At the moment it is hard to sort out the democrats from the would-be creators of the caliphate, save in the most important country–important for the freedom of the peoples of the Middle East and for American security–which is Iran. All those pundits, whether in government or the press, who told their clients that the Iranian opposition had been crushed, have been discredited once again, just as they were when the Green Movement first erupted in the streets in June, 2009. More importantly, the regime, whose leaders had convinced themselves that they had won, also knows otherwise, which is why the Green leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have been sealed in their houses, and cut off–or so Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad have been told–from all contact with the outside world, above all with their followers and supporters. I doubt that seal is very hermetic; there are lots of traitors among the security forces, and a good reporter, Con Coughlin of the London Telegraph, has written that high-level Revolutionary Guards commanders have asked–in writing–their superiors not to order them to shoot demonstrators.
In a suggestion of a split within the Islamic Republic’s ruling hierarchy over its handling of protests, the letter has been circulated widely throughout the ranks of the Revolutionary Guards, the body responsible for defending the religious system. The letter, a copy of which has been seen by The Daily Telegraph, is addressed to Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the guards’ commanding officer. It calls on him to issue guidance to both the guards and the Basij paramilitary militia to use restraint when handling protests.
I have confirmed this story to my satisfaction, and in the course of confirming it I was told that similar messages have come from Basij commanders as well. If that is true, then the mechanism of the “iron fist” against the Iranian people may not work as well in the future as in the past. That question will get at least a partial answer tomorrow, Sunday, as Mousavi has called for a new demonstration.
The Iranian opposition has enormous internal support, and is also receiving encouragement from Shi’ite leaders in Iraq. Ayatollah Jamal al-Din, a follower of the Grand Ayatollah Sistani of Najaf (arguably the most esteemed figure in the Shi’ite firmament), called upon the Iranian people to overthrow their leaders and restore freedom to their ancient land. His words echoed some of Mousavi’s language and bear careful attention:
Oh, Dear brothers! There is no difference between a dictator who wears a [crown], a dictator who wears a turban and a dictator who wears the traditional Arab gear. Dictators are the same regardless of their styles and languages. Freedom and dignity are the same for every people. And you, the Noble People of Iran, you were the first people in the Middle East to revolt against the dictatorship and corruption in 1979. Today is your day to reclaim your dignity, your freedom and the treasures of your rich country from the grasp of those thieves who stole religion and state.
That’s the voice of the democratic insurrection. If it prevails, then there may yet be a chance for a real democratic revolution on a global scale. Even if the American president, who rallied to the Wisconsin trade union demonstrators a lot faster than to the Iranian freedom fighters, seems inclined to believe that class conflict is a proper response to the American democratic revolt last November.
Nobody knows how all this will play play out. As I write (Saturday evening) there are reports of a bloodbath in Libya. Tomorrow blood may flow in Iran. It is only a matter of time until at least some of the opposition conclude that they have lost enough friends and relatives to the regime’s killers, and seek revenge. And, as I have often remarked, a lot of pipelines and refineries keep “exploding” in Iran (unlikely they are all accidents), and airplanes carrying Revolutionary Guards have a very high rate of accident.
What would you do if you had been fighting this evil regime for nigh onto two years, hoping that the Western world would come to help, only to find that the West is still trying to make a deal with your oppressors?
That’s also a global question, isn’t it?