Sunday, June 14, 2009

Last Call

At some point, President Obama is going to have a pick a side on Iran. Doing nothing is still a choice. Publicly supporting either side is a choice as well. The Twitter avalanche out of Iran is amazing and unprecedented. Some say Mousavi has capitulated. Others say a massive general strike is planned for Tuesday.

The revolution will be microblogged.

They're Called Revolutions Because They Are Always Coming Around Again

The stakes in Iran's election just got a whole hell of a lot higher.
Mir Hossein Mousavi’s, the main reformist rival to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, letter to the important ayatollahs in the holy city of Qom, asking them to protest the fraud and declare it against Islam, has sparked protests by the ayatollahs and clerics as well.

The Association of Combatant Clerics, which consists of moderate and leftist clerics and includes such important figures as former president Mohammad Khatami, Ayatollah Mohammad Mousavi Khoiniha, and Grand Ayatollah Abdolkarim Mousavi Ardabili, issued a strongly-worded statement, calling the results of the election invalid.

Grand Ayatollah Saafi Golpaygaani, an important cleric with a large number of followers, warned about the election results and the importance that elections in Iran retain their integrity.

Grand Ayatollah Yousef Saanei, a progressive cleric and a confidante of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, has declared that Mr. Ahmadinejad is not the legitimate president and cooperation with him, as well as working for him, are haraam (against Islam and a great sin). He has also declared that any changes in the votes by unlawful means are also haraam. Several credible reports indicate that he has traveled to Tehran in order to participate in nationwide protests scheduled for Monday (June 18). It is said that he has planned a sit-in in some public place, in order to further protest election fraud. His website has been blocked.

Credible reports also indicate that security forces have surrounded the offices and homes of several other important ayatollahs who are believed to want to protest election fraud. Their websites cannot be accessed, and all communications with them have been cut off.

If there are Iranian clerics on Mousavi's side, and they are publicly calling the election invalid, then we're in uncharted waters here. This could get completely out of hand very quickly. Iran's population has caught fire with the notion that the election was stolen, and the results could be both swift and terrible as Steve Clemons warns.

But the scariest point he made to me that I had not heard anywhere else is that this "coup by the right wing" has created pressures that cannot be solved or patted down by the normal institutional arrangements Iran has constructed. The Guardian Council and other power nodes of government can't deal with the current crisis and can't deal with the fact that a civil war has now broken out among Iran's revolutionaries.

My contact predicted serious violence at the highest levels. He said that Ahmadinejad is now genuinely scared of Iranian society and of Mousavi and Rafsanjani. The level of tension between them has gone beyond civil limits -- and my contact said that Ahmadinejad will try to have them imprisoned and killed.

Likewise, he said, Rafsanjani, Khatami, and Mousavi know this -- and thus are using all of the instruments at their control within Iran's government apparatus to fight back -- but given Khamenei's embrace of Ahmadinejad's actions in the election and victory, there is no recourse but to try and remove Khamenei. Some suggest that Rafsanjani will count votes to see if there is a way to formally dislodge Khamenei -- but this source I met said that all of these political giants have resources at their disposal to "do away with" those that get in the way.

He predicted that the so-called reformist camp -- who are not exactly humanists in the Western liberal sense -- may try and animate efforts to decapitate the regime and "do away with" Ahmadinejad and even the Supreme Leader himself.

I am not convinced that this source "knows" these things will definitely happen but am convinced of his credentials and impressed with the seriousness of the discussion we had and his own concern that there may be political killing sprees ahead.

This is not a vision he advocates -- but one he fears.

The Iranian military and Quds forces are made of people, ultimately. Who will they side with, Ahmedinejad and the hard-liners (and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei) or Mousavi, former president Rafsenjani, and the reformers? Will this result in a massive military crackdown and possibly even a civil war?

The next several days may make history.

[UPDATE] Judging from some of the comments over in the Winger Dimension, we apparently should be braced for similar events here should Democrats win in 2010. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Aftermath In Tehran

Kevin Drum has a theory on the ham-handed election fraud in Iran:
Maybe it's just too hard to orchestrate something more believable. Maybe, against all evidence, they believe that smashing victories are always more convincing than close ones. Maybe it's just rank panic and stupidity. It's a mystery — and a counterproductive one, too: there isn't a person on the planet who thinks that Ahmadinejad could have won two-thirds of the vote with a turnout of 85%, and the possibility of inciting an internal revolt is a lot higher with a barefaced fraud like this than it would be with something a little more subtle.

On the other hand, maybe we're looking at this through the wrong lens. Obviously something about Mousavi started to badly spook the powers-that-be during the past week, and maybe they decided something needed to be done about it. Maybe they wanted to provoke a round of violence from Mousavi's supporters as an excuse to lead a crackdown on dissidents. And what better way to do that than to make the election rigging so obvious even a child could see it?

I can buy that, mainly because I think Mousavi supporters are not the only people Iran's hard-liners are trying to get a violent reaction out of.

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