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Where is Iran going?


Almost anything anyone writes about the Iranian unrest may be true or false, and any predictions are likely to be wrong. The Iranians are now admitting that 13 people were killed yesterday, but CNN and others put the toll at 19-150 (see videos posted there as well). Protests erupted in Shiraz, in Isfahan and elsewhere. Basij thugs seem to be killing people even if they are only onlookers or look like protesters. Tanks had reportedly entered Azzadi Square on Saturday. On Sunday it was reported that Feezah Rafsanjani, daughter of Ayatollah Rafsanjani, and four other family members had been arrested. Iran has also expelled BBC reporter Jon Leyne. We can expect that media reports will be even more circumspect in the future.

We can ask some questions about this demonstrations, but we cannot give good answers:

Were the elections really faked, and how badly? All Iranian elections are undemocratic in that the Expediency Council allows only "Islamic" candidates to run. Whether and how much the returns were actually faked is unknown. If people were massively denied the right to vote, then even a full recount would not necessarily yield a different result. A letter of unknown authenticity was circulated, supposedly showing that in the actual results Mir Hossein Mousavi had gotten a large plurality- over 19 million votes out of 42 million cast.

Will the demonstrations lead to a "revolution?" Many point out that the 1979 Khomeini revolution was a process that developed over many months and believe that what we are seeing is "just the beginning." But there are a few significant differences. In 1979, the Shah was ill with cancer and left the country for treatment. Khomeini was not in Iran initially, but his followers had carefully prepared a network of activists over a long period. The Iranian army did not take brutal action against demonstrators, reportedly because they were warned not to do so by an envoy of the Carter administration. A general strike was called, and it could succeed because the opposition had the support of workers and peasants as well as of the educated elite. Thus fair the protests seem to be more the property of students and the more affluent classes. They are not confined to Tehran, but they do seem to be focused on universities.

What do the demonstrators want? - It is not clear at all hat the demonstrators or Mousavi want to overthrow the religious rulers of Iran. Mousavi is a conservative and a follower of Ayatollah Rafsanjani. Clearly, the demonstrators want more freedom and economic reform, and some stated that they want peace rather than a nuclear Iran. But these may all be palliative changes within the same framework.

Is the unrest related to US President Barack Obama's dialog initiative?. Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani saidthat Obama, "showed the deceitful meaning of change too soon." But this may be just another attempt at blaming the problem on foreigners. Kim Ghattas is sure that the protests are the "consequences of engaging Iran," but the issues that fueled them were brewing long before Obama was elected. Economic distress was aggravated by falling oil prices and there have been numerous protests in the past over the issues of dress freedom for women and civil rights. The elections would have been just as fraudulent if John McCain were president, and that was the main issue that touched off the conflagration. The relation between America's more liberal policy regarding Iran and the protests is about as proved or unproven as the relation between President Reagan's hard line on the USSR and democratization in that country.

Is there a reason for foreigners to express sympathy with the protesters?Everyone is surely appalled by the scenes of brutality. A lot of political pressure is building for statements and diplomatic protests. It is probable however, that external pressure and protests will serve to legitimize the regime. Ali Khameinei has already blamed the protests on the Zionist Radio and the bad British radio. Some Iranians who are basically sympathetic to democracy expressed resentment against foreign reporters who were "salivating" at the news of unrest and seemed to them eager to provoke opposition.

Ami Isseroff

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Replies: 1 Comment

Assalamu Alaykum.

Dear Moslems Brothers
I want exactly know how could Arab_Israel Conflict change to Palestine_Israel Conflict. Which factors leads to these changes and in which year.

Posted by Mohammed Mohammed @ 07/03/2009 09:44 PM CST

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