July 18, 2009
It is not easy to track the progress of the current Iranian Revolution, considering the blocking efforts of the Islamic Revolutionary government. However, people still come and go, and once out of Iran, talk. This includes analysts—several of the best of them, Iranian-born (Karim Sadjatpour and Trita Parsi), have been in Iran recently and have many contacts there.
President Obama correctly noted that “the dust has not settled” in the aftermath of the contentious (and fraudulent) election. He is not rushing to recognize the legitimacy of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s “win.” “This opera ain’t over till the fat lady sings,” as sports announcer Dan Cook once said.
Public indignation was palpable when the election results were announced well before the count. When peaceful demonstrations poured into the streets during the election campaign, it looked as if there might be some changes afoot. Many analysts dismissed the notion that Ahmainejad could lose. They were sure he would win and that the demonstrators were merely Tehran elites, who did not understand the piety of the majority. Besides, he had a huge slush fund that he used to buy favor.
Ahmadinejad might have won, except that one of the opposition candidates, Mir-Hossein Moussavi, stopped being listless and stepped forward (with his wife) in such a way that the young and disgruntled believed they actually had a candidate to support. When the election took place, it looked as though the electorate was still supporting the Islamic Revolution, and just wanted a slightly more moderate president.
After demonstrations were ferociously put down, observers say that the dissidence has gone far beyond just wanting to move the chairs on the Titanic. People show indications of wanting to throw out the Islamic Revolution altogether—quite a surprise indeed. Dissidence is coming from the elderly, as well as the young; from women of all ages and in great numbers; from every major city in Iran, not just the elites of Tehran; from rural villages as well; and surprisingly, from many clerics, part of the religious establishment themselves, and even from some Revolutionary Guards.
President Ahmadinejad has the look of a “lean and hungry man,” as Shakespeare identified a villain. He has been accumulating for himself all the muscle provided by the Revolutionary Guard and the young Basij street thugs. These forces were supposed to be under the control of Supreme Leader Khamenei, but it is starting to appear that Ahmadinejad is heading for a military dictatorship and will no longer need the clerics. Qom, the religious city where a number of clerics and some other ayatollas have come out both against him and Khamenei, is under siege. Revolutionary guards have surrounded the city and many clerics have been arrested. It is interesting that the professional army is not serving in this capacity—either because they dislike the regime or because the regime distrusts them. But how much longer can the guards be trusted?
In one neighborhood where many Revolutionary Guards live (in Tehran), demonstrators are shouting every night from their rooftops the revolutionary cry: “God is Great.” Also heard is “death to the dictator” (initially thought to refer to Ahmadinejad—but now to Khamenei himself). There are also shouts of “death to Khamenei’s son,” who is the commander for the Basij thugs. Maybe the palace guard is melting.
When demonstrators begin the 40-day mourning rounds for the death of the beautiful young girl shot by a Basij sniper during the post-election marches, the government will probably shoot to kill—and this will launch more 40-day processions. And when strikes can be organized, this will be the death knell of the Islalmic Revolutionary Government. Ahmadinejad’s bitterest enemy in the government is former President Rafsanjani—whose family was arrested and then released, showing signs of beatings—and whose son runs the country’s oil industry. A petroleum workers’ strike would devastate the government.
It is one thing to resent a monarch who does what he needs to maintain order and power, but quite another to resent hypocrites—which is why religion mixed with government produces bad religion and worse politics.
Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and writer.
You may contact her at Lfarhat102@aol.com