said to have gathered near the parliament building before allegedly being attacked.

Opposition leader Mir Hosain Mousavi's web site denied that he was under house arrest, as some observers had alleged, but acknowledged that he was under surveillance. He vowed to continue to attend peaceful rallies. His wife, Zahra Rahnevard, said at the web site that Iran had descended into "martial law."

Miscalculations Abound in Iran

Shahir Shahidsaless - Asia Times

Even the disputed results of the election show that Mousavi had the support of 14 million people. This is a grassroots movement for change in Iran. Among this 14 million people, prominent intellectuals, writers, artists, university students, professors and educated and young urbanites are distinguishable. Crushing the protests equates to suppressing a large section of society, leaving people with utmost rage and deep resentment towards the system.

Amazingly, the same miscalculation applies to the Mousavi camp. Their evaluation of the current events as people versus the dictator has flaws, as does Khamenei's and the ruling elite's perception of the Islamic umma (nation) against "dust and dirt", as implied by Ahmadinejad.

Why the Islamic Republic Has Survived

Ervand Abarhimian - The Middle East Report

[Nima: The below article does not directly address the crisis following Iran's June 12 presidential election, however it does claim to speak to economic and political reasons for the Islamic Republic's survivability in the past 30 years.]

In three decades the regime has come close to eliminating illiteracy among the post-revolutionary generations, reducing the overall rate from 53 percent to 15 percent.[1] The rate among women has fallen from 65 percent to 20 percent. The state has increased the number of students enrolled in primary schools from 4,768,000 to 5,700,000, in secondary schools from 2.1 million to over 7.6 million, in technical schools from 201,000 to 509,000, and in universities from 154,000 to over 1.5 million. The percentage of women in university student populations has gone up from 30 percent to 62 percent. Thanks to medical clinics, life expectancy at birth has increased from 56 to 70, and infant mortality has decreased from 104 to 25 per 1,000. Also thanks to medical clinics, the birth rate has fallen from an all-time high of 3.2 to 2.1, and the fertility rate—the average number of children born to a woman in her lifetime—from 7 to 3. It is expected to fall further to 2 by 2012—in other words, Iran in the near future will achieve near zero population growth.

[...]Upcoming decades will test the regime’s ability to juggle the competing demands of these populist programs with those of the educated middle class—especially the ever expanding army of university graduates produced, ironically, by one of the revolution’s main achievements. This new stratum needs not only jobs and a decent standard of living but also greater social mobility and access to the outside world—with all its dangers, especially to well-protected home industries—and, concomitantly, the creation of a viable civil society. The regime may be able to meet these formidable demands if it finds fresh sources of oil and gas revenues—but to do so it will need to markedly improve its relations with Washington so that economic sanctions can be lifted. Without the lifting of sanctions, Iran cannot gain access to the technology and capital needed to develop its large gas reserves. If new revenues do not materialize, class politics will threaten to rear its head again. For 30 years, populism has managed to blunt the sharp edge of class politics. It may not do so in the future.

A Way Forward

Muhammad Sahimi - Tehran Bureau

The question now is how Mr. Mousavi and the reformists should go forward.

First, any sensible strategy must take into account the realities of Iran and the world today. This is not 1978 or 79; it is not the time of the Cold War when Iran’s neighbor to the north was the Soviet Union. The bipolar nature of the international community at that time, and in particular the West’s support for Iran and the Shah, guaranteed Iran’s territorial integrity. The situation is very different today.

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