people power in Iran

(Hartford, CT) I think the Iranian regime has doubled down, betting the very principle of clerical authority on the assumption that they can crush or outlast the protests. Ayatollah Khamenei denied that the election could have been rigged: “There is 11 million votes difference,” he said. “How can one rig 11 million votes?” He could have kept a low profile, called for negotiations, or tried to persuade one of the candidates to quit. Instead, he decided to force the issue. Evidently, either …

1. The election was rigged at a high level, not where the ballots were collected but where the results were announced. In that case, the whole regime is illegitimate on its own terms. Or …

2. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad actually got the most votes, but there is still massive discontent, probably because the field of candidates and issues was sharply limited in the first place.

The two outcomes that I have seen discussed most are a victory for Khamenei, Ahmadinejad, and the militias, followed by further repression, or a victory for Mir Hossein Mousavi, whose policies would be incrementally less bellicose and more liberal. But I think there are several other possible outcomes, including a rapid drift in a more liberal direction (out of Mousavi’s control); a rapid drift in a different direction, such as toward some kind of left-populism; or a long period of conflict, including possibly a civil war. We should all wish the Iranian people the best in this critical, dangerous, hopeful moment.

Meanwhile, I continue to be moved by the self-discipline of their massive popular movement. According to a Mousavi supporter quoted by Juan Cole:

    … the dynamics of this movement are becoming more and more creative. From the moment everybody embraced silence as the best form of criticism, supporters from their cars switched from honking their horns to using their flasher. Last night, as I drove home, I noticed the blinkers in oncoming traffic (coming actually from the direction of Haft-e Tir Square). I didn’t take long to spread the message. Soon, everyone around was switching their flasher on, an act reflective of a truth that has been firmly established now after five consecutive days of protest: silence is speaking very loudly indeed. …

    The posters of Mousavi of day one have given way to posters expressing deeper themes, and the deeper problems that exist in this country. “Democracy does not equal Dead Student”, “Stop Killing Us”, “We are not rioters”, “Silence is not acceptance”, “The key to victory: Calmness, Hope and Patience”. …

    About the march: it was entirely silent and peaceful.

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