Crackdown Ordered Up
Ali Khamenei's speech during Friday prayers do not bode well for the protestors in the streets. Here's Jim Sleeper:
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's speech gives a virtual green light to the thuggish -- and massive -- Basij militia. It also raises the "moral" and Iranian constitutional ante on future demonstrations. From now on, demonstrations aren't legitimate petitioning for redress of grievances. They're civil disobedience - and, in Iran, something worse.
In civil-disobedience, you break a law non-violently and accept the legal penalty, to show that it's the unjust law that has betrayed the constitution, not your breaking a bad law publicly in order to defend the very rule of law. But in Iran, demonstrating will now require even more moral and physical courage than it did yesterday, or than civil disobedience does here. It will be cast as disobedience to the constitution itself - to the "Supreme Leader."
Watch the first 20 seconds of his speech and see his listeners' quintessentially fascist salutes, and you know what's coming.
To say that Khamenei warned the protestors is kind of an understatement. He's probably just going to expand the tactics that have already been put into place in the smaller cities where there is no international media.
However, Juan Cole sees green shoots:
AFP estimated the size of the demonstration as similar to the one on Monday. Some reporters thought a million people came out on Monday, though I prefer to be conservative on crowds, since it is easy to overestimate their size. Several hundred thousand, perhaps half a million, would be impressive enough. Such massive numbers of discontented urbanites tell you that change may well be in the air. The 2006 demonstration by an estimated 500,000 people in Los Angeles against immigration restrictions on Latinos (a la Tom Tancredo et al.) was in retrospect a harbinger of big trouble for the Republican Party in national US politics [...]
The clerical hierarchy is itself increasingly split. It might have been expected that disgraced Grand Ayatollah Husayn Ali Montazeri, now under house arrest, would issue a letter in support of the protests. (Montazeri was once heir apparent to Imam Ruhollah Khomeini but his criticisms of regime practices and of clerical dictatorship led to his marginalization and ultimately arrest.) But former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is alleged to be trying to drum up support for Mousavi among senior clerics in the holy city of Qom. There are persistent rumors that reformist Ayatollah Yusuf Sani'i has given legal rulings that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not president of Iran [...]
The regime, surely fearing a popular revolution of the sort that toppled the shah in 1978-79, is using carrots and sticks to try to deal with an unpredictable situation. So far, however, both inducements and crackdowns have been a pittance. Several hundred protest leaders have been arrested, but when you've got hundreds of thousands out in the streets every day, a few hundred arrests don't mean much and clearly aren't intimidating anyone. In fact, they backfire by angering the protesters and ensuring they return the next day. The arrest of ailing former foreign minister Ibrahim Yazdi at his hospital was particularly cruel. Some rumors have it that the regime was forced to release him back to the hospital, so poor is his health.
Babak Rahimi, in Tehran, sees the situation as being as unpredictable as that of fall 1978 when it was not apparent whether the shah would survive or the regime would fall.
I'd like to think that this could tip in the way of popular reform, but Tiananmen seems more likely to me.
Meanwhile, at the same time that Iranian regime leaders are accusing the US of meddling and making themselves look foolish, the US Congress plans to meddle with a nonbinding resolution today supporting the demonstrators, which seems somewhat benign but just plays into the hardliner's hands. NIAC explains.
This measure is almost guaranteed to pass–probably with an overwhelming number of votes–which will unfortunately put the Congress directly at odds with the White House in responding to the crisis in Iran. Up to now, the President has been very cautious not to be seen as choosing one side over the other in the election dispute, saying he doesn’t want the US to become the story inside Iran. But the Congress seems poised to speak out more vocally on the subject, choosing to come down squarely on the side of the dissidents [...]
As we’ve been saying for some time now, the President has it right here. Though of course everyone supports free and fair democracies, Iran is a country in flux at the moment. If US political figures come out in strong support for Mousavi, then what? Won’t Ahmadinejad just use that to declare Mousavi is a puppet of the West? That certainly won’t do much to help the cause for reform in Iran.
This isn't about it. We shouldn't offer the opportunity to make it that way.
...Henry goddam Kissinger supports the President's stance, ferchrissakes.