Saturday, June 13, 2009

Choices, choices

In brutal fashion, the mullahs have made their choice. As Juan Cole notes, it is laughable that Ahmadinejad "won" in the fashion the mullahs claim. Seriously fellas, you expect us to buy that Ahmad won Tehran by any margin, let alone 50%? Really?

The violence by the IRGC and the Basij militias is very real. More troubling? Reports like THIS and THIS. Put this together with speculation from Trita Parsi at the end of Laura Rozen's report, and we may be seeing a full-on crack-up of the regime of epic proportions, in which hard-liners are determined to destroy ALL opposition, brutality included (though the demonstrations are also inspiring).

We've not heard the last of this. Either we will end up w/ at least a partially liberated Iran governed by moderates or a fully oppressed, subjugated populace governed by hard-line Khomenist Islamists.

The populace faces an impossible choice: Revolt and (possibly) die, or acquiesce to disaster. Unfortunately, the same choice might already have been taken from Mousavi and Rafsanjani.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Stirrings in Persia?

Iranian politics in the Islamic Republic aren't supposed to be interesting. Presidential candidates are vetted by the clerical Guardians Council, a rather hard-line body (some call it a "Clerical Senate"). All candidates are supposed to support the Islamic state, and the ultimate authority of the Supreme Leader. Theo-democracies are not terribly dramatic.

Except when they are. At worst, we're seeing a rather nasty internal debate in the regime, between Rafsanjani, now with reformist alliances, and Khamenei. Fortunately, for the rest of us, those spats have become very public, leading to massive rallies and a surprising, if temporary openness. The youth have rallied to Mousavi, whose wife has become a surprising asset, and the energy is in his camp.

Which might not matter, if hard-liners rig the vote. The Revolutionary Guards are warning against any "Velvet Revolutions," a clear shot at Mousavi, Karroubi, and their supporters. This strikes me as a most unwise path for the mullahs.

Fellas, let's play this out. You've seen the same rallies we have and have no doubt watched in horror the public debates. Now, you want to put it to rest and quash. Problem is y'all let it happen. Putting that genie back in the bottle now? Yeah, good luck with that.

After all, guys, revolutions can start over much less. And unlike Chinese authorities in 1989, I'm wondering if you have the ability to quash a movement, should it start, divided as you are. Think about it fellas. Sure, the nature of your theocratic regime may need to be tweaked slightly in response to a Mousavi win, but from your perspective, it's better than blowing the whole thing up, right?

Oh yeah, the world would appreciate it too.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

About Those "Actions"

See, ultimately, Cairo's effect depends on future actions by all sides. On our side, THIS decision is almost impossible to defend. Maybe the propaganda angle works, but I don't buy it.

In the global realm, small thing. But it just makes you wonder about future choices.


Yes, yes, it's well past Sunday. Sue me.

But while I don't think it can be really attributed to Obama, March 14's victory in Lebanon allows us (me) to refocus on the speech.

It must be said that the full impact of Cairo a) won't be understood for years and b) is utterly dependent on events and actions. Great thoughts with no action mean nothing.

Still, I think this has the potential to be remembered as the start of a transformational moment. Why? It's not b/c of the State Of The Union-like list as the President laid out, though that matters. In fact, some of that dragged on a bit.

Instead, 3 things stick out. His thoughts on Israel-Palestine were great. There was an absolute defense of the State of Israel, with an acknowledgment of Palestinian grievances. 2nd, the line:

It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.

Indeed, it is. Throughout the Middle East, it is time to act in a positive way, looking forward, not back. A call for all, governments and citizens alike, to act. Good.

Finally, that idealistic ending, with an explicit call to the youth. If 20 yrs. from now, the Middle East has changed for the better, people will rightly point to this. In my mind, it was a Kennedy-esque call to my generation worldwide. I'm reminded once again that, in many ways, it will be up to us to change the world. Whether we live in Washington, Tehran, Jerusalem, or Cairo, it is now up to us. The time to act is now.

Full text.