(slightly updated version) Are we looking at revolution, civil war, or just venting of steam in Iran???

June 18, 2009

One has to wonder just what is going on in Iran. Is there a budding counter-revolution against what is called the Iranian Revolution (of 1979)? Or would it be more accurate to call it a budding civil war? Or maybe it is just a manifestation of discontent (a letting off of steam) and not a strong enough movement to last or turn into any kind of major power shift.

Then again it’s hard to see things ever going back to status quo there.

As I’m blogging this I am looking to see what will happen in the coming hours of the new day after five days of street protest so far. Another protest rally has been called for today (Thursday) in defiance of the government.

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UPDATE: Apparently tens of thousands (a million?) of protestors are out on the streets today, many of them wearing black or black arm bands in mourning for those who have been killed (precise numbers of dead — don’t know; I address that later in this blog).

The ruling religious authority has offerered to meet with the opposition leaders on Saturday.

ADD 1:

Now at about 3:07 p.m. U.S. Pacific Standard time, I want to mention that I just heard a correspondent in the Iranian capital, Tehran, say of the continuing demonstrations there: “six days in a row and it keeps building and no one knows where it’s going to stop.” 

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I still think that the U.S. is best to stay out of the Iran mess and let the Iranians sort things out. Any meddling on our part such as some, particularly neocon Republicans who maybe want to see Obama really get messed up, are pushing for would surely backfire against the opposition, giving the theocratic government proof of the meddling it is already falsely accusing the U.S. of (unless there is some type of black ops thing I don’t know about – I doubt we’re that adept).

(Not that I have a clue on Iranian politics, but don’t tell the neocons, but I just read an article that noted that some, only some, of the opposition members are communists or former communists.)

Not only would intervention on our part be like installing a government there like we did decades ago (for no other reason than it was non-communist and there’s oil there), but an added problem is there is not necessarily just two dogs in this fight, that is the current regime and the opposition. There seems to be a variation of ideas and allegiances among the opposition and in fact some true believers in reform are afraid that the opposition as it is will be hijacked by people up to no good.

So far, things have been relatively peaceful on the part of the opposition, save for some vandalism, with most of the violence from the established authorities and the Nazi-style brown shirt-type thugs called the Revolutionary Guards, from what I can tell. There is some fear that the government has planted trouble makers inside the ranks of the opposition to discredit it.

The last report I read said there have been at least 15 deaths (Bloomberg News).  UPDATE:  Since I wrote that last sentence: Since the authorities in Iran have clamped down on news it’s impossible to get accurate figures —  the McClatchy news service is currently reporting at least 32 dead.

There have been widespread reports of violence against demonstrators and opposition members and of arrests of people deemed to be defying the government.

The government has forbade journalists from active coverage and has tried, albeit not altogether successfully, to cut off communications among opposition members themselves and with the outside world.

Modern communication technology has a momentous effect. Even in its infancy (sans internet) it took down the Soviet Union and the whole Soviet empire without the need for outright war. It just might take down the iron and dictatorial rule of the mullahs in Iran. And that’s interesting to me, because what with Islam having so much influence there, I would think it would still hold much power in a new government.

I understand, though, that an added element here is that now there is even a division among the clergy.

The good thing for the U.S. is that from what I’m reading people longing for more representative government, that presumably would be more Western friendly, in neighboring states are watching the unbelievable spectacle of the internet-connected YouTube and Twitter and Face book and so on coalition of students and educated professionals and others looking for more modern government confront and stand up to the authoritarian establishment. The establishment has physical power but seems to be unable to completely stifle the modern electronics. Some young Arabs watching what is happening in Persia may lament there is not as much vigor or moxie in their own nations, I have read.

Last week, leading up to the Iranian presidential election and even just after when the government declared the winner darn near instantaneously (with hand votes?), apparently not bothering to count votes for real, few would have guessed that the leadership of Iran could still be in question at mid week this week.

The Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has reversed his blessing of the original and apparently sham election and ordered a partial recount, but the main opposition candidate Mir Hossein Musavi and other opposition candidates say they will settle for nothing less than a do-over.

One wonders at this point whether in the face of a building crack down on opposition and a waning of any tolerance for the opposition that the reform movement can continue, and the West does not even know whether reform to suit its desires is what they have in mind anyway (few people in the West or anywhere outside Iran seem to know much about what really goes on there politically, probably because the religious leaders pull the strings and the process is all but closed).

But with Iran’s own soccer team displaying opposition green wrist bands for the world to see at their games in South Korea, there is a sign that this reform movement is more widespread than originally thought.

To be sure, it could well be that Mamoud Amadinejad actually did get more votes – he does have support among the more conservative elements of the populace, who have demonstrated themselves. But it seems unlikely that with all the turmoil that it was the landslide the government reported, and again, reported before there had even been time to count votes. I’ve read the accusations that poll workers were ordered to not even bother counting.

And I note reports of Iranians demonstrating here in the U.S. and my understanding that they were able to vote — but apparently their votes were not counted either since the results were announced so fast.

But as someone who lived through the humiliation of the American hostage crisis in Iran a few decades back, there’s some pleasure in seeing the authorities there facing an uprising back at them (I just meant I watched it all on TV, but it was humiliating).

Let’s just sit back and watch.

P.s.

Something that nags at me is the question of how the thousands (millions?) of protestors in Iran find time to protest — are they students out of class, retired people, unemployed, on break? An honest question.