The Storm Ahead
The Iranian tyrant, Ali Khamenei, told his cluster of top advisers two days ago that it was time to totally shut down the protests, and he ordered that any and all demonstrators, regardless of their status, be arrested (although there is no longer room for new prisoners in Tehran's jails; they are now using sports arenas as holding areas). He further ordered that all satellite dishes be taken down (good luck with that one; there are probably millions of them in Tehran alone). He ordered that the crackdown be done at night, to avoid all those annoying videos. By Sunday night, hundreds of new arrests had been made, including the regime's favorite targets: students, intellectuals, and journalists.
His deadline: July 11th. He told his minions that if that were accomplished, the rest of the world would come crawling to him.
He may be right about most of the rest of the world, which has distinguished itself by its fecklessness, but he is certainly not right about his own people, who have sabotaged a major petroleum pipeline in Lurestan, and who are planning to go on strike in the next few days. I don't know the provenance of the people who hit the pipeline (perhaps the fact that the political desk of the Tehran Times reported it is significant), but calls for strikes, building towards a big demonstration on July 9th, come from Mousavi, Karroubi and Khatami.
Mousavi got a big boost over the weekend from an important group of senior clerics in the holy city of Qom. They branded the "elections" and the new government that will shortly be sworn in, as illegitimate. This is a serious matter, leading Stanford's Professor Abbas Milani to say “This crack in the clerical establishment, and the fact they are siding with the people and Moussavi, in my view is the most historic crack in the 30 years of the Islamic republic.” They are also explicitly siding with Mousavi, who released a detailed critique/expose of the fraud that confirmed Ahmadinezhad in office.
So Khamenei is under pressure, and he is not well equipped to deal with it. He has a serious cancer, and takes opiates to mitigate the pain. People around him are whispering that his decisions are poorly reasoned and often impulsive, and some of those close to him, including his son, are apparently issuing orders in his name. This sort of rumor is devastating for the sort of personal rule upon which the Islamic Republic rests. We'll see in the coming days if the Mousavi forces are able to maintain and increase the pressure, and how Khamenei and his henchmen respond.
At the moment, there is evidence of some panic, as Iranian leaders are exporting their wealth.
Meanwhile, the American Government was sending conflicting signals to Tehran. On the one hand, it seems that Obama will be going to the upcoming G8 conference with a request that there be no new sanctions on Iran. This comes at a time when the Europeans, for the first time, seem inclined to get at least a little bit tougher on the mullahs, and it effectively demolishes the myth that this administration intends to do anything to support the Iranian people in their life and death struggle for freedom (perhaps this should not surprise us; after all, Obama's 4th of July message did not contain the word "freedom," but it did talk a lot about his own legislative proposals). At the same time, Vice President Joe Biden three times said the United States would do nothing to prevent an Israeli attack against Iranian nuclear targets.
So apparently we're prepared to let the Israelis do our dirty work. A real standup sort of policy.
UPDATE: A great video on the Iranian uprising. Notice the many women with uncovered heads.
UPDATE II: The 3-day strike. Apparently the regime was so worried about the strike that they shut down most factories, businesses and offices. This is another sign of regime insecurity. And Mousavi today (Monday) received several distinguished visitors, including Khomeini's grandson.