Monday, June 15, 2009

Machiavelli on the current Iranian situation

Merk Kleiman provides some excellent quotes explaining what seems to be happening in Iran this week.

The statement is, however, predicated on the idea that the Ayatollah Khamene'i is in fact in charge and has made the statements declaring that Ahmadinejad did win the election with an unlikely 66% of the vote. That may be in question. Laura Rozen is doing great reporting as this item from her blog War and Piece demonstrates:
One man who worked in the Ministry of Interior, which carried out the vote count, said the government had been preparing its fraud for weeks, purging anyone of doubtful loyalty and importing pliable staff members from around the country.

“They didn’t rig the vote,” claimed this man, who showed his ministry identification card but pleaded not to be named. “They didn’t even look at the vote. They just wrote the name and put the number in front of it.”
This suggests that the takeover by Amahdinejad has been long planned and carefully prepared for. It has been suggested that what we are watching is a coup by the military, Intelligence Services and the Revolutionary Guard (from which Ahmadinejad came) and it is aimed a usurping the power of the Ayatollahs.

Since someone on radio said that the Ayatollah did not give his announcement that Ahmadinejad won the election himself (issued two hours after the polls closed - remember that this was voted on paper ballots that had to be hand counted - there is reason to suspect it really is a coup by the military hardliners.

Laura also reports what Gary Sick previously wrote:
In 1997, Iran’s hard line leadership was stunned by the landslide election of Mohammed Khatami, a reformer who promised to bring rule of law and a more human face to the harsh visage of the Iranian revolution. It took the authorities almost a year to recover their composure and to reassert their control through naked force and cynical manipulation of the constitution and legal system. The authorities did not, however, falsify the election results and even permitted a resounding reelection four years later. Instead, they preferred to prevent the president from implementing his reform program.

In 2005, when it appeared that no hard line conservative might survive the first round of the presidential election, there were credible reports of ballot manipulation to insure that Mr Ahmadinejad could run (and win) against former president Rafsanjani in the second round.
Now I may just be a cynical old man, but that sounds a lot like this current situation is another battle in a long-running conflict between the government of Iran, kept in place by the hardliners with military force and the use of religious imagery. The two quotes I presented to begin this place rather strongly suggest that both the government and the reformers have been preparing for this election and both sides are quite well organized. The stuff we are seeing reported (badly by our media, incompetently by American TV "news" when it is not being ignored) is part of a longer deeper battle.

Finally, I believe it was Juan Cole who wrote that the deaths of protesters were going to cause more and greater protests. (Sorry - I can't find the link to his quote.) But what he said that the funeral processions would lead to more protests, as would the 40 days of mourning that followed the funerals. Then, any additional killings by the government troops will lead to a new round of funeral - protest - mourning - protest. So it could stretch out for a long period of time. And my own observation is that the Iranian military and police do not have good enough control on their troops to keep them from killing more protesters in the heat of the moment. That is classic peaceful protest such as was used by Gandhi against the British in India. And twitter is the protester's friend - as are the many other modern methods of communication going back to faxes as the Soviet dissidents used to use.

Overall I would guess that Iran is going to be in for a really long, hot summer.

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