Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Color Me Green

So far, in all my extensive reading of the extraordinary events going on in Iran, I've found only one reference to the effect Obama's speech in Cairo has had on Iranians who went out in unprecedented numbers to vote. The comment was made by a "Dish" reader, who has been conversing with relatives in Iran, and who wrote to Andrew Sullivan's blog, "The Daily Dish":

"I would also say that anyone who doesn't think that Obama's No Ruz message and his speech in Cairo didn't contribute at least something to this uprising doesn't know any Iranians - the feeling of hope that Obama gave to Americans and people all over the world (rightly or wrongly…) has trickled down to Iranians. On a human level, as well, everyone knows how far a little respect can go."

From his hideout in the Urals, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (he is in Russia for a conference), has been trying to discredit the post-election turbulence erupting back in his country as the result of "American interference." Obama, however, has remained smartly even-handed, refusing to "meddle," in Iran's internal affairs, and resisting the drag toward any of those pompous, set-piece condemnations we are so used to from the previous administration. Predictably, his neo-con opponents--all those folks who now make a career out of finding reasons to attack whatever Obama does or doesn't do--have seized on this opportunity to criticize his silence as "shameful." John McCain, bless his putrid heart, has called for Obama to overtly denounce "a corrupt, flawed sham of an election" and its brutal treatment of the protesters. The McCains of this world just don't get it: the notion that the most powerful action can often be inaction. Obama's "deferential" open hand towards the Muslim world, in Cairo and elsewhere, has now hit it's first significant target--setting in motion the core of a potential velvet revolution in Iran. Whether it can succeed or not is up for grabs, but the stakes are huge.

Today, the fifth straight day of street demonstrations in overt defiance of the regime, the crowds resembled nothing so much as those we last saw in this country on Obama's victory night and his inauguration. Reports have it that the nightly ritual chanting from roof tops, which began days ago, is getting stronger, not weaker. It would seem that there is havoc behind the scenes among the clerical leadership, and Ahmadinejad's big supporter, Ali Khameni, is in hot water for having counted the votes even before the election took place: his credibility is now on the line. The drama of this story is better than any movie. Will the ayatollas abandon Ahmadinejad, or will they risk thwarting millions of (mostly young) Iranians and delegitimizing themselves? Will Mousavi get the new election he has called for--or will Iran devolve into a brutal dictatorship? The Iranian people have determined that Ahmadinejad is really a disgrace to Iran's global image (rather the way Bush/Cheney was to America's). Another four years of his malign influence will likely sink the country like a stone to the bottom of the pond. Meanwhile, Iranians have watched us transmogrify and rise up from the ashes. I believe they would like to follow in our footsteps.

Last, but definitely not least, there is Andrew Sullivan himself, sitting on the end of a pier in Cape Cod, live-blogging the whole extravaganza, blow by blow, for days now. Bravo to Andrew for doing such an incredible job:

Andrew Sullivan: The administration should, in my view, resist the grandstanding of the neocons - who remain almost autistic about the world they seek to remake - but insist that no violence be used against peaceful demonstrations. The truth is: if these crowds continue to grow and the regime does not massacre them, there's a chance they could topple the regime. By focusing on government restraint, you can empower the resistance without giving Ahmadi's thugs an opening.
Oh, and the president should wear a green tie from now on. Every day. He need say nothing more.

Twittering from Tehran on government theft, fraud, and intimidation:
We were told to report election results as 62% for the president and ignore the real voting. The real ballots were taken by the government.
about 2 hours ago from web
I work for the government in northwest Tehran.
about 3 hours ago from web
As we left work on Friday and the presidents people came in we were shocked they would steal government records.
about 2 hours ago from web
If you go to the back of the complex, four trucks full of ballot boxes are being hiden there.
about 2 hours ago from web
I have discovered that there are several trucks parked at the Shirudi sports center full of the real ballots taken by the government.
about 2 hours ago from web
We were threaten with arrest if we spoke out, pluse we would lose our jobs.
From an article by Pepe Escobar in The Asia Times:

Ahmadinejad has made his power play against Mousavi and Rafsanjani. The Supreme Leader fully supported him. Mousavi and Rafsanjani, plus Khatami, need an urgent counterpunch. And their only possible play is to go after Khamenei.

As Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council, among others, has noted, Rafsanjani is now counting his votes at the Council of Experts (86 clerics, no women) - of which he is the chairman - to see if they are able to depose Khamenei. He is in the holy city of Qom for this explicit purpose. To pull it off, the council would imperatively have to be supported by at least some factions within the IRGC. The Ahmadinejad faction will go ballistic. A Supreme Leader implosion is bound to imply the implosion of the whole Khomeini-built edifice.

