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