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June 14, 2009
Iran II: Making sense of events
First, a few links this morning so you can get your bearings.
Laura Rozen continues her outstanding coverage of the aftermath of the vote in Iran at Foreign Policy's blog, The Cable.
I found this interesting:
"It's a disaster of course," an American reporter in Tehran told The Cable Saturday. "A few violent clashes in distant towns. People are angry, devastated. Crying. Streets in Tehran mostly quiet. Heavy security presence. Street in front of Interior ministry blocked off. People tell me Mousavi and Karrubi will join together to fight this. Rafanjani is really angry, so it's said. Big clampdown expected. I'm afraid people's hopes will be crushed."
That press conference was surreal. It's difficult to describe because obviously, Ahmadinejad is living on another planet :
Ahmadinejad, in a nationally televised victory speech, said that the election process had been "free and healthy," and accused the foreign media of coverage that harms the Iranian people. There was more rioting at night and fires continued to burn on the streets of Tehran.
It should be noted that Rafsanjani, a former president himself who was defeated by Ahmadinejad in 2005 in a runoff largely thought to have been fixed in favor of the former Tehran mayor, has resigned all of his posts in the government - including resigning from the powerful Assembly of Experts.
This is hugely significant as Rafsanjani - named by Forbes in the 1990's as one of the richest men in the world (on a government salary), is extremely powerful and was thought to be a favorite to succeed Ayatollah Khamenei upon the Supreme Leader's death. Resigning from the Assembly of Experts could mean that he is reading the tea leaves - something he has proven very adept at in the past - and determined that anyone associated with the clerics or government has lost all credibility anyway and if he is to have a political future, it will be from the outside looking in.
That same Yosi Melman story in Haaretz also reports that Ahmadinejad's top rival, Mir Hossein Mousavi, has been arrested. We already know that his headquarters was trashed and his supporters beaten by paramilitary militias connected to the Revolutionary Guards.
Gary Sick, and old Mideast hand going back to the Kissinger era, has an interesting timeline on his blog that not only shows pretty conclusively that the election was stolen, but that it was a sham from the start:
On the basis of what we know so far, here is the sequence of events starting on the afternoon of election day, Friday, June 12.Last night in Tehran, tens of thousands of people stood on their rooftops yelling "Allah o Akbar" - at 4:00 AM. Western press could easily hear the chant from their hotel rooms where most of them are holed up because the streets are a mess. The religious militia is riding around on motorcycles beating people with their batons and truncheons at random. Small groups of several hundred protestors try to set up road blocks using burning tires but are quickly dispersed by charging police formations.
In case you haven't noticed, Iran is a powderkeg. But those who are hopeful that a repeat of 1979 is in the offing can abandon such notions. What we are seeing is the young, the merchant class, and the nouveau riche who are internet savvy and given to thoughts of freedom reacting to the dashing of their dreams. The majority of the population does not live in the big cities and they may be a little disappointed but still believe in the principles of their revolution. Many of them voted for Ahmadinejad anyway.
What we are seeing is the application of naked power. It may be a purge of the "reformers." It may be a military coup. It could even be, as this analyst wrote yesterday, that Ahmadinejad actually did win in a landslide, that we just don't understand the Iranian people and their real motivations regarding religion and politics.
That last I find doubtful. It is much more likely that the election was a sham all along and that they may use the violent aftermath as an excuse to arrest anyone not fervently in agreement with the government. That's what dictatorships do and that's what's happening in Iran.