And Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has banned the big demonstration called for 4 PM in Tehran. If you follow Andrew Sullivan’s blog–and you should, if you’re interested in what’s happening in Iran, and also in what’s happening in the ranks of the American Left–you will see that many Iranians fear that Saturday is slated to be a day of bloodshed.
Khamenei did not budge at all. No concessions. The elections are legitimate, the results are final. Moreover, he said, the battle is not between “the people” and “the regime,” it’s between four leaders who all believe in the regime. The people voted, we counted their votes, and that’s that. If anyone protests after my sermon, he said, whatever violence ensues is on them.
Which sounds like a promise of violence. As I said earlier, tens of thousands of Revolutionary Guards have been brought to Tehran to put down the demonstrations. These are older, well-trained and presumably loyal soldiers who will not shrink from attacking the crowds. So some of the Iranians on Twitter have written messages that sound like “final thoughts,” not knowing if they will survive Saturday.
This is all the regime has left, because the demonstrations have revealed its hollowness, and the nightly chants of “God is great” from the rooftops of all major cities in Iran have exposed the collapse of its central doctrine: that the theocratic fascist system is blessed by Allah. Millions of Iranians are openly rejecting that.
Khamenei recognizes this, which is why he has committed his own power to the defeat of Mousavi’s movement. This confirms what I have been arguing, namely that, however Mousavi started, he now leads a revolutionary mass movement that is aimed at the dark heart of the corrupt theocratic fascist state. When Mousavi asked the huge crowd on Thursday “where are our $300 billion?” he and everyone else knew that was a threat to bring the ruling mullahs to justice, to prosecute them for their thievery.
That led to one of the interesting sub-plots in the Khamenei speech: the kind words for former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, who is widely believed to have enriched himself more than any other of the ruling elite. I think Khamenei was telling Rafsanjani to stick with the system, and not (as has been widely rumored) join the revolution. What will Rafsanjani do? The “big story” of recent days was that he had gone to the holy city of Qom to get an endorsement for Mousavi from the senior Ayatollahs. So far as I know, no such endorsement was issued. Does this mean that Rafsanjani betrayed Mousavi? Or simply that the clerics decided to stick with Khamenei? Perhaps we will know the answer some day.
Meanwhile, there were cracks in the regime’s instruments of repression, and reports of action against the Basij thugs in the night time streets of Tehran. The latter was picked up by the daily blog at the Guardian, in a post on “Basij hunting” by young activists. The former came from a group of Revolutionary Guards on their own blog (all of the following was translated by Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi). At the top of the blog, we read a detailed condemnation of IRGC actions in past years, which is described as a betrayal of their values:
This weblog is for all the guards who have stepped in the direction of lovingly serving the people, our nation and Islam but were killed by the deceit of the cowardly or were led astray. This weblog is for all those guards who still stay steadfast to that form and yet with betrayed hearts and as a result of desperation were witness to the plundering of people’s belongings, were witness to the smuggling of arms and drugs, were witness to the gangs of corrupt guards who did sex-trafficking and sold innocent Iranian girls to the Persian Gulf countries, and….
Last Wednesday they published an extraordinary message, proclaiming their independence of the supreme leader, and calling on their brethren to defect, and join the revolution:
…those who imagine that the Revolutionary Guard Corps is the ranking guards of the supreme leader, they are mistaken. We take God as our witness that we will not permit the blood of martyrs of the revolution and an imposed war, that was poured on the streets and battlefields of our great nation for freedom and independence and the Islamic Republic, be trampled by power-hungry and monopolistic individuals. We take God as our witness that with the presence of certain dangers that may threaten our lives, we stand with the voting public in confronting the treacherous and with the water of ablution of martyrdom, we will not permit that those corrupt and power-grabbing commanders who don the blessed costume of the Revolutionary Guard, to drag people through blood and sand. We reiterate and specifically recommend to our Basiji brothers to either stand to the side of the fray or turn in your weapons and join the masses of people…
We will see later today if appeals of this sort are widespread and effective. Certainly there are grounds for the regime to be deeply worried. As Ardeshir Arian tells us, many commanders of the Guards refused to carry out a roundup of opposition leaders, some of them were arrested, and Khamenei’s sermon was delayed for several hours. All day Saturday, regime forces were rounding up their opponents, from members of Mousavi’s campaign staff, to people around Karrubi, and to people sitting in their homes all over Iran. The full extent of this repression cannot be known yet, but it is very ugly and very considerable.
