Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Iran Round Up and Links

El Jefe has been preoccupied of late with personal business (of the good kind) but the situation in Iran demands attention, and he hopes to have a little more on this subject presently.
Meanwhile, check out Michael Ledeen, writing over at Pajamas Media, frequently. In addition to Dr. Ledeen's posts, be sure to read the comments -- sometimes the commenters seem uncommonly well informed.
Today Dr. Ledeen tries to assess how things are going. In a nutshell, he thinks that if the crowds in the streets get organized, the regime is in real trouble; but if not, the system will muddle through, as was the case during lesser periods of unrest in 1999 and 2003. The money quote:
. . .The regime has the guns, and the opposition has the numbers. The question is whether the numbers can be successfully organized into a disciplined force that demands the downfall of the regime. Yes, I know that there have been calls for a new election, or a runoff between Mousavi and Ahmadinezhad. But I don’t think that’s very likely now. The tens of millions of Iranians whose pent-up rage has driven them to risk life and limb against their oppressors are not likely to settle for a mere change in personnel at this point. And the mullahs surely know that if they lose, many of them will face a very nasty and very brief future.
If the disciplined force comes into being, the regime will fall. If not, the regime will survive. . .

Dr. Ledeen's most interesting comments concern the state of morale in the regime's security services. The Iranians have a National Police (under the Ministry of Interior and Justice) but the true prop of the Islamic Republic, and its most important guarantee, is the Sepáh e Pásdárán e Enqeláb e Eslámi ("Army of Guardians of the Islamic Revolution") or, more frequently the "Revolutionary Guard" and its associated militia the "Basij" ("Mobilization"). Dr. Ledeen seems to think that the senior Iranian leadership somewhat distrusts the Revolutionary Guard's bosses, who have perhaps gone soft. Read the whole thing.

Robert F. Worth and Nazila Fathi write in the New York Times this morning about the demonstrations in Tehran. Worth and Fathi report that some of the demonstrators:

. . .were especially outraged that Mr. Ahmadinejad on Sunday dismissed them as nothing more than soccer fans who had just lost a game and as "dust." One demonstrator fired off a Twitter message. . .proclaiming: "Ahmadinejad called us Dust, we showed him a sandstorm."

The Times piece said that on Monday, the police stood "on the sidelines" at least during daylight, but that violence erupted after sunset, when the "Basij militia opened fire, leaving one dead and several others injured." It is not clear from the Times piece exactly where this shooting took place. On this subject, Dr. Ledeen says that the regime ordered the Basij and "imported Hezbollah thugs" to open fire on the crowds, and that the UK Guardian (which Ledeen considers very reliable on Iran) had reported "a dozen or so" killed Monday. Haaretz's round-up of wire-service reports comes up with a total of twenty killed today around the country.

Given the size of the crowds shown in the photographs and on You Tube, the numbers of dead reported indictes to me that the crowds, for the moment, are mostly peaceful. Despite the thousands in the streets, and the great degree of provocation necessary to produce demonstrations of this size, the Times article quotes an actor as saying that people ". . .are not seeking a revolution." For the moment, this appears to be correct.

The Guardian is live-blogging events in Tehran. Today's Guardian online has a story about the decision by the Iranian "Council of Guardians" (senior clerics that operate as sort of a Board of Directors of the Islamic Republic) to recount the election ballots. I question, from the point of view of the mullahs, the wisdom of this move -- it is seldom wise for rulers to make concessions in the face of mobs on the streets. On the other hand, it gives the government time to indoctrinate the riot police, bring up reinforcements, kick out the foreign journalists (they are already officially barred from street reporting, God protect those disobeying) -- shut down Twitter access, put down the crowds when ready, and spin a good story.

Twitter, by the way, is an important part of how things have developed. The demonstrators have been using Twitter to coordinate their efforts, and the government has been unable, at least partially, to close down access to it. Twitter is helping -- the service has delayed scheduled downtime maintenance to help the demonstrators. Good for them.

Stay tuned.

ADDENDUM: Michael Rubin, writing in National Review Online's "Corner" speaking to the question of whether the Mullah regime could actually fall, gives us a useful list of points to ponder. See also, Richard Fernandez's "The Moving Finger Writes" -- at his Belmont Club site on Pajamas Media). Mr. Fernandez, also known as "Wretchard" includes a great link to an AEI article on the organizational evolution of the Revolutionary Guard, driven in part by that organization's concern with countering and crushing popular movements.

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