Sunday, June 14, 2009

Is it 1956 or 1989 in Iran? 

It is usually with the benefit of hindsight that we can look at the circumstances of a successful toppling of a totalitarian regime, but the post-election riots in Iran appear to have some of the necessary ingredients. It is difficult from a Western perspective to know whether what is going on in Tehran and other Iranian cities is analogous to Budapest in 1956 (when the Soviets violently crushed the Hungarian uprising) or East Berlin in 1989 (when the wall finally came tumbling down).

The AP has already rendered its verdict, however, so presumably there will be another 33 years of lost freedom for the Iranian people:
"There's little chance that the youth-driven movement could immediately threaten the pillars of power in Iran — the ruling clerics and the vast network of military and intelligence forces at their command — but it raises the possibility that a sustained and growing backlash could complicate Iran's policies at a pivotal time."
The AP is probably correct (setting aside for the moment why it wants to be in the political forecasting business), because the protests have not yet reached the massive scale that would generate real and lasting change, and because, let's face it, even the candidacy of Mir Hossein Mousavi was approved by the Mullahs.

Neither European event is more than a very rough analogy, however, because Tehran represents the beating heart of revolutionary Islam, Shia style, and not an atheistic, centrally-planned mode of government thought up by a couple of dead white European males a century and a half ago. The religious aspect of the regime is important, because it points to the difference between the foreign Soviet tankers who rolled through Budapest -- as brutal and effective as they were, they were probably not willing to go on suicide missions to die for the cause of The Proletariat and Marxism -- and the indigenous Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, who are highly motivated and will do anything to keep the ruling Mullahocracy in power, knowing that if they fall while suppressing the protests, it's off to paradise.

Another difference is that 2009 is an era of not only mass communication, but instant communication. That a totalitarian regime can control and shut down the nodes of communication may have the effect of worsening the unrest.
"Iran restored cell phone service that had been down in the capital since Saturday. But Iranians could not send text messages from their phones, and the government increased its Internet filtering in an apparent attempt to undercut liberal voices. Social networking sites including Facebook and Twitter were also not working."
It is much worse to have an everyday tool of communication taken away than to never have had it the first place -- turning the switch off is very upsetting to people, could possibly radicalize otherwise apolitical citizens, and further undermines the credibility of the government.

Protests have continued for a second day, and if the protests go on and gain strength each day during the upcoming week, then the Mousavi supporters will have the momentum, and the crackdown will have to be even harsher for the status quo to be preserved. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is hereby nominated for the first annual Kevin Bacon All Is Well Award:
"In a news conference, Ahmadinejad called the level of violence 'not important from my point of view' and likened it to the intensity after a soccer match."

Ahmadinejad is also being a shrewd politician and blaming external forces for the unrest in his country.
"Ahmadinejad also accused foreign media of launching a 'psychological war' against the country.

"Iranian authorities have asked some foreign journalists — in Iran to cover the elections — to prepare to leave. Nabil Khatib, executive news editor for Dubai-based news network Al Arabiya, said the station's correspondent in Tehran was given a verbal order Sunday from Iranian authorities that the office will be closed for one week."
I have $10 in my pocket that says it will only be a matter of days before Ahmadinejad or someone in the regime blames the Jews (25,000 out of a population of 70 million, or 0.04%). These are all well worn pages from a well known playbook.

Once the decision was made by the Powers That Be to control the outcome of the election, why not make it look closer -- say, a 5 point win instead of the announced 30 point win? A margin that large, given the close nature of the campaign itself, makes no sense at all. Even Vice President Joe Biden has expressed doubts:
"While Ahmadinejad insisted the results showing his landslide victory were fair and legitimate, Biden simple [sic, I think] said, 'You know I have doubts.'

"'It sure looks like the way they're suppressing speech, the way they're suppressing crowds, the way in which people are being treated, that there's some real doubt about that,' Biden said.

"'And someone just told me that when John Cena lost the WWE title to Edge earlier this year, it was fixed. Imagine that!' Biden said."
Okay, I admit I added that last part.

UPDATE: I feel silly for posting the Animal House clip and the overall flippant tone above, because real people, not actors, are getting their heads cracked. Mea culpa.

CWCID: Gateway Pundit, via Glenn Reynolds.


By Blogger DEC, at Sun Jun 14, 02:02:00 PM:

E81: "why not make it look closer -- say, a 5 point win instead of the announced 30 point win?"

Golnaz Esfandiari, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:

"Abolhassan Bani Sadr, the first president of Iran following the 1979 revolution, spoke to Radio Farda from his exile in Paris. He went even further, recalling the words of Adolf Hitler's chief propagandist, Joseph Goebbels, who famously said: 'If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually believe it.'

" 'In my view this is a massive fraud, there is nothing vague about it. Have you forgotten that [Joseph Goebbels] said that you have to tell a lie so big that no one would doubt it?' he said.

