Before The Deluge
Tomorrow is likely to be a very sad day. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's speech at Friday prayers basically gave a warning today, essentially vowing violence if people went out into the streets tomorrow. The regime may not do it in public; they may use the Basiji Guard militia to round up the protestors at night after the protests during the day. That's certainly plausible in an environment where the world has its eyes trained on Iran - the protests diminish because everyone slowly gets rounded up, and the remaining protestors become demoralized, and the regime can plausibly say they petered out on their own accord.
But this doesn't exactly sound like someone who thinks he needs to do his business under cover of darkness:
Street challenges after the elections are not the right thing to do. This is, in fact, challenging the principle of elections and democracy. I want everyone to end this sort of action. If they do not end it then the consequences of this lie with them (street protestors).
The consequences of this lie with them. If they break the law they must suffer the consequences, in other words. And at this point, Khamenei has put his own credibility on the line. In a post at the Foreign Policy blog, Karim Sadjadpour says:
The weight of the world now rests on the shoulders of Mir Hossein Mousavi. I expect that Khamenei's people have privately sent signals to him that they're ready for a bloodbath, they're prepared to use overwhelming force to crush this, and is he willing to lead the people in the streets to slaughter?
Mousavi is not Khomeini, and Khamenei is not the Shah. Meaning, Khomeini would not hesitate to lead his followers to "martyrdom", and the Shah did not have the stomach for mass bloodshed. This time the religious zealots are the ones holding power.
There are scattered reports that the young people coming out in the streets day after day now how crucial tomorrow will be. This is completely heartbreaking:
I will participate in the demonstrations tomorrow. Maybe they will turn violent. Maybe I will be one of the people who is going to get killed. I’m listening to all my favorite music. I even want to dance to a few songs. I always wanted to have very narrow eyebrows. Yes, maybe I will go to the salon before I go tomorrow! [...] My mind is very chaotic. I wrote these random sentences for the next generation so they know we were not just emotional and under peer pressure. So they know that we did everything we could to create a better future for them. So they know that our ancestors surrendered to Arabs and Mongols but did not surrender to despotism. This note is dedicated to tomorrow’s children…
More like this at Nico Pitney's liveblog. It's all very dramatic.
In an interview released today, President Obama went slightly further than he has in the past, saying that "the world is watching" and "we stand behind those who are seeking justice in a peaceful way." Reiterating that we are watching is perhaps the best hope to end what seems to be coming tomorrow. Because I'm afraid of what we'll see.