Iranian Revolution 2.0

Well, it looks like Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei has a problem. The same kind of popular resentment that overthrew the Shah’s regime 30 years ago is now aimed at him and President Ahmadinejad. The theocrats who still support the “Supreme Leader” are not going down without a fight, and they might even succeed in clinging to power for now.

Khamenei has essentially declared all protesters enemies of the state. Security forces were deployed to stop demonstrations in the streets, escalating the violence. Regime opponents and reporters are being arrested. The million-strong Basij militia is tracking dissidents by day and beating and killing them by night, hoping as time goes on that the constant threat of violence will intimidate everybody.

Yesterday, thousands of people continued to march, shouting, “Don’t be afraid– we are together. Death to the dictator.” Today, the streets of Tehran were reported to be quiet.

The world is watching, as President Obama has pointed out. Thanks to courageous people with cameras and Internet access, we can see some of what’s happening. But there’s not much that we can do, for two reasons:

  • The U.S. is going to have to deal with whatever Iranian regime emerges from the crisis. It would be foolish to take sides in their politics. Even if Mousavi was our friend (he’s not), public or covert support for him would simply add substance to the constant accusations of foreign involvement in Iran’s internal affairs.
  • Americans are in no position to lecture Iranians on democracy, honest elections, and human rights. We’re the country that intervened to subvert Iran’s democratic government in 1953. Our recent presidential elections haven’t exactly been a model for the world. Worst of all, our own war crimes and human rights violations are serious and ongoing. Prosecutions have been few, most of those guilty haven’t even been fired from their government jobs.

Some have demonstrated in sympathy with the Iranian opposition. Yesterday on the steps of the Utah state capitol, ironically, there were more Utahns angry about Iran’s stolen election than we ever saw come out against our own stolen elections in 2000 and 2004.

The Iranian crisis has become an occasion for stomach-churning hypocrisy by American politicians in general, and Republicans in particular.

For example, last Friday enthusiastic defender of torture Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) treated the House to emotional rhetoric about “America’s moral responsibility to speak out on the protection of human rights wherever they are violated.” He went on to criticize President Obama’s lack of verbal commitment to Iranian rights, as if hot air were the answer.

Matt Yglesias: “It’s worth keeping in mind that the people trying to loudly position themselves as the Iranian people’s greatest friends are the exact same people who wanted to drop bombs on Iranians just a couple of weeks ago.”

UPDATE: A small gathering in Tehran today was attacked by Iranian government security forces.

Helicopters hovered overhead as about 200 protesters gathered at Haft-e-Tir Square Monday. Hundreds of anti-riot police quickly put an end to the demonstration.

At last count, 33 journalists are being held in Iranian jails.

  1. #1 by Jeet on June 21, 2009 - 8:11 pm

    This election might be another turning point for Iran and it’s people. I am sure the theocrats will survive for another 5-10 years but resentment against them is growing rapidly.

  2. #2 by Cliff Lyon on June 22, 2009 - 3:53 am

    Yet another display of merciless Republican hypocrisy and an example of the cost of losing our moral authority at the hands of Republicans and GW et. al.

  3. #3 by Becky Stauffer on June 22, 2009 - 6:46 am

    It is the young people in Iran and in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world who are turning against authoritarian governments. Thanks to the internet and now social networks and Twitter, the world is more enlightened. It is easier to fight dogma and ideology when you have something to compare it to.

    It just goes to show that you don’t deliver democracy to countries via bombs or subversive CIA plots. You need to win hearts and minds.

    It is ironic, Rich, that Americans have to learn from Iranians how to respond when an election is stolen.

  4. #4 by Frank Staheli on June 22, 2009 - 12:10 pm

    Cliff says “Yet another display of merciless Republican hypocrisy and an example of the cost of losing our moral authority at the hands of Republicans”. I completely agree.

    I’m not sure, Cliff, if you’re referring to the ur-Republican, Dwight Eisenhower, who took the CIA’s bait in 1953 when Harry Truman previously wouldn’t but it was with that Republican that our Iran problems began.

    Truman was smart enough to realize that the chance that freely-elected parliamentarian and prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh would join in league with the Soviet Communists was virtually nil. But Eisenhower let himself be duped by the CIA and the empire building stooges in and behind his administration.

    The irony is that had we not violated the political integrity of Iran in 1953, either (a) we WOULD have moral authority vis-a-vis the current situation in Iran (which our government now can’t possibly hope to have), or (b) we wouldn’t even be having this worldwide conversation, because Iran would have been going on its 57th year of freedom–without raging ayatollahs at the helm.

    • #5 by Richard Warnick on June 22, 2009 - 12:30 pm

      Frank– Let’s give some credit to Rep. Ron Paul, for casting the only “no” vote on that dumb Iran resolution the other day.

      I have always hesitated when my colleagues rush to pronounce final judgment on events thousands of miles away about which we know very little. And we know very little beyond limited press reports about what is happening in Iran.

  5. #6 by Frank Staheli on June 22, 2009 - 3:02 pm

    Hear, hear!!

    As an American citizen, I fully support their protests, as I have written about here, but our government should keep its nose out of it.

    This says it well from the article you link to in your above comment:

    [Congressman Paul] pointed out that we don’t condemn countries like Saudi Arabia or Egypt that don’t even have real elections.

    “It seems our criticism is selective and applied when there are political points to be made,” Paul said. “I have admired President Obama’s cautious approach to the situation in Iran and I would have preferred that we in the House had acted similarly.”

  6. #7 by .45 on June 22, 2009 - 5:19 pm

    You have to figure the bi-partisan yes men in our government have to maintain a demon Iran, which is why there is no help from us. Of course having the US critical of your election process at this point would, sorry, IS pretty funny, considering our own deficiencies.

    I mean really if Iran became all warm and cuzzy and cooperative what would the military industrial complex do? Who would Israel hate?

    Last time I checked the dire threat from Botswana isn’t enough to motivate the American people.

    Go Ron, hope you run again. he should be our president, him or Kucinich.

  7. #8 by Frank Staheli on June 22, 2009 - 8:18 pm

    In this article, Stephen Kinzer notes that “Whenever Iranians assert their desire to shape their own fate, [the] image [of Mohammad Mossadegh] appears. ”

    In a one of the pictures accompanying the article, Mossadegh’s picture has been placed side by side with one of Mir Hossein Mousavi.

    The article goes on to say

    Carrying a picture of Mossadeq today means two things: “We want democracy” and “No foreign intervention”. These demands fit together in the minds of most Iranians. Desperate as they are for the political freedom their parents and grandparents enjoyed in the early 1950s, they have no illusion that foreigners can bring it to them. In fact, foreign intervention has brought them nothing but misery.

    • #9 by Richard Warnick on June 23, 2009 - 8:31 am

      I recommend Kinzer’s book, Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq.

      One of the things I learned was that the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in 1979 — which seemed crazy to most Americans — made perfect sense to Iranians because the 1953 regime change had been run out of our embassy. They wanted to stop the CIA from trying to control events.

  8. #10 by Larry Bergan on June 22, 2009 - 11:22 pm

    It’s interesting to realize our media has been terrible for a long time. Who knew that when all those Iranians were in the streets chanting “death to America” all those years ago, we had overthrown their government in 1953. I still think it’s great that Obama actually said it in public.

    It is mind altering that the media here is covering election fraud so diligently. It gives me a giant headache!

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