The Blog That Shut the Bazaar in Tehran
My last blog seems to have attracted an incredible amount of attention, and, as often happens, I have been given more credit than is absolutely necessary. I printed an email from an Iranian I consider a very good source, to the effect that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had been taken to the hospital, and was in a coma. I pointed out that it was easy to be wrong on such stories, and that in fact I had wrongly believed that Khamenei had died a couple of years ago. But I thought the source was good and I passed on his/her information.
A day later, I added an update about a bulletin issued by the opposition movement, The Green Path of Hope, which said that there were many rumors in the Tehran Bazaar saying that Khamenei had died, that the Bazaaris were planning to shut down the next day, and that there was an unusual atmosphere in the streets of Tehran.
By now, you can read all over the net that I was the source of the rumors about the death of the supreme leader, and it follows that I effectively shut down the Tehran Bazaar! That explains the headline at the top. Frankly, I don't think my blog is all that powerful.
In fact, I have never claimed to know anything about Khamenei's death, and I still don't know anything. I hope to know something in the next few days, and you will probably know it when I do; one way or another the facts have to come out, if only to calm the agitated spirits all over Iran. People are apparently very nervous. Not only was the Bazaar closed, but there seems to be a run on staples, as people stock up against the possibility of unsettled times.
I would have expected someone at a high level of the regime to say something, but so far as I know, only the Iranian Embassy in Armenia has spoken up, calling the reports (including mine) nonsense. This produced an overstated headline from Fox News: "Iran Blasts Back at Rumors of Supreme Leader's Death, News Site Reports." The story isn't nearly so dramatic.
The other "official" reaction came from an interesting source: the web site Tabnak, which is close to Mohsen Reza'i, the former commander of the Revolutionary Guards and a failed candidate in the June presidential elections. Tabnak predictably debunked my claim that Khamenei was in a coma, but then surprisingly translated the entire blog into Farsi. So I asked some Iranian friends: if they thought it was nonsense, why translate it all and put it up there?
Their answer was interesting. They thought that the people at Tabnak believed I had it right, and they put it up in order to say "hey look at this! The Americans know our most secret secrets." In any event, today they took down the translation, leaving only the insults. And, I'm told (as you know I don't read Farsi), they took the extraordinary step of removing the translation from the blog archives.
Was it too "hot"? I don't know. Maybe some day I'll find out.