Article link:

By Anonymous Boludo Tejano, at Sun Jun 14, 02:36:00 PM:

I have this fantasy of the US using precision bombing to simultaneously take out ,e.g., hundreds of the Revolutionary Guard outposts, then sitting back to see the chaos that ensues.  

By Blogger Diane Wilson, at Sun Jun 14, 03:34:00 PM:

This comment has been removed by the author.  

By Blogger Diane Wilson, at Sun Jun 14, 03:36:00 PM:

After this obvious point get rubbed in to my awareness a few years ago, it seems to be a good guide as to the outcome of Iran. It's certainly been true in Russia, China, and Eastern Europe (with the obvious, and non-contradictory, cases of Hungary-1956 and Prague-1968).

The revolution in Iran will succeed if, and only if, the military and revolutionary guards are no longer willing to kill their own citizens. As long as the military will kill on command from the mullahs, there will be no revolution.

Obviously, Russia didn't have that concern in 1956 or 1968. Iran does not have this option.  

By Anonymous sirius_sir, at Sun Jun 14, 05:19:00 PM:

Aren't we now also hearing reverberations of 1979 in Iran? The original Revolution was in part meant to deliver the populace from the repression of the previous regime. The irony is that under the Shah the population as a whole, and women especially, experienced rights and freedoms the present regime has done everything in its power to suppress. I think it's safe to say that a good many Iranians would prefer a return to the status quo ante.

At the very least they would like to see the Iranian Revolution live up to its initial promise, but it also seems the people's patience is wearing thin--to the point that many of the younger generation would just as soon see another revolution resulting in total regime change.

I can't help but wonder what part events in Iraq are helping to shape perceptions in Iran. But of course, both here and in Iran, there remains a strong institutional bias against publicly recognizing any such possibility.  

By Blogger Christopher Chambers, at Sun Jun 14, 05:47:00 PM:

I have another year for you. 1953. August of that year. Mossaddeq, elected in Iran by the democracy so proudly hail, is deposed by a junta supported by...um...us. The shah's put in charge.
If you want to talk time machines, then you need to go all the way.

The Iranian middle class, the folks tossing rock and starting fires in the streets, appears to have a lot in common with the Blue State townies and cubicle slaves who finally rose up under a "Yes We Can" banner. A lot in common, except victory. Of course, the opposition's the same: entrenched conservatives, religious fanatics and power cadres, supported, rank and file, by poor rural sots. This Iranian middle class, and others like them all over the Muslim world, was Obama's real audience in the Cairo speech. Too bad that there, like here, the wingnut fanatics and trivial fools drown that out. We'll see...

So forget 1956 and 1989. Think 1953...and 2000 in Palm Beach Co. and the so-called federalist/states rights Supreme Court overturning a state's electoral process to get the result it wanted...and 2008, when that skinny negro with the foreign/A-rab name set a new paradigm.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jun 14, 07:00:00 PM:

I've watched the crowd clip twice and I think the Iranian police were acting fairly restrained. I heard the repeated slap of a riot stick against a shield but no head cracking. It looked scary, it sounded intimidating, but riot suppression is supposed to be. Whether or not there was any head cracking, it still looked fairly civilized to me. I've certainly been treated worse by police when I was part of a rowdy crowd at a college football game.  

By Blogger DEC, at Sun Jun 14, 07:21:00 PM:

Re: 1953

Our mistake wasn't President Dwight D. Eisenhower's decision to authorize the 1953 Iranian coup d'état, Mr. Chambers. It was a different time with different rules and different problems. Our mistake was ignoring the plight of the Iranian people afterward.

Today some of the folks who worked at SAVAK (National Intelligence and Security Organization) under the Shah hold important positions in the current government.


Can you think about anything beyond race, Mr. Chambers? Or do you plan to continue to dwell in 1961? As a white teenager I participated in a Civil Rights demonstration in Charlotte, NC, that year. When African-Americans finally got the right to sit at the dime-store lunch counter, they didn't like the food.

It's a new and different world, Mr. Chambers. Catch up.

P.S. The word "Negro" is always capitalized.  

By Blogger Escort81, at Sun Jun 14, 09:48:00 PM:

Anon 7:00 PM - go to tehranlive and scroll down to see the picture with the caption "A young girl's head is broken by stone," though obviously we can't know for sure the nature or extent of her injury, or who caused it. I think most Iran watchers would agree that the IRGC and the Basij are pretty good at "disappearing" people, and there are unconfirmed reports of 50-100 dead as of this morning, so I believe that a fair amount of violence is happening in Iran right now, and supporters of Mousavi are genuinely fearful for their physical safety. But it does sound as though you attended a college with a big time football program and a decent drinking reputation!

