Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Who wins?

Mir Hossein Mousavi, on his Facebook page: Guns vs. 'the greatness of God,' armed forces vs. mobile phones, batons vs. mourning, lies vs. cameras, national television vs. Twitter, bullets vs. Facebook, power vs. dignity... Who wins?

Bet on Neda's side
David Ignatius, Washington Post: On one side you have all the instruments of repression in Iran, gathering their forces for a crackdown. On the other you have unarmed protesters symbolized by the image of Neda Agha Soltan, a martyred woman dying helplessly on the street, whose last words reportedly were: 'It burned me.'

Who's going to win? In the short run, the victors may be the thugs who claim to rule in the name of God: the Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Basij militia and the other tools of an Islamic revolution that has decayed and hardened into mere authoritarianism. They have shown that they are willing to kill enough of their compatriots to contain this first wave of change.

But over the coming months and years, my money is on the followers of the martyred Neda. They have exposed the weakness of the clerical regime in a way that Iran's foreign adversaries -- America, Israel, Saudi Arabia -- never could. They have opened a fundamental split in the regime. The rulers will try to bind this wound with force, and salve it with concessions, but neither approach will make the wound heal.

We are watching the first innings of what will be a long game in Iran... How will the conflict proceed? Jack Goldstone, a professor at George Mason University who studies revolutions, sees a three-stage process that leads to regime change. First, members of the elite defect and form an opposition; then the nation polarizes and coalitions are formed; and then the mass mobilization. These three elements of the revolutionary process are already present. The ferment will ripen as the regime tries to avert step four -- its demise.

Juan Cole, Informed Comment: The fact is that despite the bluster of the American Right that Something Must Be Done, the United States is not a neutral or benevolent player in Iran. Washington overthrew the elected government of Iran in 1953 over oil nationalization, and installed the megalomaniac and oppressive Mohammad Reza Pahlevi, who gradually so alienated all social classes in Iran that he was overthrown in a popular revolution in 1978-79... Moreover, very unfortunately, US politicians are no longer in a position to lecture other countries about their human rights...

American politicians should keep their hands off Iran and let the Iranians work this out. If the reformers have enough widespread public support, they will develop tactics that will change the situation. If they do not, then they will have to regroup and work toward future change. US covert operations and military interventions have caused enough bloodshed and chaos. If the US had left Mosaddegh alone in 1953, Iran might now be a flourishing democracy and no Green Movement would have been necessary.