(UPDATE: From Michael Totten on today's events, rioting is going on at full steam. Interstingly, "According to a Twitter post from inside Iran, the army announced it will not use force against Iranians, only foreigners." This morning, I pointed out below that Iran's Army is the real wild card in the unfolding scenario and has in the past refused orders to engage Iran's citizens. Declaring neutrality at this early a stage is surprising. If the IRGC moves to quell the riot with their own forces, it now seems slightly more likely that the Army might in fact try to prevent that.")
Since 1979, Iran has been having sham elections. The voting itself was real and relatively fraud free, but the only people allowed to run for office were carefully vetted and approved by the mad mullahs in the Assembly of Experts. As a rule, and particularly since the near revolution in the Terhan Spring of a decade ago, the only people approved were people who expressed no desire to reform the mullahocracy.
This Presidential election started as just one more sham, with the Assembly of Experts only allowing four people to vie for President of Iran out of more than four hundred who applied for the right to run for the office. Ahmedinejad was one of the four, as was Mir-Hossein Mousavi. Mousavi is an unlikely candidate for reform - you can read his blood-stained bio here. That said, during the campaign, he emerged as a candidate for reform relative to Ahmedinejad, and his wife was vocal about women's rights. It seems apparent now that somewhere along the way, Mad Mullah in Chief Khameini decided Mousavi was too dangerous to allow into the President's spot and opted to ACORNize the election, stealing it for Ahmedinejad with massive fraud.
The tinderbox of Iran, that I describe in the post below has been lit. Mousavi is apparently under arrest and Tehran is on fire. Where this ends up is a huge unknown. This from a Times reporter in Tehran:
It's way past midnight in Tehran, but this city is not sleeping. Outside on the streets, people are honking their horns in protest and stretching their hands out of cars making peace signs — a sign of support for Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the opposition candidate apparently defeated by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran's presidential election on Friday.
In neighborhoods across north and central Tehran, shouts of "Death to dictator!" fill the air, mostly in female voices, coming from house windows. There are also shouts of "Allah-o Akbar!" — reminiscent of the revolution — on the urging of a communique from Mousavi's office.
Some of Tehran's main streets have been turned into urban battlegrounds. Groups of mostly young men have set large garbage bins on fire in the middle of streets, torn out street signs and fences, broken the windows and ATM machines of state banks, and burnt at least five large buses in the middle of streets. . . .
"They have totally fooled us," said one sad man, a 32-year-old state employee, standing by the roadside. "This time they went too far. They just want to eliminate 'republic' and turn this into an Islamic dictatorship," he said with a sigh.
On Ghaem-Magham Street, a lone chadori woman stood by the roadside, making a peace sign with her index finger wrapped in a green ribbon, saying "Mousavi" to every passing car. Out of 50 cars that passed, all but 5 either honked, rolled down their windows to shout their support, or made peace signs in solidarity.
One man passing by told her, "You wrote Mousavi, they read Ahmadinejad!" She responded: "They're illiterate and need to learn reading."
Then a man in a car moving in the other direction rolled down his window and shouted at her in anger, "You whore! Why are you creating conflict between people?" A basiji (a member of the volunteer paramilitary aligned with Ahmadinejad) charged at her from nowhere with a metal rod and was about to beat her when he was held down and beaten himself by five or six men streaming out of nearby cars.
"I mean, just look at this! If Ahmadinejad won 25 million votes, which they claim, we should be celebrating, right?" an onlooker commented. . . .
And as Tehran burns, I have to give big kudos to Sec. of State Clinton for saying precisely the right thing when asked about the Iranian election and the apparent fraud:
"We are monitoring the situation as it unfolds in Iran, but we, like the rest of the world, are waiting and watching to see what the Iranian people decide."
And the people seem to be doing that as we speak.
One thing to watch is the Iranian military. Iran's military is divided between standard military units that comprise the vast majority of Iran's forces and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), about 125,000 strong. The IRGC is completely loyal to Khameini and are the real power center in Iran. The Army itself is not unquestioningly loyal, and indeed, units have on occasion in the past refused orders from Khameini that involved firing on Iranian citizens. The IRGC has already announced that they will crush any attempts by Mousavi loyalists to start a revolution. If they do, will the Army stay neutral? My guess is that what happens with the non-IRGC military units will ultimately determine whether what appears to be a revolution in its nascent stage actually flowers into anything.
There is no doubt at this point that the fuse has been lit. The only question now is whether it gets stamped out, or whether it lights the tinderbox that is Iran.