Christopher - first, you forgot to give the Brits partial credit/blame for 1953. Second, you might remember that under the Clinton Administration, at the request of the Iranian government and as a precondition for further development toward a normalization of relations, Secretary of State Madeline Albright officially apologized for 1953. Unfortunately, after the apology, not much happened. I also agree with DEC that the error was made after 1953 in not consistently reminding the Shah that democratic institutions needed to be developed. Mossadeq was not the progressive hero many make him out to be a half century later, and furthermore, he would projectile vomit if he saw what happened in Iran after 1979. Ike's decision to participate in the British plan to take down Mossedeq has to be seen through the lens of Cold War politics, as I am sure you understand and appreciate.

I think you have it exactly backwards, or sideways, or something, in trying to draw a parallel between the events in Iran today and the election here last year. The most hated (by progressives in this country) Iran "neo-con" is Michael Ledeen, and what is happening in Iran now is very close to what he has been preaching for most of this past decade (and he did not advocate, insofar as I know, military action against Iran), though he hoped that the U.S. would somehow support such popular movements inside Iran.

Bringing the 2000 election into this discussion makes no sense. There were peaceful protests, but no violent riots, thankfully, which hopefully says something positive about the American political character.  

By Anonymous Boludo Tejano, at Sun Jun 14, 11:19:00 PM:

CC compares “blue staters” to those rioting and demonstrating against Ahamdinejad, and “red staters” to the mullahs and those who support them. That is an inept comparison. Many Democrats make the parochial assumption that domestic differences inside the US are similar or are the same to domestic differences in foreign countries in our time - or in different times. Sorry folks, Tigerhawk isn’t like Ayatollah Ali Khameini, nor is CC like Josef Stalin.
(“…the opposition's the same: entrenched conservatives, religious fanatics and power cadres..”)

Contrary to what CC implies, we “red staters” are also in favor of a free and democratic Iran.

If the US is to have a coherent foreign policy we need to decide what our common goals are. I am willing to put aside the past electoral differences to engage in a discussion on foreign policy. CC does not appear to be willing to do so, as shown by his bringing up the 2000 election. (Disclaimer. I voted third party in the 2000 election, and decided that post-November the Democrats had the worse arguments, in addition to losing the recounts.)

For what it is worth, I leave with a quote from President Obama.
“Whoever ends up winning the election in Iran, the fact there has been a robust debate hopefully will advance our ability to engage them in new ways.”

I trust that robust debate does not mean beating up demonstrators and foreign reporters  

By Anonymous Squealer, at Sun Jun 14, 11:28:00 PM:

I give Khamenei less than 3 weeks to remain in power.  

By Blogger DEC, at Mon Jun 15, 12:14:00 AM:

1. I hope you're right, Squealer.

2. E81: "has to be seen through the lens of Cold War politics"

Unfortunately, most Americans don't remember the Cold War during the 1950s. We weren't winning the damn thing. And we had no way to stop Soviet invasions of Western Europe or the Middle East unless we used manned bombers with nuclear weapons.*

* Military units with deployed ICBMs were first fielded in 1959.  

By Blogger DEC, at Mon Jun 15, 12:24:00 AM:

P.S. When other kids were listening to Elvis in the 1950s, I was listening to Radio Moscow and Radio Free Europe on my shortwave radio.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Mon Jun 15, 09:48:00 AM:

"I have another year for you. 1953. August of that year. Mossaddeq, elected in Iran by the democracy so proudly hail, is deposed by a junta supported by...um...us. The shah's put in charge."

The 1953 Mossadeq thing was not a coup. It was a counter-coup. And it followed *years* of trying to work things out with the man diplomatically.

Is it really so much to ask that you know what the hell you're talking about before you open your mouth?

"Blue State townies and cubicle slaves who finally rose up under a "Yes We Can" banner."

Hahahaha! Yeah, you go ahead and compare yourself to the people of Iran, who live under an ACTUAL tyranny and who are ACTUALLY suffering persecution and being beaten and shot by government thugs in the streets. You heroic, ebon martyr, you. Maybe you'll grace us one day about tales from your terrible and tortured past, and regale us with stories of your epic struggles against the harsh Christian American tyranny that has worked so hard to crush you.


By Anonymous Boludo Tejano, at Mon Jun 15, 11:41:00 AM:

Dawnfire82 to CC:
Is it really so much to ask that you know what the hell you're talking about before you open your mouth?

CC is trolling for the fun of it, to stir up the wingnuts. He's not in court, he's not in the classroom, he's not writing on his own website, so he doesn't bother with making a reasoned and informed argument here. Just for fun to stir up the wingnuts.

Yet we fall for it so often. Just like Charlie Brown with Lucy and the football.

If he had any interest in participating in a reasoned and informed discussion, he would reply to our comments. He hardly ever does.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Mon Jun 15, 03:20:00 PM:

*sigh* I know, it's an addiction. I ought to start trolling his blog...  

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