Null and void
As a prelude, Mousavi has already bypassed the Supreme Leader, sending an open letter to the powerful mullahcracy in Qom asking them to invalidate the election. Hojjatoleslam Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour, head of the election vote-monitoring committee, has officially requested that the Council of Guardians void the election and schedule a new, fully monitored one.
...Ahmadinejad knew Khamenei was on his side. But it's fair to argue neither Ahmadinejad nor the ultra-right wing spectrum may have evaluated the full implication of a dubious electoral victory possibly imploding the whole system as they know it.
Will Rafsanjani go for broke? As he prepares a Council of Experts counterpunch against the Supreme Leader and Mousavi plots the next resistance steps, the ball is now in the Iranian street's court. Much will depend on this Monday's peaceful march along Vali Asr street in Tehran and in 19 other cities, and a national strike on Tuesday, both called by Mousavi.
...An election was stolen in the United States in 2000 and Americans didn't do a thing about it. Iranians are willing to die to have their votes counted. There is now an opening for a true Iranian people-power movement not specifically to the benefit of Mousavi, but with Mousavi as the catalyst in a wider struggle for real democratic legitimacy. The die is cast; now it's people power against "divine assessment".

Andrew Sullivan comments:

This blog has long been interested in Iran, especially in its younger generation so open to the West. Part of it is that I've long believed that Iran was much more likely to become a democracy than its neighboring Arab states - and that this might be the key to unwinding the clash of civilizations that was hurtling us toward apocalyptic scenarios. Part of it is that being immersed in online media, I'm perhaps more aware of the vibrant debate, evolving culture and amazing passion of Iran's Millennials. So this day is a moment of great hope and joy for those of us who have been waiting for it and knowing that one day, it would come. But many Americans have, sadly, been left unaware of this phenomenon - and a glance at the cable news of the weekend helps explain why. Maybe these images will change that. A reader writes:
I am 31 years old. I cannot remember ever having a discussion about "Iran" at work. I cannot remember ever having a discussion about "Iran" with my wife or members of my family. Unless it was about their nuclear weapons program, or their involvement in Iraq, I cannot remember ever having a conversation about "Iran" with any of my friends.
Today, people at work are sharing photos, many of them are those found on the links you have provided. People are speaking about "Iran", not as an enemy - but as a people who has had their freedom taken from them. I don't know how this will resolve, but those protesters need to know they are not alone.
They aren't. If you can read this out there, know that we are with you, every day and every moment of your fight for your freedoms. And know this too:
Yes You Can.

Note from an Iranian to New York Times columnist Roger Cohen:

I received this note from an Iranian-American with family here: “The bottom line right now is whose violence threshold is higher? How much are the hard-liners willing to inflict to suppress the population and tell yet another generation to shut up? And how much are Moussavi and his supporters willing to stand to fulfill their dreams? It sounds so inhuman, but that’s what it comes down to. It’s very scary.”

And finally, two more of Andrew's most recent posts. And so, let us all take heart:

Totten sighs:
According to the New York Times, Fars News Agency reports a partial “recounting” of votes has begun in Iran. But they are not being counted. They were not even counted the first time. Fars says the “recount” in the Kurdish province of Kermanshah shows “no irregularity.” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has almost no support among Kurds whatsoever. Claiming he “won” 70 percent in Kermanshah is as outlandish as Dick Cheney winning San Francisco and Berkeley in a landslide.

17 Jun 2009 07:33 pm
Optimism In Iran

Laura Secor talks to a friend in Tehran who has been protesting:
The energy, she told me, was indescribable. You could not feel afraid; the sense of common purpose was too powerful, and it had left her with a profound and nearly serene certainty that this movement would succeed.

Andrew comments: That is my feeling too. I am well aware of who has the guns. But the peaceful manner in which so many have revealed such courage these last few days has already stripped the regime of all legitimacy. I believe they will prevail. I do not know that. I believe that.

1 comment:

Joe Bigley said...

The comparison between the effects of the Bush regime and the Ahmadinejad regime in regards to their respective countries countries reputations and images on the global stage is an interesting one. The former having the leverage to practice subversive defiance by riding the wave of terrorist hysteria following a certain day in 2001 coupled with the exploitation of the idea of patriotism. The later exploiting the same patriotic abstractions to make those who oppose his nuclear ambitions and deviant behavior towards the international community.
The effects of Obama's speech must have played a role in the reaction of Iranian masses. The timing of the speech could not have been a coincidence in relation to the approaching election in Iran, considering the tumultuous relationship that Obama has acknowledged and universal notions that Ahmadinejad may not have been fairly elected the first time around (similar to an electoral event in the U.S. in 2000). Which brings thoughts of the obligation to mention the hypocrisy of the neo-cons regarding their own behavior towards securing power and that which they condone. They never fail to put their foot in their mouth so blatantly and to side with premature reactionary stances and attitudes towards anything non-white.