Iran: Noone Knows What to Do Next

(Morten Moreland, via Timesonline)

The lull which seems to have taken over after the deadly attacks by Iranian security forces on their own people yesterday should in many ways not be surprising. Mir Hossein Mousavi has been criticised for not offering a clear lead today, yet his role in the post-election turmoil in Iran has changed out of all recognition. A former prime minister and a presidential candidate initially implicitly approved of by the Guardian Council, he’s now become a figurehead for resistence against the theocratic regime itself. He’s ridden this wave of dissent for a fortnight, but with the stakes as high as they are now, it doesn’t surprise me that he may be exhibiting uncertainty as to what to do next. Does he challenge Khamenei directly rather than resisting him? Does he ride the wave of dissent and challenge the regime itself? Does he find a way of undoing Ahmadinejad’s ‘election’ and take his place as the legitimate president of Iran, when the power structures around him have revealed themselves once and for all as totalitarian? The Guardian notes:

Mousavi issued an elliptical statement today in which he spoke of a “turning point” being “forged in the history of our nation. People are asking each other and also me, when among them, what should be done and in which direction we should go,” he said. But he stopped short of giving a clear answer.

There has been another wave of arrests, with reports today of the detention of five female relatives of Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president widely seen as the orchestrator of the opposition movement.

Fisk notes the terrible mistake Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has made in bringing this to pass:

Now that Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, has placed himself shoulder to shoulder with his officially elected president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the very existence of the Islamic regime may now be questioned openly in a nation ever more divided between reformists and those who insist on maintaining the integrity of the 1979 revolution. Had Khamenei chosen a middle ground, some small compromises towards the countless millions – for in the election, it appears, they were indeed uncounted – who oppose Ahmadinejad, then he might have remained a neutral father-figure. Mir Hossein Mousavi and his supporters had religiously – in the most literal sense of the word – refused to criticise the Supreme Leader or the existence of the Islamic Republic during last week’s street demonstrations

But reacting as all revolutionaries do even decades after they have come to power – for the spectre of counter-revolution remains with them until death – Khamenei chose to paint Ahmadinejad’s political opponents as potential mercenaries, spies and agents of foreign powers. Treason in the Islamic Republic is, of course, punishable by death. But Khamenei’s political alliance with his very odd and hallucinatory president may have sprung from fear as much as anger.

And it’s ironic, because Mousavi’s words have articulated more than anyone what (perhaps only in principle) a positive direction for the Islamic Republic could be in the early 21st century. From Tomasky:

Had we as a people lost certain talents that we were unable to experience that early spirituality? I had come to say that that was not the case. It is not late yet, we are not far from that enlightened space yet. I had come to show that it was possible to live spiritually while living in a modern world. I had come to repeat Imam’s warnings about fundamentalism.

As the comments which follow the article say, it’s difficult to place a statement like that into a meaningful context, considering the aggressive, repressive nature of the republic for over two decades at least, during which time, as I said he was prime minister. But perhaps he’s understood that the repression, international isolation and economic mismanagement have brought the republic back to the abyss thirty years on, and a change is needed. It remains to be seen whether or not that reform can take place within a system which has shown itself to be fundamentally corrupt, or whether a new revolution really is needed.

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