Iran's Moment Of Truth

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on June 24, 2009

clerics-demonstrate-against-the-regimeI don’t pretend to know what will ultimately happen in terms of the protests in Iran and how they will shape Iranian society. All I know is that we haven’t seen anything like this since the advent of the Islamic regime itself. When you have clerics joining with the protesters, you have the elements of a serious uprising:

A photo showing Iranian clerics prominently participating in an anti-government protest speaks volumes about the new face of Iran’s opposition movement.

In a blatant act of defiance, a group of Mullahs took to the streets of Tehran, to protest election results that returned incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power.

Whether these clerics voted for Ahmadinejad or one of the opposition candidates is unknown. What is important here, is the decision to march against the will of Iran’s supreme leader who called the results final and declared demonstrations illegal.

The more we see actual religious figures join the protests, the clearer it will become that the regime is deeply–perhaps hopelessly–divided.

I suppose that it says something of how fearful the regime is that we now see stories like this:

The Iranian opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi is under 24-hour guard by secret police and no longer able to speak freely to supporters, according to the film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf.

Mr Makhmalbaf, 52, an informal spokesman abroad for the protest in Iran, said that Mr Mousavi was not under arrest but “he has security agents, secret police with him all the time. He has to be careful what he says.”

In a telephone interview, Mr Makhmalbaf, the director of the 2001 film Kandaha, denied suggestions that the protests against the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were losing steam.

“The regime, arguably, is losing ground, not the protests,” he said. “Ordinary Iranians are openly rejecting the legitimacy and power of Ayatollah Khamanei. That is entirely new, unheard of.”

Any legitimacy to the claim that recent elections in Iran have been free and fair has been utterly demolished. It would be laughable to suggest that Iran is anything resembling a functioning democracy when the most prominent opposition presidential candidate can’t even see or speak to his own supporters.

Meanwhile, here in this country, President Obama decided to come out and be more forceful in his comments concerning the abuses that are going on in Iran. More here. Good for him. I presume that this tougher line will make for no more letters to Ali Khamene’i, a bad move for reasons detailed below:

Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said the Obama administration would do better to “avoid any talk of engagement” with Iran until the outcome of the current political ferment is clearer.

“The fact is, we will by necessity engage, but not at the moment,” he said. “I don’t think we want to suggest it will be business as usual, regardless of the outcome” of the political struggle in Iran.

The President may have to get tougher still on Iran, given the security crackdown that is underway. Next time, he ought not to let events get ahead of his pronouncements before ultimately deciding to say what everyone knew he had to say about the events in Iran and the brutality of the regime.

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