Monday, June 15, 2009

It's Not Just in Tehran, and What's Next?

Two bits, both from the running thread on Huffpo.

First, video showing that the protests are NOT just happening in Tehran:

That's from Ardabil, in the Northwest.

Second, an analysis by Laura Rozen about what's coming next.

Iranian opposition presidential candidate Mir Hussein Moussavi is planning a march of his supporters at 4 p.m. Monday in Tehran, Iranian sources said. He apparently went to see the supreme leader Sunday to seek a permit for it, but one hasn't yet been obtained. If he is prevented from getting permission, he has said he plans to march to the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomenei, an act that Iranians say the authorities of the Islamic Republic would be disinclined to prevent.

Iranian sources said former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is in Qom, seeking to persuade clerics not to certify the Iranian elections.

Another presidential candidate, Mohsen Rezai, the former head of the Revolutionary Guards, issued a statement today saying he wants to have the ballots examined, Iranian sources said.

On that latter point, I was under the impression the ballots had been destroyed. That would make a recount impossible. The very impossibility of the recount would be damning, but they didn't think that far ahead.

As to the other two... they were predictable. There aren't a lot of endgames here. One is an out-and-out revolution, but as I said earlier, I find that unlikely. Revolutions and civil wars require a number of predictable elements, and while some exist in Iran—like a huge gap between people's self-perception of their status and what they believe should be their status—others aren't. Among others, the alternative elite structure that forms the backbone of a revolution as a prospective government just isn't appearing. Mousavi, Rafsanjani, Karrobi and the rest still have stakes in the current system, and nobody else appears to be in any kind of position to take over.

(Certainly MEK isn't.)

What this suggests is that they are going to attempt to use the strife to convince the power-holders in the current system, the Mullahs, that neither Ahmadinejad nor Khamenei are fit to rule in their name. Mousavi and Karrobi are doing that by not backing down and ensuring that the protesters aren't going to back down either. Rafsanjani is doing that by approaching the Mullahs in the Assembly of Experts as the spokeman for his moderate faction, and trying to convince them to see things his way.

(If they don't certify the results, it will be a clear indication that Ahmadinejad and Khamenei have earned their ire.)

The big problem for the Iranian state is that the rest of the world is clearly not happy. Yes, the regional powers have congratuated Ahmadinejad, they could care less about elections, but Obama's indicated as much "concern" as is possible without perverting the situation and both Canada and Germany have indicated that they find both the election and the repression troubling at best. France isn't impressed, and I'm sure more will come as time passes.

That will limit any possible crackdown. If they just kill Mousavi and turn the situation into a bloodbath, their opponents will claim vindication and they'll find themselves in an even worse position than they were before. The nuclear program will be difficult-to-impossible to carry out and they will be unable to leverage humanitarian arguments when reacting to any possible strike. Other states will also take it as a sign of weakness and instability.

But without that option, I'm sure they're wondering just what the hell they can do. These people clearly aren't intimidated, or at least not enough. A recount simply isn't going to happen. And Mousavi shows no interest in backing down. So even if Rafsanjani is unsuccessful, the state will have enormous problems settling this down. They may even be unsuccessful; I may be wrong about revolution.

And, I'm sure, Rafsanjani is going over all of this with the Mullahs. They want a peaceful, orderly country. Khamenei may not be worth sacrificing that indefinitely. I'm sure Ahmadinejad isn't.

Right now, it's in their hands.

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