Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Streets of Tehran

I've not blogged on the goings-on in Tehran, both out of life-business, but also out of a numb fascination which has daily chased the words right out of me. The best I could manage was to change the colors of my blog to the green of solidarity with the protesters. I watched as the outrageously clumsy and transparent election-rigging took its course. I looked on as the Iranian people took to the streets, at grave personal risk (and, in numbers which are proving impossible to tally, at the cost of their very lives). I took stock of the mettle of Mousavi, the unlikely lighting-rod of this popular uprising (since he can hardly be seen as a 'reformer' in any sense that would be meaningful in the West). I have watched the increasingly brutal repression perpetrated by the regime's thugs on people crying out for justice and freedom and self-expression.

I have waited through the Obama Administration's timid and timorous declamations for something approximating an honorable statement of support for the Iranian people with whose dictators it has shown such baffling eagerness to "engage."

To be clear, I do not think that it is appropriate for the American President to comment on the results of Iran's election; that is an internal matter to Iran, and staking out a strong position on it would indeed constitute "meddling." Still, although the Head of State could not come out thus, the Legislature quite laudably stepped up with a clear statement of condemnation for the crackdown on dissent (with the tediously predictable exception of Ron Paul, of course). There is merit to the argument that too strong a position by the Executive in support of the opposition to the regime in Tehran would feed into the propaganda of US Imperialism (though it can hardly be seen as needing much additional fuel).

However, the Obama Administration waited altogether too long, and its statements have been entirely too "measured" for my tastes, in the matter of stating support for free expression of dissent without fear of violent repression. We need not have endorsed Mousavi, nor offered speculations (however well-grounded) on the mechanics of Iranian electoral procedures to have stood strongly behind those who sought to have their voices heard. The failure to have done so right from the outset is an enduring shame on our Nation and the ideals for which it purportedly stands.

I have no idea how all this will turn out. I do not pretend to be able to prognosticate about what form the Iranian regime will ultimately take in the wake of all this. I do know that this situation has revealed and amplified some very deep fissures within the Iranian power structure, and probably irrevocably damaged the veneer of infallibility which the clerical body at the top has at least nominally enjoyed since 1979. It is likely that some sorts of accommodations will have to take place, lest the Mullahs be forced to set up the sort of frank dictatorship which they have worked so hard to conceal under the guise of a wafer-thin "Republic."

Michael Ledeen sums up the situation ably:

Those who think they can foresee the outcome of this revolutionary war have greater confidence in their prophetic powers than I. I don’t think Mousavi or Khamenei has any such confidence; they are fighting it out, as they must. Victory or defeat can come about slowly or rapidly, the result of cunning, courage or accident, and most likely a combination of all three. One thing seems certain: the Iranian people were right when they realized that nobody in the outside world would help them. They’re on their own.

Which is indeed a great pity, and a terrible stain on our national virtue.


Indeed. And may the gods save them...and us all.

5 comments:

Mr.Hengist said...

Regarding the unrest in Iran, let me preface this by saying that I know who I want to lose: the theocratic despots currently in power. I'm doubtful that street riots will have that effect, although a general and prolonged strike might work and at less of a cost in bloodshed. At any rate, Obama was correct in his observation that the differences between Mousavi and Ahmadinejad do not relate to the most pressing concerns of the United States and the West (or something to that effect, i.e., their nuclear program).

I did want to comment on this:
Noocyte: "To be clear, I do not think that it is appropriate for the American President to comment on the results of Iran's election; that is an internal matter to Iran, and staking out a strong position on it would indeed constitute "meddling."

Feh. On principle, meddlesome nations like Iran should not be exempt from our being meddlesome in turn. For the sake of levity and brevity let's consider the Iranian conduit of money, men, and material to make proxy war on the fledgling republic of Iraq as being "meddlesome," amongst other provocations. As such, criticizing the sham elections in Iran is only a small price for them to pay of a much larger debt.

You are correct in your implicit assertion that the elections of other nations should not be the subject of commentary by the United States, but I would qualify that by noting that this stricture is only properly applied to free elections. Sham elections such as those in Iran don't count, and that goes double for a stolen sham election.


Noocyte: "There is merit to the argument that too strong a position by the Executive in support of the opposition to the regime in Tehran would feed into the propaganda of US Imperialism (though it can hardly be seen as needing much additional fuel)."

One last observation: the argument that comments by the POTUS which are unsupportive of the regime or supportive of the protestors would justify Iranian accusations of interference should not be confused with the inference that, in the absense of "meddlesome" comments, the Iranians would not accuse the U.S. of meddling all the same. I'd further note that, in the comments from Liberals I've read and heard regarding this matter, it's been common for them to both give praise to and marvel at the "sophistication" of POTUS Obama for his prior restraint before noting approvingly that his tone has turned harsher and more critical in recent days.

Mike said...

Politics aside, for those who have the chops (minimal chops requirements) and want to help, go here

Noocyte said...

Mike, that is a Very Cool Thing. Probably a mite above my pay grade, but I will look through the links to see if there's something I can do (just back from a Web-less trip to the Jersey Shore, and in catch-up mode).

Thanks for the link!!

Mike said...

My pleasure. But do take the risks into account before you do anything.

Noocyte said...

Oh, all kinds of mindful of the risks (parenthood does that to a body!).