Friday, June 19, 2009

Countdown To High Noon

Khameini, in his speech today (see post below), has thrown down the gauntlet, calling the election results valid, refusing a revote, and calling for an end to all protest marches. We are coming to the point of a showdown, but it will not be like Tianamen, as some have referenced, nor a repeat of the Tehran Spring of 1999 and 2003. The critical issue is what the military will do? If enough of the military refuse orders and begin to side with the marchers, we will soon be seeing a full scale revolution.

Yesterday's protests were reportedly the largest seen in Iran since the 1979 revolution. Mousavi has already called for another march on Saturday, ostensibly to force the government to allow a revote. Khameini has completely shut down that option in his speech today.

All indications are that Khameini is going to order the IRGC to put down the protests if they continue. The NYT reports that the basij - essentially thugs in the nature of the Brown-shirts of the Nazi era - are planning to take a much more aggressive position against the demonstrators. Michael Totten has a roll up of other indicators. These include the expulsion of foreign journalists, warnings from a prosecutor that protestors could be executed for "waging war against God," and Totten's cite to the post from Michael Ledeen wherein he indicates that two IRGC divisions sent to Tehran. Given Khameini's speech today, the question now is when, not if there will be a cataclysmic confrontation.

In trying to assess what we can expect, some have drawn analogies to Tianamen Square, others to the Tehran Spring protest of 1999 and then 2003. Neither is really analogous to what we are seeing, nor what we can expect. Tianamen was easy for the authorities to put down. The protest was localized to Beijing, making it much easier to cordon and stamp out. That is not the case with the current protests. As Michael Ledeen pointed out yesterday, protests are occurring in "every major city of Iran." And indeed, the endgame of the 1979 Iranian revolution started in Isfahan, not Tehran.

Nor is this like the Tehran Spring protests of 1999 or 2003. Those protests were of college students with no focal point of leadership. They were easily put down by the brutal basij on college campuses. Today's protests resemble the 1979 Iranian revolution. The protestors are drawn from all age groups, both sexes, and across the entire class spectrum.

The stakes for the theocracy are existential. Khameini chose a course of confrontation, and thus the regime will either, as Krauthammer opines today, brutally repress the protests or the regime will be extinguished. Any possibility of the protests succeeding but the outcome limited to merely the installment of Mousavi as President was extinguished by Khameini today.

Virtually all of those in power who took part in the 1979 revolution have blood on their hands from the massacres that followed. They all know that to fight and loose this confrontation will likely mean a short and unpleasant future. But the majority of Iran's population is under thirty years old. They did not take part in the revolution and will not feel the life or death need to protect the theocracy.

With that in mind, as I pointed out almost as soon as these protests began, the deciding issue as to whether this revolution succeeds or fails rests on the military - how many will refuse orders to fire on the protestors, and how many will side with the protestors. Indeed, its precisely what Grand Ayatollah Montazeri addressed in his letter yesterday, warning the military not to fire on the protestors, regardless of their orders.

In the meantime, it is time for the U.S. to throw its full support behind the protestors. As I wrote earlier, the U.S. should, at a minimum, be insuring communications flow for the protestors. David Ignatius writes today, coming to the same conclusion:

The biggest gift the West can give the Iranian people is to keep open the lines of communication. The regime wants to turn off not just foreign press coverage but also Internet traffic. America and its allies can counter that blackout. We can push broadband access into Iran via satellites, or via Internet relays along the Iraq-Iran border, from Basra to Sulaymaniyah. If the world keeps watching, the protesters will be emboldened, and the mullahs will be checked.

Further, its time for Obama to come out in full throated support of real democracy in Iran. Obama's initial silence may have been understandable, given the very real Iranian sensitivity about the 1953 CIA led Iranian coup. But we are far beyond that now. Blood has been spilled and a cataclysmic repression is in the offing. No one in or outside of Iran will possibly believe regime claims that this protest is being pushed by foreign agents. As Krauthammer asks today:

And where is our president? Afraid of "meddling." Afraid to take sides between the head-breaking, women-shackling exporters of terror -- and the people in the street yearning to breathe free. This from a president who fancies himself the restorer of America's moral standing in the world.

