The Iranian people are preparing for the next big challenge to the dying regime: tomorrow, 7 December. Pearl Harbor Day. And the regime is lashing out in all directions:
- arresting dissidents (including even the “mourning mothers” of the victims of regime savagery);
- shutting down the social networks (as of late Saturday, internet access was very slow in Iran, and sms, twitter and facebook were being blocked);
- accusing the West of the ultimate evil: “President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced today that he has concrete evidence that the US was trying to prevent the Hidden Imam from descending on earth. (The Hidden Imam is the 12th and final Imam of Shi’ites who is said to return to earth during the final days and usher in the apocalypse).”
- Trying to stop the world outside (and Iranians inside) from seeing what is really going on; foreign correspondents have had their licenses suspended for 72 hours, (courtesy of the Orwellian Culture Ministry).
So we are perhaps going to be able to answer the contemporary version of that old question “if a tree falls and nobody hears it, does it make a sound?” Our question is “if there is a revolution, and nobody reports it, does the regime fall?”
Meanwhile, back at the mosque, the supreme leader delivered a rambling 40-minute speech in which he referred to “enemies” about 200 times. It is one of those classics of tyrannical paranoia that students of failing regimes like to analyze. Barbara Slavin, who briefly permitted herself to believe that the regime was going to agree to an American proposal to delay uranium enrichment, today produced a useful survey of contemporary Iranology, reminiscent of the tortured analyses of the inner workings of the Soviet regime. The centerpiece of the Iranologists’ thinking is the notion that the mullahs just can’t make a decision because they are so badly divided amongst themselves about making a deal with Obama. They wonder if the Revolutionary Guards are not in control, rather than Khamenei. And Ms Slavin quotes an unnamed administration official who takes credit for creating or at least catalyzing the inner turmoil.
The trouble with these experts’ analysis is that the top leaders have always said that they would never abandon the nuclear program, and the obvious straight-line explanation for their negotiating ploys for the past many years is a desire to buy time while fending off stern Western measures. The Iranologists are inventing epicycles when they should be looking at planetary orbits.
Nonetheless, Ms Slavin is entirely right to point to internal conflict, which is enormous, and has to do with the survival of the regime, not with the Revolutionary Guards (taken to be a solidly unified bunch) vs the pols. The wonderful blog, homylafatte, recounts a recent episode in which the Basij commander got angry at the Tehran traffic control chief, Hojjatollah Behrouz, at a crisis meeting on Tuesday, December 1, when Behrouz said it would be impossible to prevent demonstrators from blocking traffic on Student Day. The Basij general shot the poor bureaucrat in the foot and sent him to the hospital…
It is hard to put the entire country in chains and still claim divine legitimacy, as Green leader Mir Hossein Mousavi intoned in a powerful public statement today. To the discredited regime, he says,
(You) insist that the people have been quieted and only students are left; and in universities it is only Tehran [that is vocal], and in Tehran it is only the mother universities that express themselves; and in those the centre of movement are a few non-local youths. If we expel them from the dormitory and sentence them to a ban from education, then the story is finished.
OK! You did all this, then why isn’t the story over?
Student movements are signs of realities greater than themselves.
And that is indeed the point. The regime is facing an enormous mass movement, not just a handful of intellectual kids. The “enemies” of which the supreme leader speaks are all around him, and his closest allies are now making deals with the regime’s gravediggers, taking out insurance against the day when the Islamic Republic finally falls. Khamenei hears their voices every night, calling from the rooftops. “Canons, guns, Basiji, prison, torture or execution; has no effect on us anymore.”
Remember Pearl Harbor.