Iran: the Catch-22, Obama, Rafsanjani & Khamenei, & More…

Some quick updates and then some commentary:

1. Obama‘s stance on the Iran issue was on point today. See the video here. Excerpt: “It is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran’s leaders will be. We respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran, which sometimes — the United States can be a handy political football, or discussions with the United States [can be]. Having said all that, I am deeply troubled by the violence i have seen on television…”

2. Speed of Iran vote count called suspicious: “How do you count almost 40 million handwritten paper ballots in a matter of hours and declare a winner? That’s a key question in Iran‘s disputed presidential election. International polling experts and Iran analysts said the speed of the vote count, coupled with a lack of detailed election data normally released by officials, was fueling suspicion around President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s landslide victory.”

3. Rafsanjani vs. Khamenei: This is the most important article I’ve read so far on the internal power struggle between Khamenei and Rafsanjani that I mentioned earlier in the posts below (2 down).  If you read only one piece on the post-election turmoil in Iran, this has to be it. Read it here. Note that the author wrote “Khatami” a few times where I think he meant to write “Khamenei.”

The Catch-22: History is important. There are some very crucial parallels to be drawn between the Islamic regime’s current impossible situation and that of the Shah’s during the protest movement of 1978-79. The Shah was facing continuous protests and did not know how to end the movement so he both showed weakness and cowed by releasing political prisoners, jailing his own Prime Minister, ending the ban on newspapers, etc. and simultaneously tried to show strength by ordering a crackdown. It was a terrible failure by the Shah. His concessions emboldened the movement to demand more and the suppression enraged them to go all the way until the Shah was deposed. Today, although it’s early, the Islamic regime faces a similar situation. If it concedes and calls for a re-vote, the protests will most likely not end, especially since for many, it is no longer about the elections but about the system as a whole.  Furthermore, such concessions, like during the Iranian Revolution, could embolden the nascent protest movement and add to its momentum. At the same time, ordering a crackdown may further polarize an already deeply polarized society and push many fence sitters to participate in the movement – that is, if the make-up of the protest movement engulfing Iran today has the requisite revolutionary fervor to endure the bloodshed. I mentioned these possibilities in earlier posts but I have to stress them again because I feel they are very very important since we’re dealing with people’s lives. Either way, there’s no real way of knowing what’s next. But these are dangerous times for Iran, the regime, and Iranians who are facing a very possible massive crackdown.

So far, at least 7 people have died, but there’s no real way of knowing since real numbers are always suppressed and also because things are just really chaotic right now. But, this is only a sign of what’s to come. If things continue, and they will, expect worse.

The Media Coverage: As to the US media’s coverage of the situation… until earlier today, there were reports of the first casualty, one too many no doubt, but the way CNN portrayed it only shows its bias. They called it “shocking bloodshed.”  Don’t get me wrong, 1 death or 100 is shocking bloodshed, but what angers me a little is when America’s allies commit murder on a larger scale, the media refrain from using such loaded language. If I had it my way, I would call it “shocking bloodshed” if 1 died in Iran, or 1,000 in Lebanon as in 2006 or the 1,300 in the Gaza Strip this past winter, both death tolls of which were orchestrated by America’s ally, Israel, and such language was no where to be found in mainstream America’s coverage. Professor As’ad AbuKhalil called out the media’s biases well when he said: “I don’t know whether the elections in Iran was stolen or not, and I would not be surprised if such a regime did that. But why do Western media express outrage over a stolen election in Iran but they don’t even feign outrage over lack of elections in Saudi Arabia? So it is not about democracy or respecting the will of the people any way.”

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