So NOW What's Going on in Iran?
Ahmadi-Nezhad has left the country, for one thing. He's gone off to meet with some of his Russian friends. Why? Who knows? Maybe he's looking at rental properties. But no doubt the Iranians have been talking to the Russians and the Chinese about, uh, "crowd control." I don't think either will have particularly useful ideas for the Iranian revolutionary movement, frankly. Sending in the tanks might appeal to Khamenei et. al., but there seems to be considerable evidence that the armed forces, even the Revolutionary Guards, are unreliable. Twitter messages abound in little scenes of friendly exchanges between police and dissidents. There are even stories of police arresting Basij thugs. And I haven't seen a single account of Army repression. Quite the contrary; the Army seems to be trying to protect the dissidents by separating their would-be attackers from the demonstrators.
It seems that tomorrow, Thursday, will be the first big showdown. The regime is massing two Revolutionary Guards divisions for an assault on the dissidents--something like twenty thousand soldiers from outside Tehran--and the Mousavi people don't want to give them time to organize and prepare their attacks. No doubt there are all kinds of secret meetings going on, as the various military, militia, religious and political leaders try to read the chicken entrails and guess their destiny. I don't envy them the very brutal choice they now face, for despite some embarrassingly silly opeds in places like the NY Times
JUST after Iran’s rigged elections last week, with hundreds of thousands of protesters taking to the streets, it looked as if a new revolution was in the offing. Five days later, the uprising is little more than a symbolic protest, crushed by the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
the most powerful leaders in Iran are facing a life or death showdown. Both Khamenei and Mousavi--the two opposed icons of the moment, at least--know that they will either win or die. After nightfall, millions of revolutionaries chant from their rooftops "Allah is Great" and they are chants of defiance hurled at the Islamic Republic. I cannot imagine a soft landing.
Meanwhile, the regime is rounding up political leaders and killing dissidents. More than two score former VIPs of the regime are now in jail, according to the data given Khamenei, which lists the surprisingly low number of 36 dead over the past four and a half days. Given their paranoia of young people, and especially educated youth, it is no surprise that university campuses have been invaded, and anyone who looks like a "student" is attacked. This heart-rending letter has been circulating most of the day online (I posted it on The Corner):
I am a medical student. There was chaos last night at the trauma section in one of our main hospitals. Although by decree, all riot-related injuries were supposed to be sent to military hospitals, all other hospitals were filled to the rim. Last night, nine people died at our hospital and another 28 had gunshot wounds. All hospital employees were crying till dawn. They (government) removed the dead bodies on back of trucks, before we were even able to get their names or other information. What can you even say to the people who don't even respect the dead. No one was allowed to speak to the wounded or get any information from them. This morning the faculty and the students protested by gathering at the lobby of the hospital where they were confronted by plain cloths anti-riot militia, who in turn closed off the hospital and imprisoned the staff. The extent of injuries are so grave, that despite being one of the most staffed emergency rooms, they've asked everyone to stay and help—I'm sure it will even be worst tonight.
What can anyone say in face of all these atrocities? What can you say to the family of the 13 year old boy who died from gunshots and whose dead body then disappeared?
This issue is not about cheating(election) anymore. This is not about stealing votes anymore. The issue is about a vast injustice inflicted on the people.
I think that many pundits insist on thinking about the Iran-that-was-five-days-ago, instead of the bubbling cauldron that it is today. The same mistake is repeated when people say that Mousavi, after all, is "one of them," a member of the founding generation of the Islamic Republic, and so you can't expect real change from him. The president made that mistake when he said that he didn't expect any real difference in Iran's behavior, no matter how this drama plays out.
I think that is wrong; at this point, Mousavi either brings down the Islamic Republic or he hangs. If he wins, and the Islamic Republic comes down, we may well see the whole world change, from an end of the theocratic fascist system, to a cutoff of money, arms, technology, training camps and intelligence to the world's leading terrorist organizations, and yes, even to a termination of the nuclear weapons program.
I think that, whatever or whoever Mir Hossein Mousavi was five days ago, he is now the leader of a mass movement that demands the creation of a free Iran that will rejoin the Western world. And yes, the wheel could turn again, this revolution could one day be betrayed, all kinds of surprises no doubt await the Iranian people. Yes, but. But today, there is a dramatic chance of a very good thing happening in Iran, and thus in the Middle East, and therefore in the whole world.
I have no doubt that Obama is being told by his intelligence czars and wizards that the regime is going to win, that the disturbances are not all that serious, and that he's going to have to deal with Ahmadi-Nezhad for the next four years, so he'd better be careful not to offend the poor dear. That's what every intelligence service ALWAYS says in these situations. It's what the Israeli Mossad is saying publicly, for heaven's sake:
Mossad chief Meir Dagan estimated that the civil unrest in Iran will not continue much longer.
Speaking to the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Dagan downplayed the significance of the riots, saying they are taking place only in Tehran and one other province.
Mr. Dagan, let us say, is phenomenally badly informed. The "riots" are taking place in every major city of Iran. Leon Panetta hasn't made any public statements (bless him for that), but one will get you five that the CIA didn't think there was any chance of this sort of all-out confrontation as of "election-circus day" and while they have no doubt hedged a bit since then, they still likely bet on a regime win.
Which is why I have a limited sympathy for Obama's efforts to say nothing much, even though I don't like it, and I think it's a mistake on his own grounds. As I said last time, it's wrong to think that your chances of getting a deal from your enemy is enhanced if you appease him. Reagan got lots of deals from the Soviet Union, even though he denounced it most every day.
As Obama discovered just today, America will be accused of meddling on behalf of freedom, even if we do nothing. And the accusation will have been true, in the most fundamental sense, even though the State Department raced to deny it. We are the symbol of freedom in the modern world, and those fighting for freedom against tyrants will intuitively invoke our name and our Constitution in their struggle. They are right, for the very existence of America threatens the legitimacy of the tyrants.
We meddle because we exist.