Sunday, June 21, 2009
I have not been writing much about Iran because I am note sure that I have much to add of either substance or wit. And, of course, other bloggers have been flooding the zone (see Pamela Geller's long post of photos, videos, and links as an example).
The memory of 1979 looms large, and not just in the battle for the revolution's legacy. The whole world remembers the promise and tragedy of Iranians in mass assembly, but we all remember it in different ways. As you follow the coverage of the new Iranian demonstrations, bear in mind the following items from 1978-1979:
The 1978 demonstrations were the largest in human history, with crowd estimates in at least one case exceeding seven million people. That's even bigger than the Taste of Chicago! (and around triple the estimates we have seen so far). Of course, it gives today's opposition a goal to shoot for; they know that Iranians hold the world record, so they also know the potential is there for more. Even so, most observers expected the Shah to shut down the demonstrations with brutal force. The national security team of the sainted Jimmy Carter, desperate that Iran not be seen to "fall" on its watch, even told the Shah to "do whatever is necessary," or words to that effect (my copy of Kenneth Pollack's book is out of reach, but that was the gist of it). Fortunately for the demonstrators of 1979, the Shah was sick with cancer and did not want to die having slaughtered his own people, so he ignored the advice of his own loyalists and the panicking Carter team. In any case, it was not at all clear that the Iranian military would be unqualified in its loyalty to the Shah. As the demonstrations progressed, it became increasingly possible that a crackdown would beget fighting between and perhaps within units. The Islamic Republic is safe until it has the same concern, which is less likely with the Revolutionary Guards in charge. A popular movement is not in control of its own destiny, and it is very difficult to predict where it will lead. The anti-royalists who led the first resistance to the Shah ultimately lost to the Khomeinists, but that result was far from obvious when the first task was to overturn the Peacock Throne. The lesson, of course, is that in Iran there is always a devil you don't know.
"...in Iran there is always a devil you don't know."
That is a good cautionary note. Yet, the devil we do know has shown itself impervious to reconciliation and moderation, not only with the Jews, its Arab neighbors, the U.S., but with its own people. So I would at this point rather dispense with the idea that it is better to deal with the devil you know rather than the one you do not. At this point, the risks of the unknown seem more than counterbalanced by the potential reward.
Interesting point. IRGC seems to be running the show, backed up by their Basij militia, so I think you are right, the military has gone unmentioned. I wonder what might be the prevailing politics at the colonel level among the professionals.
Patterico linked to this article at ThreatsWatch, and I'd be interested in your views on it. The article cites a report from Saudi Arabia claiming that the Iranians may shortly be replacing the "Supreme Leader" function and Khameini,
"Members of the assembly are reportedly considering forming a collective ruling body and scrapping the model of Ayatollah Khomeini as a way out of the civil crisis that has engulfed Tehran in a series of protests."
One view from the front, in the words of Mohammad, and Iranian street protester:
"Americans, European Union, international community, this government is not definitely — is definitely not elected by the majority of Iranians. So it's illegal. Do not recognize it. Stop trading with them. Impose much more sanctions against them. My message...to the international community, especially I'm addressing President Obama directly – how can a government that doesn't recognize its people's rights and represses them brutally and mercilessly have nuclear activities? This government is a huge threat to global peace. Will a wise man give a sharp dagger to an insane person? We need your help international community. Don't leave us alone."
Thanks to The Corner