Maybe it’ll be a turning point. Maybe not. It’s the anniversary of the massacre of students in Iran ten years ago, when they defied their tyrants and called for freedom. There are certainly a lot of people around the world who will turn out to show their contempt for the Tehran regime. I can’t keep track of them all, but there should be significant turnouts in the Hague, Vienna, Rome, Paris, Washington, New York, Irvine and Santa Monica, Seattle and Hamburg…and more and more. In Iran itself, the regime’s opponents have called for “the biggest turnout yet,” totally silent, no posters or banners, just silence.
The silence of the demonstrations would be a counterpoint to the nightly chants from the rooftops and prisons of the nation. Chants of “Allah is great,” along with “Death to the Dictator.” If you believe the folks on Twitter, those chants have been louder with each passing night, despite the violence of the Basij and Revolutionary Guards, which ranges from snipers shooting from one rooftop to another, armed thugs breaking into homes to seize computers, cell phones and other communications devices, and arrest one or more family members. Meanwhile, horribly maimed bodies have been showing up all over the country. Some of the gouging of the bodies seems to have been done to remove all evidence of bullet holes, but whatever the “explanation,” the bloody savagery is well documented.
If you want some detail about the horrors inside Iranian hospitals, have a look at Le Figaro’s account.
Over the objections of medical staff, bodies from the demonstrations were quickly moved elsewhere. “We believe they were transferred to the Baqiatollah military hospital or some other undisclosed location”, notes the doctor. Then, under the pretext of “organ donation”, all traces of bullets were removed from the bodies. “The parents were force to accept this if they wanted to retrieve the body for burial”.
And yet, the protest goes on. For the past three days, a general strike has been in effect, with significant results. Indeed, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei preemptively admitted defeat when government offices and factories were shut down in the name of a religious observance. But the strikers only expanded the range of their actions, notably by shutting down electrical grids in several cities, including parts of Tehran. Great swathes of the nation were plunged into darkness. This sort of thing is likely to continue, whatever happens on the 9th.
Most of the protesters fear the worst, warning of snipers preparing to shoot into the crowds, and a massive buildup of security forces in Tehran. There are rumors about possible countermeasures from the demonstrators, but, like the stories about massive repression, these remain to be confirmed.
Meanwhile, there are continuous accounts of internal strife in the regime’s ranks. The London Guardian, in a carefully worded account, tells us that the most powerful figure in the ongoing repression is Khamenei’s second son, Mojtaba. He is said to be particularly enraged by the British Government’s seizure of more than a billion dollars in London accounts, at least some of which belongs to him. No one would be surprised to find that the supreme leader was a very wealthy man, or that he had salted away some of his money outside Iran. Others have been moving their funds to more secure lands of late.
Mother Nature struck a humorous blow at President Ahmadinezhad last night, when he delivered a speech to the nation. As he spoke, a large insect buzzed him. He tried to maintain discipline, but, like a character in an old Ernie Kovacs routine, he could not stop his eyes from following the (fly? wasp?) around his head, and of course it all gave rise to anti-regime humor. Again, from Twitter: “spreading: The bug that bugged AN has now been arrested and soon to confess on state TV.”
Mother Nature is doing better than the so-called Western world, which apparently cannot even bring itself to punish the regime for violating all rules of civilized behavior. Obama, following his familiar pattern of allying himself with the tyrants rather than the democrats, doesn’t want new sanctions. I suppose he’s still hoping that the tyranny will prevail, and then he can make a wonderful deal with Khamenei pere. Or fils, as the case may be. Again, the best commentary comes from Twitter:
“Honduras Shouts Where are the BLUE Helmets! Burma Shouts release Aung San Suu Kyi ! Iran Shouts Where is our Vote!”
But Obama, he don’t say nothin’. Nor does Miss Hillary.
It seems so obvious to me that we should be helping the Iranian people–for both strategic and moral reasons–that I’m stunned at the insistence of so many smart people that we should do nothing. Take George Will, for instance:
Some persons fault the president for not having more ambitious plans to somehow prompt and guide Iranians toward regime change. That outcome is sometimes advocated, and its consequences confidently anticipated, by neoconservatives whose certitude about feasibility resembles that which, decades ago, neoconservatism was born to counter.
Leave aside the historical riff on the origins of neoconservatism, and accept the uncertainty that all human efforts entail; that snooty dismissal of those who advocate peaceful regime change in Iran leaves me breathless. Tell it to Neda’s family George. Their daughter was executed, her father arrested and tortured, and they’ve been thrown out of their house. See how they appreciate your view from on high. Or try Iran’s neighbors, not your garden variety necons.
Meanwhile, David Brooks has somehow convinced himself that Obama’s policies don’t really matter at all, because he’s so incredibly dignified:
Whatever policy differences people may have with him, we can all agree that he exemplifies reticence, dispassion and the other traits associated with dignity. The cultural effects of his presidency are not yet clear, but they may surpass his policy impact. He may revitalize the concept of dignity for a new generation and embody a new set of rules for self-mastery.
This reminds me of those journalists who were smitten with Mussolini in the twenties. Never mind the policies, he’s so charismatic!
I’m afraid David one day will have to answer for this infatuation with style over substance. And it won’t be pretty.
So let’s see what tomorrow brings.
UPDATE: 8 o’clock AM on Twitter, “Confirmed demonstrations tehran,shiraz,isfahan,ahwaz,babol,kerman,mashhad sari”
10 o’clock: “There are many unconfr. reports but all of them have 1 thing in common, they all report: People are growing in numbers”
I expect to get a telephone update in about an hour.
