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Monday, June 22, 2009



god help the people of iran. i don't think i shall soon forget, as a dad of two daughters, the harrowing footage of another dad's teenage girl -- whose name is said to have been neda agha soltan -- slaughtered as an innocent bystander martyred to history by a coward's bullet.

her terrifying death mask has quickly become the single iconic and transcendent image of the struggle to upend the power-mad and now transparent tyranny that clings so desperately onto the ship of state in iran. i am no advocate of violent revolt under any conditions, and i deeply respect the need of political and religious institution as necessary buttresses for social coherence. the people of iran have indeed been remarkable in their eschewing of violence and their devotion to the founding ideals of both their government and their religion, seeking as far as i can tell not a revolution but a reform. indeed it would seem to be impossible to support a figure such as nir hossein mousavi as a revolutionary; as a reformist, however, he is altogether passable.

the current government of iran, if it can again be made legitmate in the eyes of its citizenry, must give these proud people more than a jackboot to the face. the failure to convincingly re-elect bellicose populist mahmoud ahmadinejad -- and the rather transparent resort to fraud (now openly acknowledged by the government's guardian council) in the absence of support -- should have been handled much more responsibly by the conservative power structure that surrounds the heretofore intensely respected ayatollah khameini and the revolutionary guard. that it was not is indicative of their unfitness, a point not lost on the people in the streets of tehran and other iranian cities. what is more, the response of repression and open violence against otherwise peaceful masses through the instrument of the basij, playing the role of a brownshirt militia and the likely source of the sniper's bullet that murdered neda, has very likely permanently delegitimized the leadership of not only ahmadinejad but his sponsor khameini. even if the urban masses are beaten off the streets, civil unrest and insurgency will likely become a permanent feature of iran under khameini -- forcing a further devolution of what was once a stable grand bargain with reasonable latitude between the reactionary islamists who elevated conservative clerics to leadership and the urbane denizens of the great cities of persia into an incessant and debilitating cycle of political violence and police-state repression.

one has to hope, in the aftermath of this brutal response, that the institutions of the nation of iran are allowed to work to restore legitimacy by removing from power those who would in such nihilistic fashion resort to the machiavellianism of openly violent and amoral subjection. here the hopes of many fall on ayatollah rafsanjani, who -- in spite of the clear threat presented to his family by khameini's allies -- has similarly not abdicated his institutional role but instead appears to have thrown himself into the task of turning the gears of the machinery of institution. may god speed him in his task.

UPDATE: douglas muir of fistful of euros is not optimistic about a change of leadership atop the institutions of iran, on the basis of his earlier general analysis.

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