Meanwhile, to his credit, President Obama finally rallied to the revolutionaries:
…we stand behind those who are seeking justice in a peaceful way. Already we’ve seen violence out there. I’ve said this throughout the week, I want to repeat it, that we stand with those who would look to peaceful resolution of conflict and we believe that the voices of people have to be heard, that that’s a universal value that the American people stand for and this administration stands for.
That wasn’t so hard, was it? It would also be nice to hear a forthright condemnation of those who have unleashed the violence, and I suspect that we will hear it.
Finally, almost everyone has missed one of the most remarkable themes of the Khamenei sermon, namely the attack on the Clintons. I’ll give it to you in full, because there is really no way to summarize it without depriving you of the full flavor. He was upset at American accusations of human rights violations in Iran:
Even inside the U.S., one is amazed, during the time of the administration of these very Democrats, the Democratic Party in America, the time of the presidency of the husband of this so-called “lady” who expresses her opinions, 80, 80 something people who were a part of the Davudi sect, were burnt alive; there’s no room for denying this. These “excellencies” did this deed; it was these very Democrats…the Davudi sect which they themselves call BRANCH DAVIDIANS. For some unknown reason, these people incurred the wrath of American and inside a house…they went over there and besieged the place and whatever they did, they didn’t come out and so they ended up setting the house on fire and 80 something men, women and children burned alive! You think you know something about human rights?!
Now I don’t want to be unfair to Khamenei (whom I once unfairly accused of being dead), but I have a suspicion that he was referring to Ali Murad Davudi, the Baha’i leader who disappeared from Iran during one of the pogroms against the members of his faith during the first year of the Islamic Republic.
Bad form, beating up on a woman who just underwent elbow surgery in Washington. But it’s probably nothing like what he’s preparing to unleash on his own people later today.
UPDATE I: (around 2 o’clock my time) Regime blocked access to major squares with fire trucks, used high pressure hoses on demonstrators, and Basij and police attacked demonstrators with the usual collection of clubs, knives, guns etc.
Many reports–Twitter is full of them–of wounded (and wounded people in hospitals being dragged off to die or to prison). I’ve told you about the Guardian blog, have a look also at the NY Times blog which currently has a video, rather surprisingly credited to the regime’s propaganda arms, PressTV, which claims to show a demonstration today. That looks like a very big crowd, larger than anything I’ve seen described on Twitter (mind you, it’s impossible to keep up with Twitter reports).
Belgian TV and Italy’s Corriere della Sera report the “taking” (say the Belgians) and/or the “burning” (Italians) of an Ahmadi-Nezhad campaign HQ. And there have been reports from Tehran of the bombing of the Imam Khomeini Shrine. Two reported injured. Both of these reports are being questioned by Western journalists, as they think the regime wants to be able to claim that the Mousavi supporters are criminals and hooligans.
Thanks to Judith Klinghoffer for pointing out this article in the Qatari press, quoting extensively from Khamenei, leading his followers in chants accusing outside forces (US, Israel, Great Britain) of organizing criminal acts in Iran.
Mousavi issued a statement saying “I am prepared for martyrdom. If I am taken prisoner, go on strike.”
Somebody or other has been calling for a strike fund for about ten years. And of course is accused of warmongering by American “progressives.”
UPDATE II: Obama finally condemns the regime
The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.
As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion.
Martin Luther King once said – “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I believe that. The international community believes that. And right now, we are bearing witness to the Iranian peoples’ belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness.
UPDATE III, the Mousavi appearance today (Saturday still) from one of his people:
Mousavi [dressed in pure white, the dress of the dead] briefly in public; in his speech he stated “Khamenei your speech did not contain a single word of truth”; “Khamenei why kill and harm innocent civilians if you know you are right with the elections? Why not prove that you are right by means of a new election? Then, if you win as you are so confident about, you can once and for all prove that you have always been right and then we have to silence ourselves. Why not, Khamenei?
I accept my fate; if they arrest me please go on strike; if they kill me please go on an indefinite strike until you have achieved our goals.
While Mousavi gave his speech 10 RGs spontaneously defected.
ME: Mousavi is still calling for a non-violent solution, but he knows–as I have said before, he has known for some days now–that this is a life and death showdown, that elections cannot “fix” it, and that the only issue is the survival of the regime, whether or not the Islamic Republic falls.
When people start chanting “death to the dictator!” and “death to Khamenei!” talk of calmly going to some polling booth and voting is hardly relevant. Even Roger Cohen has figured it out (nothing like a bit of tear gas to clarify the situation).