Iran: Going Out With A Bang, Or A Whimper?

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July 6, 2009: The government has systematically hunted down demonstration leaders, and those who were using blogs, Twitter and social networking sites to get news out of the country. This has put a halt to large demonstrations in the capital. At least twenty people were killed during the crackdown, several hundred injured and over a thousand arrested. Foreigners, or Iranians working for embassies or foreign news organizations, are being released, as well as the few foreign journalists who were picked up. The government is planning to prosecute many of those arrested, especially those responsible for getting embarrassing (to the government) news out of the country.

The government has, for two decades, been studying the mass revolutions of 1989, and the 1990s, that brought down all those communist dictatorships, and believe they have developed methods of preventing a similar fate for themselves. Unlike the former communist states, the Iranian dictatorship has the loyalty of 20-30 percent of the population. This is where the Revolutionary Guard and Basij come from, and a lot of these guys are willing to die to maintain the clerical dictatorship in Iran. The communists of 1989 had lost most of their true believers, so a mass revolution in Iran will have to be a bloodier affair, and also be a battle between Islamic radicals and moderates (including non-Moslems). The senior clerics appear willing to fight to the death, and their opponents are, more and more, willing to deal with that head on. Meanwhile, no matter how successful the government was in suppressing the demonstrations in the capital, it was a defeat for the government. More people were radicalized, and dissention in the clergy became visible. The Iranian Islamic radicals are losing. Long term, they are lost. But like any tyranny in decline, there's the danger that the clerical dictatorship will go out with a bang, not, as the Soviet Union did, with a whimper. And if it is with a bang, it could be a very loud and destructive bang if the clerics have  nuclear weapons.

Iraq and Afghanistan are officially quiet about the turmoil in Iran, but unofficially both countries would like to see the Iranian Islamic radicals out of power. The current Iranian government lets its radicals interfere with the neighbors, supporting terrorism in both Iraq and Afghanistan. But the neighbors know that any kind of Iranian government would be overbearing and prone to throw its weight around. Iran has been the neighborhood bully for thousands of years, and no one expects that to change, no matter how many times Iran changes governments.

July 5, 2009: The Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qom (ARTQ), which speaks for the majority of senior clerics and religious faculty, issued a statement calling for a new election and denouncing the recent vote, and the violence against protestors. The ARTQ represents rank and file clerics, who have not yet been appointed to the several dozen senior clerical positions that, in effect, control the government. The ARTQ did not represent the views of all these lower ranking clergy, but obviously spoke for a majority.

July 1, 2009: Cell phone text messaging was turned back on in the capital, now that there are no more  demonstrations. But now more senior members of the clergy are criticizing how the government conducted the election, and doubting the legitimacy of the vote count. This includes the aggrieved loser, Mir Hossein Mousavi (who is not a cleric, but a politician who led the government during the 1980s) and former president Mohammad Khatami. Now the government has a rebellion within its ruling elite.

June 29, 2009: Police released five of the British embassy employees it had arrested, in response to many European nations threats to recall their ambassadors, but says some of the embassy employees will be put on trial. The government warned the opposition that there would be more arrests and violence if the demonstrations did not stop. The demonstrations have diminished, but they still occur. There are fewer people in the crowds, as the government terror tactics have worked. Cell phone text messaging was turned back on in most of the country, except the capital.

June 28, 2009: Police and Basij are now raiding hospitals to arrest injured demonstrators who are being treated for injuries. Many suspected demonstration leaders are being arrested at home at night, to increase the terror effect, and discourage others from leading demonstrations. Government voting officials announced that they had done a partial recount and that the outcome was the same, and that there was no voting fraud. The government then called for an end to demonstrations. But the demonstrations continued, this time using different tactics (like just silently moving down a street towards a government building or a mosque.) These demonstrations are attacked by police anyway.  

June 27, 2009:  The Basij and Revolutionary Guards were sent into the wealthier neighborhoods of north Tehran and invaded homes where people were chanting anti-government slogans from the rooftop. This has been going on at night for several days. This was a tactic used thirty years ago to bring down the monarchy. The Basij terror tactics against families who are chanting has reduced the number of people doing this. The police and Revolutionary Guard have also arrested over 200 of the usual suspects (known leaders of opposition groups.) These are interrogated to obtain more names. Police also arrested nine Iranian employees of the British embassy, and accused them of fomenting riots and disorder.

 

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