Another Showdown at the Mullahs' Corral
I believe that the Iranian regime has assembled the largest armed force in history to protect it from the Iranian people’s righteous indignation on Thursday the 11th. There will be hundreds of thousands of police, revolutionary guards, Basij, and people bused in from the countryside to Tehran.
Additionally, the regime is shutting down communications, especially in Tehran. Iranian Tweeters say internet is largely gone, and cell phones are not working. None of this is new, and in the past the dissidents have managed to beat the censors; it will be interesting to see if the mullahs’ trusted advisers (mostly Chinese) are more effective this time. They certainly have failed in China, and the Iranian authorities have demonstrated an almost supernatural ability to screw up their own plans.
A case in point: the political center of the city is Azadi Square, and workers have been stringing loudspeakers (and probably cameras) all over the square and the approach routes, in order to drown out the chants of the demonstrators. So today they tested the system by broadcasting the national anthem. Except it was the shah’s anthem, not the Islamic Republic’s.
Was it sabotage, or that incredible knack of ruining even a simple dry run? Who knows? Whatever it was, it reinforces the regime’s popular image of a bunch of thugs who can only kill, maim and torture, but not build anything of value.
The regime is very nervous, as well it should be. They don't trust anyone outside a very small circle of fanatical loyalists. The broadcasters at radio/tv headquarters scheduled to cover the festivities were all replaced on Tuesday. Activists, intellectuals, and relatives of opposition leaders have been thrown in jail. These measures have been in effect for some time now -- Reporters Sans Frontières claims 400 journalists have left the country since June 2009 and 2000 journalists are jobless -- but have not cowed the dissidents. We’ll soon see if that has changed.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the current phase of the Iranian revolution is that many of those arrested knew it was coming, had the opportunity to hide, but chose to go to jail. They viewed their arrest as a badge of honor, and (not to make light of the horrors of Iranian jails) perhaps even a good career move. They expect the regime to fall, and they are building up credits for the next government.
The two leaders of the Green Movement, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, expect to be arrested either Wednesday or Friday, and indeed they have been daring Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to do it. They believe that if they are arrested, the country will rise up against the regime.
I wonder if Khamenei has the nerve to go all the way. He fears he will pay a big price for a “Chinese” massacre in the streets of Tehran. On the one hand, a move against the Green leaders might provoke a massive uprising throughout the country. On the other, he might find himself in personal difficulties. In the past few days he has received two distinguished visitors. The first was Grand Ayatollah Abdul Karim Mousavi-Ardebili, from Qom, one of the country’s leading clerics. Mousavi-Ardebili asked Khamenei to back off, to restrain from using violence against the people, and to release the political prisoners. Khamenei told him to pound sand. When Mousavi-Ardebili went to his car, Khamenei accompanied him, and before getting into the vehicle, the Grand Ayatollah said to Khamenei “you remind me of the shah in his final days; you have lost contact with the country, you do not understand what is going on.”
Maybe so. But it is also possible that Khamenei knows full well what is happening, and is determined to fight to the end.
The other distinguished visitor was Hashemi Rafsanjani, “the fox,” one of the richest men in the Middle East and a high government official who knows where all the bodies are buried. Various accounts of this meeting — a very unpleasant one according to all the leakers — are circulating.
One thing is certain: it was a long (3 ½ hours) and very contentious conversation, with Rafsanjani ominously speaking of dire consequences if the regime continued to slaughter the opposition. It seems Rafsanjani also called for the release of Ali Reza Beheshti, one of Mousavi’s top aides, and significantly the brother-in-law of Ali Akbar Mohtashami Pour, the “godfather of Hezbollah,” and a former defense minister.
Rafsanjani also delivered a letter from one of the most esteemed members of the elite of the Islamic Republic (who does not want his identity revealed), stressing the importance of Beheshti’s release, and the dangerous consequences that would befall the supreme leader if that were not quickly accomplished.
And what might be the “dire” and “dangerous consequences,” you may ask?
I believe that Khamenei fears the public disclosure and documentation of his many criminal acts, ranging from ordering the terrorist attacks in Lebanon against French and American soldiers and marines, to authorizing the killing of Iranian dissidents. There are many other cases, and, in a country like Iran, proof of Khamenei’s central role is undoubtedly in many hands, as is the proof of the falsification of the June 12th election results, which was just delivered to the Canadians by a certain Saeed, an employee of the Guardian Council who has been granted asylum by Ottawa.
Oh, and yes, Beheshti was released within hours.
The opposition has its strengths, and the regime its weaknesses, as you see…