SECURITY POLICE BEAT A MOUSAVI SUPPORTERNot able to heed my own advice -- the perils of reading too much into the presidential election in Iran and imposing stateside standards on it -- I yammered on at some length the other day about the silver lining and not the dark clouds.
I did get the parts right about how even an upset victory by Mir Hossein Mousavi would not change much in an Islamic nation where the Grand Ayatollah has a tight grip on power, but I was unprepared for the viciousness of President Ahmadinejad's response to the outpouring of anger by young Iranians who had supported a reformist who had a wide lead in election-eve poll. That response all but confirms the fraudulence of the outcome.
Knowing that the whole world was watching, Ahmadinehad ordered his security police to beat demonstrators, the state cut off all text messaging services and hacked opposition Web sites, clamped down on foreign reporters and put Mousavi and 100 or so other political opponents under house arrest in what looks for all the world like a slide into an Islamic dictatorship. Then he held a victory rally in the heart of an opposition neighborhood in Tehran while forbidding the opposition from holding their own protest rally, which is did anyway.
But then Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who had endorsed a result that for the time being neutralizes a reform movement he opposes, reversed his earlier decree that balloting had been fair and ordered an investigation into the vote count. (I know all of this, by the way, not because it's on cable news; CNN and its brethren have dropped the ball on a story tailor made for them.)
Things need to shake out a whole lot more before anything is clear, but at this point the Ahmadinejad "victory" is a victory for Bibi Netanyahu and those bellicose American neocons who would like nothing better than another war, say an Israeli air strike on Iran's nuclear facilities that probably would draw in the U.S. And let's not forgot that Ahmadinejad's rise to power was greased by the Bush administration, which snubbed diplomatic overtures from Tehran after 9/11.
"It was just a movie," said one crushed voter of the outcome. "They were all just players in a movie."
Probably. And there is an irony here that I have yet to see anyone else call attention to: It was university students in 1979 who began the demonstrations that led to the American embassy hostage siege and then the Iranian Revolution, while it is university students 30 years later who were Mousavi's most fervent supporters and are leading today's demonstrations.
Top photograph by The Associated Press