Iran Protests Continue to Escalate

A friend told me today that protests are not only going on in Tehran, but also in Shiraz and Isfahan. These suppressed protests are among the first in history to make extensive usage of modern technologies, such as Twitter. The effect of these tools as a catalyst should not be underestimated.

I am certain about one thing: The regime must be scared to death at this point. Otherwise they would already have clamped down much harder, as they used to. This reminds one of the protests from ’78 and ’79 which the Shah was no longer able to contain and basically began to tolerate as a concession.

We are witnessing events that Iran has not seen in 30 years. Never since the revolution have there been so many young educated people ready to take responsibility. Never have networking technologies thwarted the regime’s plans like they are now. Never since then have masses of people chanted “death to the dictator” on the streets.

In my view, what is going to happen in the days and weeks to follow hinges upon one crucial question: How much support does the current system still have in the rural areas of the country?

If there really is no big support for Ahmadinejad and for the establishment any longer, and the protests that are going on right now do not only reflect the mood of young city dwellers but of the general population, then I truly believe that the establishment is toast, and that all bets are off from hereon out.

If the opposite is true, then the protests will peter out sooner or later. We will likely see a massive crack down by the Revolutionary Guards, tons of political arrests, and a return to business as usual, for now.

If the truth lies somewhere between the two extremes, the current system may remain in place, but both sides will come together and meet somewhere in the middle. For example, Ahmadinejad might offer Moussavi some high post, so his supporters calm down, and the current power structures remain in place.

Only time will tell which direction Iran is going to take.

Some more clips from recent protests (some of rather graphic nature):

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Iran Clashes Continue – Opposition Seeks to Annull Results

As I noted yesterday, the protests in Teheran appear to be more than just a temporary vent for disgruntled voters. Clashes broke out again on Sunday.

CNN reports Moussavi Web site letter wants election results thrown out:

TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) — Fresh clashes broke out between police and protesters Sunday as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad held a victory rally and opposition supporters claimed ballot fraud in Friday’s presidential election.

Ahmadinejad, the hard-line incumbent, defeated reformist rival Mir Hossein Moussavi, a former prime minister, in the election, according to official results.

Backers of Moussavi have been denouncing the results.

On Sunday, a letter that appeared to be written by Moussavi requested that the government annul the contested results. The letter was circulated among Moussavi’s supporters and posted on his campaign Web site, which has published previously confirmed statements from Moussavi.

“I see this as the only solution to restore the public trust and support of the people for their government,” it states.

The letter calls on Iran’s Guardian Council to nullify the results. The Council is a constitutionally mandated body of six clerics and six jurists, which functions as Iran’s electoral authority and has other powers.

Conflicting reports emerged about Moussavi’s location Sunday.

One rumor was that he had been placed under house arrest. There were reports indicating that he had been detained, while others said he was simply at home, conducting meetings, but was free to come and go as long as he informed authorities.

Guards were stationed outside his house, but it was not immediately clear whether they worked for him or the government.

In the streets, riot police fired tear gas and brandished batons to disperse about 100 stone-throwing protesters on Vali Asr Street in central Tehran.

CNN witnessed confrontations in the streets.

“There was this cat-and-mouse game between the rioters and the police,” said Samson Desta, a CNN producer, who was hit by a police baton. “For the time being, it seems like police have things under control. But we spoke to a lot of students and they’re saying, ‘This is not going to go away. They may stop us now but we will come back and make sure our voices will be heard.'”

It was the second day of protests in Tehran. On Saturday, thousands of demonstrators — shouting “Death to the dictatorship” and “We want freedom” — burned police motorcycles, tossed rocks through store windows, and set trash cans on fire.

Meanwhile in international community remains divided and unclear regarding the results:

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden expressed doubts Sunday about the validity of Iran’s presidential election, but said it would take more time to analyze the results.

“I have doubts, but withhold comment,” Biden said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program.

Biden said the Iranian government has suppressed crowds and limited free speech by shutting down social networking sites such as Facebook, which he said raised questions. He also called the strong showing by incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “unlikely,” based on pre-election analysis.

“Is this the response, is this the accurate response, is this the wish of the Iranian people?” Biden said.

(…)

Hamas, the militant Palestinian movement backed by Iran, welcomed the results.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum urged the world to respect Iranian democracy and accept the results of the elections.

(…)

Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, which borders Iran, called Ahmadinejad to congratulate him, Karzai’s office said Sunday.

Karzai’s view was that “relations between the two Muslim nations of Afghanistan and Iran expanded during Mr. Ahmadinejad’s first term and hoped that these relations get stronger during his second term,” the statement said.

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Ahmadinejad Re-Elected in Iran – Unrest on the Streets

Below I posted some clips showing unrest and police force in Iran after the election results. New clips are being added by the minute. Just from looking at these, it seems as though massive protests are going on all over Teheran and as if it could take the police quite a while to contain them.


…it seems like the police is actually shooting at protesters in this one.

Flashback: This is what happened during the days of the Iranian revolution in 1979:

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Iran Votes – World Watches

Driven by growing interest from young voters, a Huge turnout in Iran presidential poll is expected:

There has been a huge turnout for Iran’s closely-fought election as incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seeks a second term in office.

“Voter turnout has been unprecedented,” election commission chief Kamran Daneshjoo said, as long queues were reported at polling stations.

Polling has been extended by three hours to 2100 local time (1630 GMT).

