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Iran: Oppression Wins – At Least For Today (update)

That seems to be the outcome based on the limited information about today’s events in Iran that has trickled out to the West.

Reports seem to indicate that police and pro-government militias deployed early and in great numbers to block access to the public squares where planned demonstrations were to be held. Limiting access and turning back would-be protesters seems to have taken the impetus away from the protesting groups. Additionally, given the warning issued to opposition leaders contending they’d be held personally responsible for any bloodshed as a result of protests, those that attempted to gather we’re seemingly leaderless (Mousavi officially canceled protest rallies for today).

As an added measure, the government took down cell phone service in the areas in which the protests were planned.

It appears, for the most part, that regime chose to avoid the spectacle of a bloody shootout with protesters opting to drown the protests through the use of water cannon and tear gas instead. The tactic of intercepting protesters, piece-meal, as they approached Tehran’s “Revolution Square” and other announced protest sites and driving them away in small groups seems to have successfully dispersed them and prevented them from massing, at least for today.

The only mention of numbers I could find was in a Fox News report which said police battled a crowd of 3,000 in Revolution Square. Far below what was hoped for by the opposition I’m sure. Also included in that Fox News article was a report that 50 to 60 protesters had been badly beaten by police and pro-government militia (the “Basij”- if you’re unfamiliar with them, read thismore here.) and taken to a local hospital.

CNN reports that the government is saying 7 have died in the protests, Amnesty International puts the number at 15  while another source is saying 32.

Indications are the government isn’t going to act with restraint forever (although they clearly understand the world is watching):

“We acted with leniency but I think from today on, we should resume law and confront more seriously,” General Esmaeil Ahmadi Moghadam said on state television. “The events have become exhausting, bothersome and intolerable. I want them to take the police cautions seriously because we will definitely show a serious confrontation against those who violate rules.”

It seems obvious the regime is very wary about a brutal repression of the protests, but seem to be signaling their patience isn’t infinite.

That leaves the ball in the protesters court. Do they continue to try to rally protests and ignore the government ban? Further protests will either call the regime’s bluff or force them to turn to brutality. The hope then has to be that such an act would inspire even more massive protests, leading to, at a minimum, a change of leadership.

We’ll have to see what Sunday brings and whether the protesters can figure out a way to get around the tactics the government has deployed.

The lines are drawn. “Supreme Leader” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has made it pretty clear where he stands on this “democratic” election:

“Nothing can be changed. The presidential campaign is finished,” he declared.

Meanwhile, here, the mealy-mouthed and fearful “support” from the President remains an embarrassment.

UPDATE: Speaking of the president – his latest:

The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.

As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion.

Martin Luther King once said – “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I believe that. The international community believes that. And right now, we are bearing witness to the Iranian peoples’ belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness.


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23 Responses to Iran: Oppression Wins – At Least For Today (update)

  • Not so sure it’s over.  There are reports that the mullahs have joined the protesters in Masshad; the roof-top chants are the loudest yet.  It’s just stunning.

  • I have a thesis I would like to try out on everyone: George W. Bush is responsible for what is happening in Iran today.

    Yes, you read that right.

    After all, the invasion of Iraq has led to more democracy in that country, and Iranians by the truckload come and go between both countries, both for tourism and religious duties. Could it be that they saw freedom (or limited freedom) and free enterprise in Iraq, then returned to Iran and see repression and a country run by a nut and some mullahs?

    If I am right, the invasion of Iraq is a major catalyst for the Iranian people to say “enough” and demand change.

    Anyone agree?

  • Does Iran have as large an “educated” class as Iraq?

  • Not directly responsible, but a contributing factor. The Bush administration fostered the already nascent youth democratization movement, and agitation for regime change from within was certainly the Bush administration’s strategic stance for Iran, as a military option was untenable after Iraq. But it wasn’t a root cause — America’s exportation of pop culture and liberal ideals was in my opinion. And that’s been helping the democratization movement take form for years.

  • If the right people are leading this it could get interesting, they’re going to need help. I would suspect there are contingencies in place?  Surely?

  • Can you say “Repeat” ? It was only 4 years ago.

    Iran’s new President has a past mired in controversy

    Tehran, Jun. 25 2005 – “Ahmadinejad? Who’s he?”

    This was the typical reaction of most Iranians a day after the first round of presidential elections in Iran, when they heard that the two candidates facing each other in the run-off were veteran politician Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and the little-known, ultra-conservative mayor of Tehran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

    Last week’s surprise was all forgotten by the much bigger shock on Friday, when Ahmadinejad defeated the former President and iconic figure in the ruling theocracy in a landslide victory that consolidated power in the hands of the ruling Islamic clerics.

  • Won’t it be nice when Obama has such a firm grip over the control of the United States, that he won’t be embarrassed to such a degree as his dear friend, President Ahmadinejad. I’m sure he can relate to the observation that listening to the complaints of the Republicans, the middle class and those who actually produce more than they consume is “exhausting, bothersome and intolerable.”
    Any Democrat that believes their President and party is about gaining respect in the world is a delusional fool. After Iran, no Democrat can claim any credibility in foreign affairs.

  • Our False Prophet appears to have no idea what a golden opportunity he’s passing up… overthrow this evil regime without firing a single shot… get their Armageddon-inspired nuke program off the world stage… and free 30 million people all at one time. But the boy wonder is too stupid to see it… or somehow just doesn’t care? And isn’t this what George W Bush told you was going to happen in the Middle East in the wake of Iraq’s liberation? Maybe that’s why Barack Obama has so little apparent interest in finishing the job in Iran… no matter how much it benefits the US and free world. That, and the fact that he’s already piled all his chips on legitimizing this vile regime- a democratic revolution at this point would be embarrassing.

