The Iranian election dominated this week's news, with large numbers of student and youth demonstrators refusing to accept the rigged election results.
While the outcome of the current Iranian crisis will have a limited impact outside Iran in the short term, it may have a far larger one in the long run. While the protests began as something more akin to the Venezuelan protests over Chavez's media hijacking last year, they have already passed the point of Tienanmen Square. And while we are not quite at the Tehran version of the Berlin Wall, whether or not they get there will depend on the actions of the Iranian regime.
The regime assumed that a quick and harsh initial crackdown would silence the most vocal protesters and drive the rest underground. It's a tactic that often works, unless enough pressure has been building up so that it instead generates an explosion. That is what happened in Iran, resulting in growing protests and much larger dissent at the top.
Had the protests been mainly student riots and marches, they could have been suppressed. However they reflected a split within the oligarchy of the Iranian Islamic Republic itself over a boiling stew of ethnic, political and economic issues.
Iran's regime today looks a lot like what Nazi Germany might have looked like had it survived into the 1980's, with Hitler dead and his old cronies scrambling for power. Inside and outside the corridors of power there are no shortage of old Khomeini associates. Those outside the corridors of power want change. Those inside the corridors want to maintain the status quo and line their own pockets.
The death of Khomeini terminated the relative totalitarian stability of the Iranian Islamic Republic, leaving power increasingly up for grabs. A similar situation in the Post-Stalin USSR resulted in the erosion of leadership and growing conflicts that eventually tore down the party and the regime from the inside.
Ahmadinejad was thought to be the regime's best bet for avoiding that kind of fate, offering a great deal of hostility toward the west, combined with pop culture appeal at home and some small liberalizations backed by a revolutionary guard background and militia ties. But now the Ahmadinejad train has gone very badly off the rails.
At some point during the election, the regime made the decision to rig the results. Had they done so early enough, the change would not have been so jarring. Instead it appears to have been a panicked reaction in response to the realization that Ahmadinejad was going to lose.
And whether that decision was made at the level of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei or not, the ball finally rolled back to him.
The regime now has a limited number of choices to make.
1. It can pursue a comprehensive crackdown on all protesters, resulting in either the successful suppression of the protests, or leading to the fall of the regime entirely. The old lessons of the Shah are not entirely lost on the men who helped overthrow him.
A full scale crackdown at this juncture, even if it temporarily succeeds, would likely do so at a heavy death toll. The People's Republic of China survived a similar crackdown by pushing enough economic and social liberalization so that the next generation would up not caring. Iran does not quite have the same option, particularly when it comes to social liberalization.
2. Khamenei can conduct an investigation, bring forward a few scapegoats and announce Mousavi as the true winner by a small margin, or propose a compromise option of some sort along the Zimbabwe model.
This of course would involve a serious personal loss of prestige, as well as a clear demonstration of weakness by the regime. It would avoid a short term explosion, but the long term consequences would wind up demonstrating the power of the protesters to compel the government to surrender to their will. And would in turn be quite destructive as well.
3. Play a waiting game, allow the protesters to discharge their energy, keep Ahmadinejad where he is, make some daily life concessions that would make people's lives easier.
Overall it would appear that the regime went with this third option.
After the failure of the initial limited crackdown, Khamenei chose to embrace a slightly more conciliatory tone. The violence was toned down and a limited recount of some sort was promised.
The problem with this approach is that it only emboldened the protesters who have begun to learn their true power. The protests have only become more comprehensive. Secret police have been outed on blogs. And more high ranking regime critics have stepped forward.
In response Khamenei is now threatening bloodshed if the protests don't stop. This strongly suggests that despite being the inheritor of the revolution, he is actually making the same exact mistakes as the Shah's government did.
After using brute force, he showed weakness, only to now threaten brute force again. The cycle is not unusual, but it does make a failing system of authority that lacks confidence in exercising its authority.
The reason for that is that Khamenei knows quite well that the younger generation in Iran is deeply dissatisfied. The limited reforms trotted out under Ahmadinejad, such as letting women attend soccer games, have only whetted their appetite for more. Life in Iran is based around a series of hypocrisies, in which homes have satellite dishes and Western movies are downloaded through the internet, but outwardly Iran is supposed to be a deeply religious republic.
The bottom line is that the Iranian regime lacks confidence in its public support, and even in the support of its military. The failure to deploy the military strongly suggests that Khamenei suspects that the outcome of attempting to use troops on the marchers might resemble the fall of the Soviet Union more than Tienanmen Square. And that conclusion is only further backed by the use of Hizbollah and Hamas Arab terrorists imported to attack the crowds. Another sign of brutality and weakness that can only further destabilize the situation.
As it stands now Khamenei and the regime's insiders are not ready to retreat, but neither do they appear ready for a full scale assault. Their waiting game has only made the situation worse. Now they have to choose between options 1 and 2, a full scale assault or a limited surrender.
Meanwhile in domestic Western political coverage, many of the same leftists and liberals who chose to ignore or justify Chavez's similar crackdown on Venezuelan students, have broken with the regime and taken vehement stands, including Andrew Sullivan and the Huffington Post.