11 o’clock: We are still in the preliminary stage, according to the organizers. The main events are supposed to get going in another hour or two. There does not seem to be any shooting as yet, just tear gas, used by police and Revolutionary Guards forces. The demonstrators were prepared for tear gas, and continue to chant “Death to the dictator!” and “Death to the regime!”
This has long since ceased to be a protest over election results alone. More in an hour or so. I hope.
11:30: Here is something new. Twitter: “ Chaos. Distress messages from security forces being shot at requesting airborne support.” I see at least one other tweet about people shooting back at Basij and security forces, asking “who is shooting back?”
Is it true?
11:40: No, it probably is not true. I am told that security forces are acting frightened, as if they did not expect the large crowds to actually materialize, and they are shooting guns off in the air to try to scare off the demonstrators. The protesters have set off many fires in the streets (just what Tehran didn’t need, after the recent sandstorms). I think this is because some people believe the fires counteract the effects of tear gas, which is not correct. But anyway, the fires are burning.
Further–and this is a fairly up to date observation–the security forces are acting with unprecedented violence. The one-on-one attacks on the protesters are very brutal, the Basij are apparently tring to club them to death. Very ugly.
But the crowds are getting bigger.
11:50: Heh, from Twitter, “The situation is so bad, that the police are also attacking each other”
12:05: Cell phone nets are largely shut down now, at least in Tehran. And international calls are apparently being monitored very closely, so my updates may be slower.
There are more people saying that police are taking the side of the people, and defending them against the Basij. Can’t confirm it yet. And the violence still seems to be clubs, knives and tear gas, not guns.
12:33: You might want to follow the “live blog” here (actually it seems to be a selection of Twitter messages).
Many new reports of people going after Basij, and some about a group called NIR which, it is said, is protecting people from security forces. I don’t know what that is, I’m trying to find out.
1 o’clock: Going swimming (I’m gettinga new hip next Monday, have to keep muscle strength up). Back in an hour or thereabouts.
2:30: It’s now eleven o’clock at night in Iran, and the chants from the rooftops and the prisons have resumed. And Khamenei sure hears them, “Death to the Dictator!” “Allah is Great!” What an ironic turnaround for this tyrant, who claims Divine sanction for his every thought and action, now to be threatened with death in the name of Allah.
Meanwhile, in an appalling act of appeasement, we released five Revolutionary Guards officers in Iraq, so that they could go to Tehran (and I doubt they will join the nocturnal chanters). I got it from Washingtontv, which somehow accepted the official Iranian misidentification of these guys:
Washington, 9 July (WashingtonTV)—The US military on Thursday handed over five Iranian diplomats (NOT! ML. The mullahs claimed they were dips, but they were IRGC officers) it has held for over two years to Iraqi authorities, Iraqi and Iranian officials said.
Iran’s ambassador to Baghdad, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, said that the five men were handed over to Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and that they would be handed over to the Iranian embassy in Baghdad after meeting al-Maliki, reports the official IRNA news agency.
The five diplomats, accused by the U.S. of funding and arming Shiite militants in Iraq, were arrested in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil on 11 January 2007.
The timing could hardly have been worse, and I’m sure the White House is roundly annoyed that this happened just on a day when the regime’s claws and fangs were so publicly exposed. The White House had set the release up for several days ago, but then the Almighty–in the form of intense sandstorms that made it impossible to fly in and out of Tehran–intervened.
If my information is correct–and I must say I have rarely had a story so vigorously denied by my own government–this is part of the deal for Roxana Saberi, who, you’ll remember, was miraculously released from an Iranian prison a couple of months ago. These IRGC commanders–with, I am told, hundreds of lower-level Iranian terror facilitators to come in the next days and weeks–were Iran’s price for freeing the American hostage.
I had inklings of this, and said so at the time. So I’ll take the opportunity to remind everyone who follows Iranian matters, that the mullahs’ hostages are never released for humanitarian motives. They are ransomed. The only question is the price.
When I asked some folks in the government, about a week ago, if we were preparing to release these people, they acted as if I’d asked if the Vice President were about to convert to Islam. But the releases have started.
It seems Obama overpaid, frankly. But then, we always do. Every president since Jimmy Carter has acted like a fool regarding Iran. So it’s business as usual.
4 o’clock: there are still clashes in Tehran, and probably other cities as well. It’s too early for an overall assessment of the “meaning” of the day, but some things are clear enough:
1. The uprising is not over. If anything, today’s turnout, discipline, and obviously improved tactics suggest that the opposition is stronger;
2. The regime hasn’t won any converts to its side. Rafsanjani’s daughter was reportedly in the crowd today, and I am still waiting for confirmation of the widely reported story that Mousavi appeared at a mosque and delivered a speech;
3. The opposition seems to have gained a tempo in this game. I’d expect the strikes to continue, and to intensify. I wonder if any American trade union is going to support its Iranian brothers and sisters;
4. Meanwhile, we’ve learned to accept a simple truth about Khamenei. You gotta read it!
4:30 PM (last reliable information I’m going to have today, I think). Khamenei was told the following:
* massive demonstrations
* 3 killed
* 78 known as seriously wounded, many broken bones and ruptured internal organs, several may not make it; other wounded may have disappeared
* 600 arrests
SPECIAL MESSAGE FROM OPPOSITION: “please tell the world about these atrocities; people did nothing, silence, no provocations, no violence but fierce attacks by the government forces.”
And so we shall. Good night Chet. Good night David.