  • You guys want to read something that will make you puke?


  • I’m just glad Baracky got to enjoy his ice cream while Iranians were dying in the streets…

  • I’m tired of these people. I hope one day it comes to pass so at least they’ll really have something to whine about

  • At least Obama is handling this right (no arrogant talk that can’t be supported).  Taking a page from Bush’s father’s book at the end of the Cold War, Obama understands that US tough talk would hurt, rather than help the reformers.  Moreover, Iranian moderates have made that claim themselves, and were angry at the tough talk Bush W. gave back in 2002-03.  The US can’t do anything real to help the demonstrators.  To give some kind of rhetorical attack on Iran’s leaders would be stupid — it would help them galvinize support from much of their population, and we’d again be talking loudly while carrying a small stick.   Those in the US who seem to think Obama should say more or be more aggressive in attacking Iran’s leaders are really clueless about the dynamics of a situation like this.    That response could only help the hardliners.
    So, unless anyone has a suggestion of anything real, effective and not counter-productive that Obama could do, he is passing this foreign policy test so far with flying colors, channeling the foreign policy experience of Bush the Elder, and putting the arrogant swagger with no punch approach of Bush the Younger aside.

  • And what, precisely, could Obama do to overthrow the Iranian regime?   Also, some pollsters claim that Ahmadinejad may indeed have majority support.  Mousavi carries urban women and the cities in general, but in the countryside Ahmadinejad is strong, in part because they are more conservative, and in part because the government has bought them off with public money.
    Yet all those who think Obama could do something to effectively help the demonstrators, you need to explain just what he could do.  Tough talk isn’t going to help, and Iran’s moderates have said they don’t want the US to interfere — that would just give cover to the hardline regime to crack down.

  • Chinese manufactured weapons.

  • You’re sure plenty skilled at making excuses for the indecisive and incompetent Obama- who’s out having ice cream and playing golf while Tehran burns.  Obama has now gotten his 3am-crisis-call– and so far he’s done little but pound the snooze button. The complete inaction and lack of leadership is stupifying.  Of course, the standard liberal default setting is to make some condescending post like yours about how “we don’t understand” how it works over there-  please.
    There’s plenty this Carteresque fool could be doing… and you know it.

    Compare this all to Ronald Reagan’s brave and unwavering support for Solidarity in Poland in the early 80’s: in collaboration with Pope John Paul and Polish anti-communists, Reagan helped those seeking freedom in any way possible- with money, training, equipment such as radios and stepped-up VoA broadcasting to help liberate those behind the Iron Curtain.

    Most importantly, Reagan brought them moral support with consistent public statements that gave the revolutionaries hope. The Gipper did this not only because of his belief in the cause of freedom worldwide; he also recognized the larger geopolitical implications of peeling the Warsaw Pact away from a weakened USSR bit-by-bit (similar to the effect that a free Iraq and free Iran could have on the Middle East today).

    Barack Obama’s about the worst thing that ever happened to this country… and people are starting to figure that out.
    Enjoy your hope-n-changey fantasy world while it lasts-

  • RRR: Well put. This the basic fault of modern liberalism — it has been poisoned by moral equivalency. The United States should always remain the “arsenal of democracy”. Even when it is impossible to actively support the cause of freedom elsewhere in the world, we must always make it clear that we are firmly in the camp of freedom and in opposition to oppression. Moral support is worth a hell of a lot. That is real hope; I’m surprised Mr. Obama doesn’t see that. Winston Churchill said it best:
    “Never give in – never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

  • First a note to Scott Erb (and to Scott Erb’s students): Scott Erb is a long time apologist for the Iranian regime, up to and including their acquisition of nuclear weapons. Typically, Scott declared this isolated, backward regime the “winner” in the Iraq war and per usual blamed the U.S. for the Iranian regime’s push for nuclear weapons.

    Now, the U.S. has no strategic interest vis a vis Iran other than stopping its development of nuclear weapons and its potential involvement in worldwide terrorism. Iran is deeply involved in Middle Eastern terrorism directed at Israel.

    No one has any idea whatsoever what sort of regime would emerge from this protest movement. It could be worse in a strategic sense.

    Further, there could be complications that I don’t even want to address.

    Obama had already signaled American weakness before these events. He signaled weakness throughout the campaign. He has an incompetent Secretary of State and a pre-failed foreign policy. He became President already in a position where he can only make mistakes. He shouldn’t be encouraged to make them faster.

    Obama is a clever person, not a smart one, and certainly incapable of wisdom. His characterological deficits are profound, an interwoven fabric of lies and deception. America has had runs of good luck; this isn’t one of those.

  • Something we COULD do:

    Broadcast over TV, radio, and internet some brief commercials to the Iranian people along these lines:

    “Billy Mays here with the greatest offer in Iranian history!  If you call now, you’ll get not just one, not just TWO, but THREE brand-new Kalashnikov rifles and a can of ammunition!  Yes, these products, used around the world for removing dictators and despots, normally sell in stores for $1500, but they can be yours now for FREE!  Just call the number at the bottom of your screen!  Do it in the next fifteen minutes and we’ll DOUBLE your order!  That’s SIX Kalashnikov rifles and TWO cans of ammunition!  Order now!  Call 1-888-GUNS-4-YOU!  Call now!”

  • Kid yourself Scott – all Obama is doing is being indecisive.    Paint his inability to come up with something constructive to do with as trompe l’oeil  ‘wisdom and restraint’ if you like.  It’s neither, he hasn’t a clue what to do.
    I suppose the good news is he seems to know that, and he’s sticking with what he knows best.  Doing nothing useful, just like his time as a Senator, voting Present.