More Protests In Iran

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on September 19, 2009

Just when the regime thinks it is safe, the pro-democracy movement makes yet another appearance:

Tens of thousands of protesters chanted and carried banners through the heart of Tehran and other Iranian cities on Friday, hijacking a government-organized anti-Israel march and injecting new life into the country’s opposition movement.

The protests, held in defiance of warnings from the clerical and military elite, served as a public embarrassment to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who had hoped to showcase national unity just two weeks before he is set to meet Western leaders for talks on Iran’s nuclear program.

He used the annual rally for Jerusalem Day, also known as Quds Day, to deliver a fiery anti-Israeli speech in which he called the Holocaust “a lie” and impugned the West again for its criticisms of Iran’s disputed June 12 presidential election.

But his efforts to recapture the stage were largely drowned out by a tumultuous day of street rallies, in which the three main opposition leaders marched with their followers for the first time in months. Flouting the official government message of support for Palestinian militants, they chanted, “No to Gaza and Lebanon, I will give my life for Iran.”

Coming a day after President Obama announced a revised missile defense system that aims to check Iran’s military ambitions, the rallies underscored the continuing vitality of the domestic opposition movement, which has rejected the election as fraudulent and fiercely criticized the violence that followed it.

Read the whole thing. Note that while the basij were willing to confront the protesters, the protesters fought back and the police stayed on the sidelines. I don’t imagine that the basij will give up the fight on behalf of the regime anytime soon, but if the rest of the security apparatus does little to put down the protests, it could be a sign that the regime’s ability to hold on to power is slipping.

At the end of the day, the regime has to have been shocked by the pro-democracy movement’s ability to hijack Quds Day and use it to highlight its own cause, and it has to think that future regime-sponsored demonstrations could be similarly hijacked. All of this–and the attendant, still-smoldering anger of the Iranian populace at having been cheated out of its vote in the presidential elections–has to unsettle the hardliners in the regime. If the hardliners have to face an angry populace without the benefit of a united security force . . . well . . . get ready to see some major political changes take place in Iran, because the day of the hardliners will truly be said to have passed.

The Lede has some excellent coverage of the protests; its post deserves attention. Note as well the BBC’s coverage of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s vile and reprehensible Holocaust-denying speech. It is nice to see that so much of the international community spoke out against Ahmadinejad’s comments. What needs to be driven home, however, is the fact that the hardliners are now firmly in Ahmadinejad’s camp. It is therefore not enough to speak out against Ahmadinejad; the fact that the institutions of the Islamic regime work to keep him in power means that the regime itself is as suspect, decrepit, and unfit for the mantle of leadership as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is.

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