Many sites do continue to underplay the coverage, and the American news media appears to be providing much less coverage of the situation, than their British counterparts, probably to avoid embarrassing Obama over his weak response.
It is ironic that Obama was elected as a major speaker and a supposed voice of conscience, only to be unable to do more than mumble a few random words in Iran's direction. The successfully unanimous congressional vote, opposed only by perennial tyranny lover Ron Paul, criticizing Iran, was itself a rebuke to Obama.
If Iran was the crisis that Biden warned us about, Obama has already failed miserably. If the Iranian regime falls, Obama will be remembered mainly for standing on the sidelines and doing nothing. The man who traveled all across the world giving speeches, had nothing to say when the people of Iran risked their lives fighting for freedom.
Meanwhile in the roundup,
Israpundit's Jerry Gordon takes Obama to task for missing an opportunity on Iran and Bill Levinson covers Ron Paul's failed vote.
Paul Williams at Canada Free Press looks at Jimmy Carter, the real father of the Islamic revolution
Carter’s real legacy remains in Iran with the Islamic Revolution and the rise of the murderous mullahs.
Before Jimmy entered the White House, America’s closest friend and ally in the Muslim world was Iran’s Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who ascended to the Peacock Throne as shah (the Persian word for king) in 1941.
The shah modernized Iran by launching the so-called “white revolution,” a massive attempt to Westernize the Persian country through the construction of roads, railways, airports, dams for power and irrigation, agribusiness, pipelines for the oil companies, steel and petrochemical plants, heavy metallurgy, and public health, education, and welfare programs. He bolstered the expansion of U.S. business and industry throughout Iran; shared he spoils of his country’s oil reserves with Britain and the United States; endorsed (at the request of President Eisenhower) the Baghdad Pact to ward off the spread of communism in the Middle East, and never voted against America in the United Nations.
By the 1960s, Iran’s back-alley bazaars became transformed into Fifth Avenue shops. Rock ‘n roll blared from the radio stations. Movie theaters showed the latest Hollywood flicks, and programs like Rawhide and I Love Lucy played on Iranian television. Restaurants served beer and hotdogs. Nightclubs and casinos catered to foreign tourists, foreign contractors, and foreign military advisers.
And let’s remember that the shah, unlike the fat Mid Eastern despots and dictators, never asked or received a dime in U.S. foreign aid.
But not all Iranians were pleased with the changes. The Shi’ite clerics viewed the democratic changes as diabolic. The straw that broke the camel’s back came with the shah’s democratic ruling that Iranian officials were free to take their oath of office on whatever holy scripture they preferred - - including the Christian Bible. The mullahs under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini rose to condemn the shah in mosques and seminaries and to demand his removal from the throne.
Enter Jimmy Carter.
Instead of supporting America’s ally, Jimmy, true to his form as a turncoat, supported the Ayatollah as a “fellow man of religion.” Andrew Young, Carter’s ambassador to the UN, went so far as to call Khomeini, who sanctioned sex with cows and camels, a “misunderstood saint.”
When Khomeini launched his evil revolution, Carter refused to provide the shah with any kind of military assistance despite the pleading of the shah.
Instead, Jimmy demanded that he release from prison all the murderous mullahs and militant radicals who were bound and determined to overthrow the government and to impose an intransigent interpretation of shariah (Muslim law) on every Iranian.
The shah acquiesced to this demand and the rest in history.
The Ayatollah - - Carter’s misunderstood saint - - came to power and launched a bloodbath that resulted in the deaths of twenty-thousand pro-Western Iranians. Churches and synagogues were razed, cemeteries desecrated, and shrines vandalized and demolished. The judicially murdered included the 102 year-old Kurdish poet Allameh Vahidi and a 9 year-old girl convicted of “attacking revolutionary guards.” Women were reduced to servitude. They lost their rights to attend school, to initiate divorce, or to retain custody of their children. When they appeared in public, women were obliged to wear the hijab (the traditional Islamic head cover). All American music was outlawed. The movie theaters were shut down; the nightclubs closed. To top things off, the Muslim militants overran the U.S. embassy in Teheran and seized sixty Americans as hostages.
Good ole Jimmy responded by his infamous “malaise speech” of July 15, 1979 in which the former peanut former expressed his belief that America had lost its guts and remained in a state of near senility.
Read it all
Maggie's Notebook meanwhile has a look at the ACORN run around
Amendments presented by GOP included two blocking A.C.O.R.N. - or any group - from getting Federal funds while under Federal indictment. This was among those not allowed as was one related to investigating Nancy Pelosi's claim that the CIA lied to Congress. If there were any doubt of the un-Democratic party's heavy-handed tactics - to rush through reckless spending at a breakneck unexamined pace - that was eliminated today
Daled Amos has his own take on Twitter and the Iranian revolution
At Right Wing News, another Obama nominee who doesn't believe paying taxes is patriotic
Gateway Pundit reveals that Obama is unsurprisingly waiting on the Iranian regime...
Lemon Lime Moon asks if America is in a stupor
Gates of Vienna looks at the divide between the Obama Administration's visions and the reality
The Keli Ata blog looks at the little outpost on the Israeli prairie