Belmont Club

The day after

The Guardian is reporting the streets of Teheran quiet, suggesting that the state has broken the demonstrators. Mousavi is nowhere — as yet — in public leading the demonstrators.

A deadly crackdown on opposition demonstrators appeared tonight to have punctured the most serious protest movement in Iran since the 1979 revolution, as an eerie quiet settled on Tehran and the regime turned its attention to more familiar enemies overseas. … Some opposition figures were still hoping that their figurehead, the defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, would emerge tomorrow to lead another rally calling for the elections to be annulled. But Saturday’s crackdown, in which police wielded guns, truncheons, tear gas and water cannon, showed that the state intends to follow through on veiled threats of zero tolerance from the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. …

Meanwhile, the regime was turning its attention to more distant adversaries, with Ahmadinejad blaming the US, as well as Britain, for the crisis. “Definitely by hasty remarks you will not be placed in the circle of friendship with the Iranian nation,” he was quoted as saying in a meeting with clerics and scholars. “Therefore I advise you to correct your interfering stances.” …

The Italian foreign minister, Franco Frattini, expressed similar sentiments but confirmed that Iran was still invited to discuss Afghanistan and Iraq at a conference in Trieste this week.

Barack Obama did not expand today on earlier comments in which he called on the regime “to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people”.

However, Mousavi has issued a statement to the press, urging his followers to exercise “restraint”. The Times Online says, “Iran’s opposition leader appealed for restraint as his supporters regrouped after Saturday’s bloody confrontations with the security forces. Mir Hossein Mousavi, defeated in a presidential election that his followers say was rigged, issued a statement mourning those killed, denouncing the ‘mass arrests’ and insisting: ‘Protesting against lies and fraud is your right.'”

It’s too early to tell whether street has failed to fatally injure the Iranian regime. But even if Khamenei has beaten back the demonstrators, or bought off Mousavi it is not over. In all likelihood some of the opposition movement will move into a less spontaneous, more clandestine phase: out of the public gaze to be carried on, on both sides, by those with the determination and relentlessness for the job. It’s the world of the cell, cutout, safehouse, the samizdat, the pistol — and alas for some — the bomb. How the resistance will fare, or what its members will evolve into is hard to predict. One thing is probable: that if Mousavi has sold them out, the remnants will require another leadership core.

Supposing that Khamenei has succeeded in repression, all eyes will momentarily be turned on the West. The question before the allies is simple, no different from a bank manager doing a credit check on a customer, or a police officer doing a firearms background check on an applicant. Can Western diplomacy do business with the Iranian regime without watching it so closely that it is no longer in any sense, a ‘deal’?

I think the worst thing that the West can assume, if a period of quiescence ensues, is that it is over. Most analysts didn’t see this wave coming. I’m not sure they’ll see the next.

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