Iran protests 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Clashes that broke out in Tehran, Shiraz, Isfahan, Mashhad and more than two
dozen other cities across Iran Monday were a fresh reminder to Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the reformists are still alive
The murderous brutality of the Basij paramilitary forces and
the Revolutionary Guard, which resulted in the deaths of dozens, if not
hundreds, stalled the June 2009 uprising. The Obama administration pulled back
support for the Green Movement out of a misconceived calculation that this would
help diplomatic attempts to “engage” and convince the regime to abandon its
But the discontent that was hugely exacerbated by the
blatantly rigged presidential elections continued to burn.
This time, the
US State Department has changed its approach, sending Twitter messages in Farsi
in support of the protesters and accusing the Iranian leadership of hypocrisy
for supporting the anti-government revolt in Egypt while seeking to snuff out
opposition at home. The rhetoric is important, but the US also needs to offer
financial, technological and logistic support to the reformists.
POPULAR uprising, capable of toppling Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, would also be
the most effective way of preventing this apocalyptic regime from getting its
hands on the bomb. Sanctions are biting, but Tehran is so far
And a US-led military option is looking increasingly
unlikely. With US influence in the Middle East diminishing, Persian Gulf nations
from which the US might launch a strike have been hedging their bets with
Last week, the Saudis accepted a port visit by Iranian warships in
the Red Sea. In December, Qatar hosted a visit by three Iranian warships and a
military delegation. In August, the Bahraini foreign minister announced that his
country would not allow its territory to be used as a base for offensive
Israel’s options have also narrowed. The IDF’s capacity to
send ships and submarines through the Suez Canal is less certain with the ouster
of Hosni Mubarak. Coordinating air routes through Jordan and Saudi Arabia or
through Turkey is out of the question for the time being as
Besides, a military attack would have the unwanted side effect of
unifying the Iranian people.
THE IRANIAN opposition has shown admirable
staying power. On December 27, reformists took to the streets on the seventh day
of mourning for their late spiritual leader Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri,
which coincided with the Ashura, a day of sorrow for Shi’ites commemorating the
martyrdom in battle of the prophet Muhammad’s grandson. Although they avoided
the use of guns, the regime’s security forces brutally beat demonstrators and
ran them over with cars, resulting in eight fatalities. Those deaths will
undoubtedly be tied in the collective memories of the opposition with the
Mehdi Karrubi, one of the leaders of the Green Movement, noted at
the time that even the reviled Shah’s regime had not dared to shed blood on such
a holy day.
Karrubi was directly attacking the religious legitimacy of
the ruling regime – an act of defiance that culminated on Tuesday with members
of the Iranian parliament demanding his execution for orchestrating Monday’s
The Mullahs have tried unsuccessfully to stifle the Green
Movement through brute force, overwhelming demonstrators with scores of
plainclothes and uniformed forces armed with clubs. The latest strategy has been
the intimidation of reformist leaders by the killing or imprisonment of
relatives. The nephew of former prime minister and Green Movement leader
Mir-Hussein Mousavi was assassinated, and 2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin
Ebadi’s sister arrested. The execution of Mousavi, a regime-legitimated
presidential candidate less than 20 months ago, was also demanded on Tuesday.
Nevertheless, the struggle for freedom goes on.
“They want freedom,” Uri
Lubrani, adviser on Iran to Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon, told Army
“What I see in Iran is that the majority of the people have had
enough of this regime.” Lubrani, a former ambassador to Iran, warned in 1978
that the Shah’s regime was on the verge of being overthrown, but was ignored.
Now Lubrani feels the same way about the present regime. “I have no intelligence
to support my contention,” Lubrani said, “but I feel it’s going to happen.”
Veteran Iran-born broadcaster Menashe Amir told this newspaper on Monday that he
saw in the latest protests “the first spark of revolution.”
analyses are vindicated depends in part on the courage of the opposition, and in
part, too, on the nature of the international response.
Iran is not
Egypt. Its leadership – motivated by an extremist view of Islam, hostile to the
free world and to democratic values, and seeking to render itself impregnable
via nuclear arms – will not subside without a bloody fight. Led by the US, the
international community must lend its support to the mass of Iranians straining
to be freed from the regime’s benighted and ruthless clutches.