Amateur video posted to the Internet showed thousands of anti-government students chanting slogans and gathering on various campuses. Credible reports of protests emerged from campuses in the central Iranian cities of Esfahan, Shiraz and Kerman, in the eastern city of Mashhad and in the western cities of Tabriz, Kermanshah, Hamedan and Ilam as well as in Rasht and Gilan along the Caspian Sea
- Report of 7 Dec. National Student's Day Demonstratons, San Francisco Chronicle
The army is a haven for the nation and will never want to suppress the people at the request of politicians. We shall remain true to our promise not to intervene in politics. But we cannot remain silent when our fellow citizens are oppressed by tyranny.
. . . Therefore, we warn the Guards who have betrayed the martyrs (from the war between Iran and Iraq) and who decided to attack the lives, the property and the honor of the citizens. We seriously warn them that if they do not leave their chosen path, they will be confronted with our tough response. The military is a haven for the nation. And we will defend the peace-loving Iranian nation against any aggression.”
•Pilots and personnel of the aviation division of the regular army (Havanirooz)
•Commanders and personnel of the 31th artillery division of Isfahan of the regular army
•Pilots and airmen of the regular army
•Teachers of the Shaid Satari University of the regular air force
•Officers and staff of the logistics training unit the regular army
•Professors and lecturers of the Imam Ali University for officers of the regular army
•Officers, staff, and commanders of the chief of staff of the regular army
. . . for all the cruelty and hardship of our world, we are not mere prisoners of fate. Our actions matter, and can bend history in the direction of justice.
The fuse for a revolution in Iran was lit in June, when the final trappings of democracy in Iran were torn asunder. The latest major events were protests on 7 Dec., Iran's National Student's Day, and a statement released shortly thereafter by members of Iran's military.
The statement from Iran's military is a major event, but by no means surprising. From day one of this nascent revolution, the single most important question has been what will the military do? When I say military, I am not referring to the mad mullah's 100.000 plus praetorian guard, the IRGC, but rather to the regular military which forms the bulk of Iran's forces.
The regime has for years known that they could not count on regular military units to crush internal dissent. Likewise they are keenly aware that it was when the military came out in support of Khomeini in 1979 that the revolution entered its final phase. The Shah's regime fell three weeks afterwards. The letter above does not confirm that Iran's revolution is anywhere near its final phase - particularly given that, unlike 1979, there is also a heavily armed IRGC which, although small in comparison to Iran's regular military, is very potent. The IRGC is so deeply insinuated in the graft and corruption of Iran that the fall of the regime would mean the fall of many of the IRGC heads - literally. Thus the IRGC will fight to the death to keep the mad mullahs in power. That said, the letter does mean that the ever rising brutality of the regime is bringing things to the tipping point. The mad mullahs are stuck now in the vortex between not being able to go too far for fear of bringing out the military against the regime, yet having no other recourse but brute force to keep the regime afloat. In the words of Yeats, "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold . . ."
Well, perhaps there is one trick the regime has up their sleeve. During the Dec. 7 protests in Iran, several individuals, perhaps protesters, perhaps IRGC/basij plants, were filmed desecrating a picture of the revolution's father, the late Ayatollah Khomeini. Their faces were never clearly shown. The tape was broadcast repeatedly on state run television in an effort to raise a public backlash against the protesters. It immediately drew denials from the Green movement's leader, Mousavi, and a rebuke to the government issued by Khomeini's grandson who indicated that he thought it quite possible that this was deliberately done by the regime and blamed on protesters.
What started as a simple protest over a stolen election in June has grown to threaten the entire mullah led political system. Protests are occurring with regularity throughout Iran, but their nature has changed. As Amir Taheri noted in the WSJ:
The crowds' initial slogan was "Where Is My Vote?" and the movement's accidental leaders, including former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, tried hard to keep the protest confined to demands such as a recount of the votes and, ultimately, a runoff in accordance with the law.
The slogans of the protestors are no longer about election fraud. Today they include "Death to the Dictator," "Freedom Now," and "Iranian Republic, Not Islamic Republic!" One slogan is a direct message to President Barack Obama: "Obama, Are You With Us or With Them?"
This "radicalization" of the protesters in response to the brutal attempts at crackdown is also noted by the NYT.
