Thursday, June 18, 2009

More on Iranian Elections Protests

I have refrained from saying much more about the election protests, simply because there is so much going on, and it is so hard to distinguish fact from fiction from this far remove, that it seems like it is mostly a question of watching to see what will happen. That said, a few points and some footage:

Meir Javedanfar makes the very important point that the clergy of the holy city of Qom--which could be described as the main locus of Shia thinking in Iran--have yet to congratulate Ahmadinejad on his victory.
"In 2009, the silence of some of the clergy in Qom against the current crisis is deafening to the supporters of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In an article published on the 16th of June in the pro Ahmadinejad Borna News agency, it was asked why despite the fact that President Ahmadinejad had won 24 million votes, he has still not been congratulated by some of the clergy in Qom?. Even more importantly the article asks, why is it that some of the senior clergy have not condemned the recent violence? Although the article does not mention any names, it is not difficult to guess that one such clergy is Ayatollah Sanei, who has publicly lambasted Ahmadinejad after the elections.

The behavior of the clerics is certainly out of the ordinary. Usually, within a day of a president's election, majority if not all of the 14 senior Ayatollahs of Qom congratulate the new president. Not this time."
Note that the protesters the other day marched in silence. (This is important for the further reason that the Hidden Imam--the twelfth and last Imam and future savior of mankind--has been hidden by God, but in an unseen way, silently, so to speak, influences current events.)

That's a lot of people for such relative quietude. The numbers are also important--many analysts say that all the government needs to do is to ruthlessly use the military and various intelligence and security organizations to repress the demonstrations. But when you have such large numbers of people out in the street, there's a good chance that members of each of the security units have relatives in the crowds. That would make them unlikely to randomly attack the crowds. (Which could possibly be confirmed by the stories that at night key protesters are being targeted by the security forces--comfortable with targeting the leaders of the revolt, but not the masses.)

Pepe Escobar at Asia Times reports that Rafsanjani has called for an emergency meeting of the Council of Experts in Qom.
"Article 111
Whenever the Leader becomes incapable of fulfilling his constitutional duties, or lobs one of the qualifications mentioned in Articles 5 and 109, or it becomes known that he did not possess some of the qualifications initially, he will be dismissed. The authority of determination in this matter is vested with the experts specified in Article 108."
The 86 members of Council of Experts, led by Rafsanjani, are directly elected by the people of Iran.

This footage suggests there may be some truth to the rumors that some in the security forces are acting to protect some of the protesters.

If that perception is true, it is an essential data point. And Mousavi and Karrubi both are reported to have deep ties with the Revolutionary Guard.

Of course, a situation where the armed forces are uncomfortable with attacking the protesters would be very similar to the 1979 Revolution.

Ali Akbar Dareini at the Associated Press reports that the government, via state cable news station, Press TV, has accused the US of interference in the current situation.

Outside of the question of representation and the Islamic nature of the state, the Iranian Constitution is an anti-colonial document. I have counted no less than 12 articles and sections of the constitution which are designed to prevent foreign influence--see Law and Revolution in Iran. I understand that both sides claim foreign intervention. And this is the key point--that both sides argue that they stand for the true revolution. The most compelling argument the Ahmadinejad camp will make--whoever that contains--is that the opposition candidate forces are betraying the revolution to outsiders.

In Iran the government is especially opaque, so the effect claims of foreign influence has on the population will be larger than we might estimate. Opaque governments make for a larger "black helicopter" crowd than transparent ones. Beyond that, you cannot overstate the fierce nationalism--and general feeling of aggrievement at the hand of outsiders--felt by the Iranian population at large.

(In fact, the US government has interfered in terms of acting to persuade twitter to stay open ... and the regime is very focused on controlling, as far as it can, the flow of information. The fact that so many around the world and in the US are expressing their support for the opposition lends them ammunition, but at least the regime can no longer state that it is just the government of the US that is opposed it, and not the people.)

The notion that both sides are claiming to be the true inheritors of the revolution seems bolstered by the fact that the opposition's color is green ... traditionally considered the color of Islam. The news that the national soccer team wore green wristbands is basically a big deal. Soccer is a BFD in Iran.

(An image at the WSJ.)

