Iran in flames

UPDATE #2: Even Gary Sick calls it a coup.

UPDATE: An Iranian blogger agrees with me. Michael Ledeen credits Obama with the force of the protests.

Until quite recently, the Iranians did not believe they could do such a thing on their own. They believed they needed outside support, above all American support, in order to succeed. They thought that Bushitlercheney would provide that support, and they were bitterly disappointed. But nobody believes that Obama will help them, and they must know that they are on their own.

Any hope they might have had in the Obama White House was quickly dismissed in the administration’s two statements on the matter. The first came from the president himself, anticipating a Mousavi victory (it is too soon to speculate on the source of this happy thought), and of course, in his narcissistic way, taking personal credit for it.

Yes, Obama can do great things. Some interesting comments:

I’m following the “tweets” from Iran. Fascinating. As of a few hours ago the tenor seems to be changing as the regime seems to be taking an even harder stand. One tweeter writes that students are now being rounded up by the hundreds; another writes that the police are increasingly beating people up; and another writes that police are speaking in Arabic and suggests that these police have been imported from Lebanon.

Hezbollah ?

More now about foreign forces being used to suppress the rioting:

Reports are circulating that Venezuela has sent anti-riot troops to Tehran to help Ahmadinejad, joining Hezbollah members from Palestine and Lebanon who are employed by the Islamic government as anti-riot police — the reason such forces are being brought in is that some of the Iranian police are unwilling to hit people as ordered and some are even joining the protesters.

Sounds more and more like Tiananmen Square.

The Iranian election, “won” in record time by Ahmadinejad, has set off huge riots in Tehran. Michael Totten has the best coverage of what is going on in English. It is not yet clear how much danger the regime is in but there is little doubt that the election was a fraud. The regime has been unpopular for years and half the population of Iran is under age 25. They are sophisticated and the Farsi language is the most popular language of blogs. The regime has taken steps to shut down the internet and Twitter to try to control communication among the resistance.

I have read a couple of books about Iran and recommend them. One is Guests of the Ayatollah, by Mark Bowden (who also wrote Blackhawk Down), which is a history of the revolution and the American embassy hostage crisis. He managed to interview, not only most of the former hostages, but many of the Iranian hostage takers as well. An interesting moment in the book is his visit to the former embassy which is now a museum. As he left, the guards at the entrance asked him if he was American. When he answered that he was, they both said “Go George Bush !” and gave him the thumbs up.

The other book I have read, and one not well known, is James Calvell’s novel Whirlwind, which takes place over a few days when the Shah was overthrown. It provides a picture of the bazaar culture of the Iranian cities and the suddenness of the change that occurred. While his novels of Japan and Hong Kong are better known, this one appears to be as accurate as history.

Another book I plan to read is Amir Taheri’s, Persian Night, a history of Iran since the revolution.

Written in sorrow rather than anger, The Persian Night clearly and calmly describes Iran’s descent into unreality. It is a masterwork of information and argument. Formerly editor of Iran’s most influential paper, Amir Taheri is now perforce an exile but he remains in touch with all sorts of insiders. In addition to his native Farsi, he is fluent in Arabic and the main European languages. Frequent quotations from Persian poetry, old or contemporary, reveal his love of his native country and its culture, but he is equally likely to make good use of Plato and Cicero, Hobbes and Goethe, or even Frantz Fanon to illustrate a point. More than ironic, it seems outright improbable that one and the same Iran could be home to ignorant bigots like Ayatollah Khomeini and his successors–in particular the vicious and narrow-minded president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad–and a sophisticated humanist like Taheri.

That is from a review.

Another good source is “Know Thine Enemy, written under a pseudonym by a CIA agent who, upon retirement from the Agency, decided to smuggle himself into Iran for a more personal look at the culture he had come to love. He is better know these days by his real name, Reuel Marc Gehrect, and he writes for several publications, including The Weekly Standard. It will be interesting to see what he has to say about the current upheaval in Iran.

This story will be developing for a while. The New York Times has a typically fatuous story on the election.

Among downcast Iranian journalists and academics, the chatter focused on why the interlocking leadership of clerics, military officers and politicians, without whose acquiescence little of importance happens, decided to stick with Mr. Ahmadinejad. Did they panic at the unexpected passion for change that arose in the closing weeks of the Moussavi campaign? Did Mr. Moussavi go too far in his promises of women’s rights, civil freedom and a more conciliatory approach to the West? Or was the surge an illusion after all, the product of wishful thinking?

Many of the early stories focused on the suspicious speed with which the result was determined. Among other factors is the voting by illiterates. Unlike other countries with large illiterate voter populations, there are no symbols or photos of the candidates to guide them. Instead, the voter has his ballot marked by a “helper” from the Revolutionary Guards. Since 20% of the electorate is illiterate, that forms a nice base for the IRG candidate, Ahmadinejad.

Andrew Sullivan, for once on the right side, has updates.

Tags: , , ,

Comments are closed.