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Archive for the ‘Mousavi’ Category

As Iran’s Summer of Outrage gives way to a sustained Winter of Discontent, those who predicted the protest movement would wither in the face of massive state repression are scrambling to re-evaluate.  Brave Iranians have not backed down, despite rape, murder, torture, and, most recently, indications of targeted killings.  On the contrary,  the bravado of the protest movement has only escalated as we have seen images of crowds taunting and surrounding regime thugs, pulling their helmets off and parading them in the streets.  A more subtle development and considerably more telling- the revolutionary ideology that propelled the mullahs to power in 1979 has been taken from them as increasingly the Green protest movement has appropriated the language and symbolism of political Islam to wage its civil disobedience campaign.  This has divided the ruling elite and turned the guardians of the state against one another.  Hard-liners on both sides of the divide have predictably asserted themselves, reducing any room for compromise.  Are we witnessing the end of the Islamic Republic?

It is certainly clear that things will never be the same between the state and the people in Iran.  As Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi affirms in a recent interview with Foreign Policy Magazine, its nonsense to think of the protest movement as a tiny group of educated elites in Tehran angry about a stolen election.  The discontent has spread from city to hinterland, from students in universities to those studying in religious seminaries.  It is no longer about an electoral debacle- this was only the spark that released pent up dissatisfaction.  Dissatisfaction with  the fundamental nature of the regime itself.

It is no longer a fanciful dream for ordinary Iranians to begin to imagine a different Iran, one where simple freedoms and full acceptance by the global community of nations are a reality.  But what will this new Iran look like?  And how will it act?  The answer is a bit more complicated than one might think.

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Over the weekend, Western news sources didn’t seem much interested in Mir Mousavi’s reaction to Ahmadinejad’s recent nuclear “deal” to ship Iranian uranium overseas, even before it began to unravel.   Why not?  The Green Revolution’s moderate poster boy has been the belle of the ball over the last 5 months any time analysts wanted to point to Iran’s liberal masses, the younger generation clamoring for Western freedoms and peaceful coexistence with the world.  Why ignore him now?  Perhaps it was because Mousavi’s comments about the nuclear deal weren’t so moderate: “The discussions in Geneva were really surprising and if the promises given (to the West) are realised then the hard work of thousands of scientists would be ruined.”

What?  Isn’t this guy supposed to be the friendlier face of Iran, the Great White Hope for an end to the brutality and dictatorship of the mullahs?  He may very well be.  But it turns out that Mousavi, like the millions of Iranians he represents, sees no contradiction in agitating for a free, globally integrated Iran at the same time as he fiercely protects Iran’s right to develop nuclear power and even nuclear weapons.

This Iranian psychology seems too complex for most analysts in the West to understand or illuminate.  That’s strange.  I can think of a few other liberal democracies whose citizens feel the same way- believing in freedom but staunchly protective of their inalienable right to nuclear technology.  (United States, Israel, India, Russia, all of Europe).  Do these countries support bad regimes and do bad things themselves from time to time?  Well, yes, they do.

I am NOT advocating here for an Iranian right to nuclear weapons.  What I am saying is that Mousavi’s comments tell us something critical about the Iranian people and how our own policy towards Iran has been poorly calibrated to harness their aspirations.  Something critical that pundits like Jackson Diehl in today’s Washington Post are either unwilling or unable to comprehend.  Why guys like Diehl ignore the fundamentals of the Iran problem and continue to hammer at one issue obsessively probably tell us more about the nature of our own society, our allies, and what can and cannot be debated freely.

As I have said before, if there is one issue that unites all proud Iranians, it is their right to nuclear technology.  If we want to exploit the deep divisions within the Iranian regime and society that thundered out into the open this summer, we cannot be fixated on the nuclear issue.  What we should be focusing in on is the nature of this regime, its brutality, and inability to provide good governance for its own people.

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