The National Iranian American Council helpfully translates some of Grand Ayatollah Yousef Sanei's ... note he is a better regarded Islamic scholar than the Leader of the Revolution Khamenei ... letter to Mousavi:
"'I was hoping that your election, with your experience and devotion to and blessings of Imam [Khomeini] and his loyal friends, would please the people of Iran. Regretfully, this did not happen. Be certain that administration of justice and respect for people’s rights and votes, which are evident in your letter, are only possible through informing all the people.'

Sanei further explained 'I am obligated to pray for you and all the men and women of this country and for the continuation of the holy objectives of Imam Khomeini’s Islamic Republic.' Sanei concluded by wishing Mousavi success with the support of the people, universities, and esteemed clergies, as well as in protecting the people’s rights."

Given the fact that the opposition is made of Old Guard revolutionaries like Karrubi, Rafsanjani, and Mousavi--see Iranian Elections cont-Why the ideas matter--I still see this movement as establishment versus establishment. It is a battle between forces which see the Republican elements of the regime as critical, and those which want to switch it to an absolutist form of government. In that vein, it is more of a question of whether we are seeing the moment when Charles shuts down Parliament for eleven years, or the end of the Long Parliament--with the declaration of loyalty to the Parliament as opposed to the King sparking the English Civil War.

If the forces that back Ahmadinejad refuse to make concessions--and appear to institute an absolutist system, the promise of the Constitution will end up being a persistent problem for the government. As Ladane Nasseri and Ali Sheikholeslami at Bloomberg reported, the people are waiting for the next signal from Khamenei to be delivered in his Friday sermon. I think it likely that concessions will be made, but, either way, it will be a critical moment ... and we should know the results by midnight PST.

More footage:


Anonymous said...

Ok explained in this manner, your comparison to the english civil war makes some sense.. but you are projecting an outcome to meet that scenario.

As to the twitter being supported by the US, please point out that fact...

It seems as if a small group of Iranian computer technicians disseminated video without the paternal guidance of Uncle Sam..

Uncle Sam had no SOP for this.. the statements that the USA were behid the revolt were at odds with the crowds and the fact as you point out that they wore green and marched silent.

freude bud said...

From the USDOS State Dept press briefing June 17:

"QUESTION: Do you think that the Iranians are going to show their--that they’re upset about US contacting Twitter over, you know, asking them to keep open for--delay their upgrade?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the conversation that a State Department employee had with Twitter on Monday evening is consistent with our support for freedom of expression. That call occurred three days after the election, so it’s hard to see that this can be construed as interference. In fact, Twitter is a tool that allows all Iranians to communicate. It isn’t about just one group or another. In fact, there are reports, I think, in the media, that the government itself uses Twitter.

QUESTION: Can you explain why you made the decision to go on the record about this with The New York Times after the spokesman from the podium adamantly refused to go into details about this?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the briefing yesterday generated new stories, and towards the end of the day we responded to those news outlets that contacted us."

My original source was in another story via Reuters:

I don't think I am projecting the same outcome, I am projecting possible alternative outcomes, but saying that the Constitution will haunt the gov't if they do not ...

I have no idea whether or not Khamenei will make enough to calm his opposition. But ... if he does, he is in a situation kinda similar to Louis' when confronted with the reconvened Estates, isn't he?

And, if he doesn't, he might be risking civil war.

And what happens with the Assembly of Experts is also critical. I think we have a full blown constitutional crisis here ... and as I have written long ago, this is the strange weakness of the regime as it is currently constituted--it's Constitution.

Gotta love the Guy Fawkes masks!

Anonymous said...

LOL I stand corected! I guess there was some very minor meddling in as much as the US requested leaving the system up.

As always, superior coverage of the facts.

But I thiink a post mortem analysis will show that a relatively small number of talented posters make the difference, as an example Alamo Girl and Col Hackworth back in the early days of FreeRepublic...

I think that ignoring the abilities of Iranian computer professionals to circumvent the internet is a meme that historically will not stand up. In this digital age of flash drives the media walks past political or network boundaries.

You have been careful and respectful of the topic...

I think the Supreme Leadet is a Supreme..

I posted some content on the English Civiil war.. DEE