High noon is almost upon us. Making sure the protestors win can be our only goal - and indeed, it will remake the Middle East overnight, solving an existential problem for Western Civilization on par with Hitler. So when will Obama start working towards that end?

Prior Posts:

19 June 2009: An Iranian Showdown Cometh - Liveblogging Khameini's Speech At Friday Prayers
18 June 2009: Iran Update
16 June 2009: Iran 6/16: The Fire Still Burning, An Incendiary Letter From Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, State Dept. Intercedes With Twitter & Obama Talks Softly
16 June 2009: Breaking News: Vote Recount In Iran, Too Little, Too Late
16 June 2009: The Fog Of War - & Twitter
15 June 2009: Iran Buys Time, Obama Votes Present, Iraq's Status Is Recognized
15 June 2009: The Fog Of War - & TwitterChants Of Deat To Khameini
15 June 2009: Heating Up In Iran
14 June 2009: Heating Up In IranTehran Is Burning; What Will The Iranian Army Do? (Updated)
13 June 2009: The Mad Mullah's Man Wins Again - For Now
18 April 2008: The Next Moves In An Existential Chess Match (Background On Iran's Theocracy)


Ted Leddy said...

Khameini is cracking up !

He senses the challenge to his authority and believes its time to close the matter of the contested elections. If he decides to go for brute force then we could see outright warfare on the streets in the next few days. GW, I can't help notice that you appear to be one of the few conservative that believe as I do that this might snowball into a revolution. Many on the right almost seem indifferent to recent events where as personally, its a long time since I have been so excited by a global event. Any explanation ?

Paul_In_Houston said...

Many on the right almost seem indifferent to recent events

I give some blame to an in-the-tank media that absolutely refuses to make an issue of something that might bother "The Won".

In today's Houston Chronicle, the only (small) headline on these event's is about the U.K's summons to the Iranian ambassador over Khameni's threat.

Whether by design, or by inclination, the attitude appears to be "if you don't mention it, it ain't happening".

This particular elephant hardly shows up on the radar at ANY of the MSM outlets. Obama's swatting of a fly is MUCH more important. And, of course, we can't let this "distraction" take our focus off of health care, right? Right?...

(Meant to put a smiley after that, but somehow just don't feel like it.)

GW said...

Ted: I am not sure if I agree wholly with your statement that most on the right don't believe this will snowball. I visit a number of blogs and read the MSM daily. The right seems divided between those who smell revolution in the air and those who are still stuck on viewing this through the lens of the Tehran Spring and the time of the Khatami presidency. During that period, it seemed that a counterrevolution was likely to occur at several points, yet it never materialized. Also, its very difficult for an unarmed populace to successfully bring about a revolution. I think those two things lie are what are causing some on the right to believe that this will not lead to a full scale revolution in Iran.

In the press, this seem to have also divided left wing reporting. Some claimed - seemingly in defiance of all facts and basic logic - that the results were accurate. Others claimed that this revolt would not last long because it lacked organization.

I know people who took part in the 79 revolution. Khomeini wrote the playbook, and that seems to be what is happening from their perspective - and mine.

Paul: Well put. Actually, that would fit right in with Victor Davis Hanson's article today on cognitive dissonance in Obamaworld. I blogged it below.

MK said...

"Further, its time for Obama to come out in full throated support of real democracy in Iran."

Yes it is and he's the leader of the only nation that has the means to actually do something for freedom and liberty. But alas, he won't, people should have taken note when he and his ilk were leading the charge to tear the man, who actually freed two nations, to pieces. Instead they supported his rise to power and the dimming of liberty.