Further, according to Taheri, the protesters are "deepening and growing" their movement, reaching out to other elements, such as trade unions, that have their own deep animus towards the regime. Meanwhile, clerics in Qom are fuming at the acts of Khameini and the ever-growing bellicosity and wild claims of Ahmedinejad. He has recently claimed that the return of the Hidden Imam is near, that he is a tool of the Imam, and that only the U.S. is standing in the way of his return. As one mid-level cleric in Qom told Taheri, "by backing such a man, Khamenei has doomed the regime."
Michael Ledeen for his part, covers the same topics in his latest post at PJM, adding that the Iranian economy is in serious disarray, with manufacturing running at 40% of capacity. As he calls it, this is "Code Red" for Iran.
I am convinced that the Iranian regime is, while not the font of all evil, not that far removed from it. I have detailed why many times. As Robert Gates so famously said two years ago, "[e]verywhere you turn, it is the policy of Iran to foment instability and chaos, no matter the strategic value or cost in the blood of innocents - Christians, Jews and Muslims alike." They are the primary source of funds, arms and training for Hamas and Hezbollah and they are the single greatest impediment to peace between Israel and the Palestinians. They have supported coups in Bahrain and Azerbaijan. They are currently supporting a rebellion in Yemen and threatening to destabilize Saudi Arabia. They are occupying land that belongs to the UAE and land that belongs to Iraq. As the U.S. moves out of Iraq, the mad mullahs are once again extending their deadly talons inside that country. They have been responsible for terrorist attacks world wide and are the world's "central banker of terrorism." They near daily threaten to destroy Israel. Their push towards a nuclear arsenal is causing nuclear proliferation throughout the Middle East - the penultimate nightmare scenario. Destroying the regime of the mad mullahs and seeing to the establishment of a secular democracy would, one, remove from the world a threat every bit as great as Nazi Germany was circa 1938, and two, would go a long way to stabilizing the Middle East.
What is President Obama doing to promote such a turn of events? The short answer appears to be nothing, covertly or publicly. This makes an utter mockery of Obama's West Point speech, wherein he said "we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights . . ." With the bully pulpit, Obama could be drawing attention to the horrible human rights abuses of the illegitimate government of the mullahs. Yet all we hear is deafening silence.
It seems reasonably certain that Obama thinks that if he speaks with honesty, then the mad mullahs will not cooperate with his attempts to negotiate a resolution to Iran's nuclear program. The reality is that, as the history of Iran since 1979 teaches, the regime is not going to cooperate absent a credible threat of force. Without that, Obama could kiss Khameini's bared rump 100 times on Iranian national television or he could do the morally correct thing and bring pressure upon the regime, showing support for the human rights of the Iranian rank and file. Neither standing alone will change the regime's nuclear trajectory. At least doing the latter would give moral support to the protestors and further the cause of those who are fighting and dying for freedom.
Lastly, as to a credible threat of force, Obama, who spoke so eloquently of the Just War theory in Olso, should understand that, under that theory, not only would force against the mad mullahs be moral, the theory places him under an affirmative moral duty to act against the regime to protect America. But under the current circumstance, that creates a conundrum.
Making a credible threat of force against the mad mullahs - one that could stop their nuclear trajectory in its tracks - could ignite nationalism in an Iranian populace on the brink of revolution. Under these circumstances, it is the duty of Obama to use the bully pulpit - and covert action - to assist and fan the flames of revolution until they succeed. There are a host of things that Obama could be doing in this regard. He could publicly excoriate the Iranian regime for their human rights abuses and the stolen election. He could restore funding to Radio Iran. He could "remove his opposition to various bills in Congress, sponsored by Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman and others, that sanction companies that sell gasoline to Iran." He could direct our covert operaters to counter the regime's attempts to shut down communications throughout Iran before and during demonstrations. He has, in short, a range of options to bring pressure on the regime and to support the nascent revolution. As Obama said in his acceptance speech to the Nobel Committee, "our actions matter and can bend history . . ." If those are not mere pretty words, then why is Obama sitting in a ringside seat to the revolution rather than entering the ring? Indeed, to do so would seem a moral obligation for our most moralistic of Presidents.