Mr Ahmadinejad faces a strong challenge from former PM Mir Hossein Mousavi in a campaign dominated by the economy.

The election is being watched closely around the world for signs of a possible shift in Tehran’s attitude.

US President Barack Obama said he was “excited” about the robust debate taking place, which showed change was possible in Iran.

(…)

Youth enthusiastic

Four candidates are contesting the election, with Mohsen Razai and Mehdi Karroubi trailing the two main contenders.

In his final TV appearance before the election, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused his opponents of conspiring with Israelis to falsify documents and graphs to discredit him.

His rivals boycotted the chance to appear on TV with him, after apparently not being offered equal airtime.

The result will be watched closely outside Iran – in the US, Israel, and European capitals – for any hint of a possible shift in the country’s attitude to the rest of the world, BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says.

The timing of the election is also crucial, as the US push for a new policy of engagement with Tehran cannot really get going until the outcome of the election is clear, our correspondent adds.

The live TV debates unleashed enthusiasm among the country’s young population.

BBC Iranian affairs analyst Sadeq Saba says most of them appear to be supporting the moderate candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi.

Varied support

President Ahmadinejad draws support mainly from the urban poor and rural areas, while his rivals have huge support among the middle classes and the educated urban population.

Iranian women have also shown great interest in the election and it appears many of them will be voting for the moderate candidates who have promised them more social freedoms, our analyst says.

The votes in regions with national and religious minorities are also important, as they normally vote for reformist candidates.

Mr Mousavi is an ethnic Azeri and is expected to do well in his province, as is Mahdi Karrubi in his native Lorestan province.

Iran is ruled under a system known as Velayat-e Faqih, or “Rule by the Supreme Jurist”, who is currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

It was adopted by an overwhelming majority in 1979 following the Islamic revolution which overthrew the autocratic Western-backed Shah.

But the constitution also stipulates that the people are the source of power and the country holds phased presidential and parliamentary elections every four years.

All candidates are vetted by the powerful conservative-controlled Guardian Council, which also has the power to veto legislation it deems inconsistent with revolutionary principles.

People need to know that the Iranian President has negligibly little powers. As explained above, all major powers are with the Rahbare Enghelab (Revolutionary Leader), an office that is currently held by Ayatollah Khamenei.

An overhaul of the Iranian system will happen sooner or later. It is certainly a possibility that Iranians, too, will vote for change this time. How soon we will see real change remains to be seen. Whatever the turnout will be, there is certainly reason to hope for a more engaged dialogue between Iran and the West moving forward.

Update:

Here are the current Intrade.com Percentages:

Ahmadinejad

Moussavi

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This Norouz, Shake Hands with a Persian…

There is no need to be scared of Iran and her inhabitants, the Persians. No really, behind the facade of black, black, and black wardrobe, Armani jeans (fake), designer sunglasses (also fake), and Rolex watches (definitely fake), lies a harmless, joyful, friendly, and peaceful soul.

So peaceful, that in 1951 the nation elected a leader in a clear and decisive democratic election. But unfortunately the US and British government deemed it a good idea to remove Mohammed Mossadeq from power in a coup d’etat that would reinstate Shah’s absolute despotic powers over all branches of government and society.

The Shah’s regime was ruthless and uncompromising. Dissent was crushed without mercy. Iran’s people didn’t take kindly to this tutelage. Nor did they appreciate the US government’s ongoing support for the Shah’s regime.

In 1979, the inevitable occurred. The political pendulum swang where it had to swing. Radical extremists, backed by the revolutionary spirit of the populace, and lead by the popular Ayatollah Khomeini, took power in a sweeping subversion. He promised change. And things did change, unfortunately not for the better.

Thanks to US foreign policies we are right now able to observe a buildup toward the same kinds of radical subversions in other middle eastern countries. Don’t ever let it be said that no one warned against the inevitable blowbacks of an ongoing US support of the Pakistani military and nation building efforts in Afghanistan.

Today Iran is surrounded by American bases and soldiers. It is hard to find a spot on the map in the region that is not under US control or at least watchful oversight.

Americans need to ask themselves some simple questions: If we were surrounded by Iranian military bases and soldiers, stationed in Canada, Mexico, Honduras, Cuba, and the Caribbean, what would we do? How would we feel if they just recently, in an unconstitutional undertaking and against the advice and will of all major players in the world, invaded one of these countries and continue to occupy it. What would we do if we knew that those who surround us possess thousands of nuclear warheads, ready to be deployed with the click of a button. How in particular would we feel about being surrounded by the only nation in world history that ever actually utilized nuclear weapons in order to completely annihilate two Japanese cities in 1945. How, especially, would we feel, if that nation was constantly sending threats our way, and calling us part of an “axis of evil”? How lightly would we take the bitter memory that this nation was instrumental in overthrowing our democratically elected Prime Minster in 1953?

Would we not be a little bit upset? How would we feel about not possessing nuclear weapons? Would we not feel like we have the right to own those as well?

Ultimately we all want peace. But it doesn’t work one way. Both sides need to come together.

It is Norouz, Persian New Year. But it can also be a new beginning, usher in a new era of peace and diplomacy, if only we want to. We have a new president who seems to be eager to get to this point. At least his language suggests this, his actions so far haven’t.

This Norouz, if you haven’t done so already, shake hands with a Persian. Maybe even give him a hug. He’ll appreciate it. Tell him “Eide shomah mobarak!”. He will be delighted.

Below President Obama’s Norouz message:

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