June 25, 2009

Watching a Sea of Green: June 25, 2009

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Maybe it’s because Michael Jackson has died—it’s a sad and unnerving feeling to think that he’s gone—but today has had a very peculiar quality to it. Even for Iran, today was rather strange.

Let’s look at what’s happened.

Seems like Iran is in a state of flux, alternating between days of horrific violence and tense calm. Today is the major exam day of Iran, during which the Konkoor—Iran’s college entrance exam—is administered. It’s of a different mode than the SATs.

Typically given a year after high school is completed (it takes a year to study for it. Don’t believe me? Just ask my father. He’s got horror stories about the Konkoor. Makes the SAT look like a joke.), the Konkoor is an all-encompassing, life dominating exam. Your score on the exam will determine what university you are eligible to attend.

So, perhaps that has played a role in quieting some of the protests. It speaks volumes about the importance of education in Iran. However, the New York Times believed that maybe the protests have begun to lose their momentum.

Mohsen Rezai, the fourth place candidate in the elections (and a former commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, more on them below) has withdrawn his challenges against the election results. Mehdi Karroubi, the third place candidate, has continued to harshly condemn the results, but says that he will pursue his concerns through legal channels.

Seems like maybe Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the runner-up, is all that’s left. But, he has not been seen in public for nearly a week, likely a result of the level of violence that has taken place.

The Iranian government has been increasingly the level of their crackdown considerably, this time with a dangerous promise that the Revolutionary Guard (the fearsome elite corps of the Iranian military that also employ the Basij) will finally get involved if the protests continue.

This video,

This video, from Al Jazeera, offers a solid explanation of the Revolutionary Guard is, and their role in Iranian society today.

Perhaps another sign of the government’s growing confidence that they’re making leeway against the protesters, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad resurfaced today to give a vehement speech in support of his results and—surprise—he decried the involvement of foreigners.

Specifically, he targeted President Barack Obama’s comments that he was “appalled” and “horrified by the events in Iran. Ahmadinejad said, “We expected the British and European countries to make those kinds of comments. But we were not expecting Mr. Obama, who has talked about change, to fall in the same trap and follow the same path that Bush did.”

Setting aside that that is, at best, a tenuous connection to Bush’s words (Axis of Evil anyone?) Ahmadinejad and indeed the government is doing their best to spin the protests as all the doing of foreign interlopers.

Speaking to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Mohammad Hassan Ghadiri, the Iranian Ambassador to Mexico, focused on the murder of Neda Soltan, the 26 year old woman who’s death became a rallying point for the protesters. In particular, Ghadiri said that her death was likely the result of terrorists or the CIA. He said:

“We say that the bullet that was found in her head was not a bullet that you could find in Iran. These are the bullets that the CIA and terrorist groups use. Of course they warned that there would be bloodshed in these demonstrations and then they could attribute that to the Islamic republic. This is part of a common act of CIA in various countries.”

Later, when Blitzer expressed some serious doubt to his accusation, Ghidiri blithely added:

“I’m not saying that the CIA had done this. There are different groups. Could be intelligence services, could be CIA, could be the terrorists. However, these are the people who do these things. You could ask Mr. Andreotti, who was an Italian diplomat whether Gladiators were a secret group related to CIA or not. Now they of course they use better methods. Of course, you’re not going to say that CIA is a sacred organization that hasn’t done anything to other worlds.”

Smarmy. Anything to pass the blame off on others, I suppose.

Tomorrow is Friday, the Islamic day of prayer. You can be sure the Supreme Leader Khamenei will be speaking out again against the protesters and their accusations against the elections. However, the main issue is no longer about the elections. Consider the elections a catalyst, through which all the inner-workings of Iranian government were laid painfully bare.

It is clear that the government itself has severe internal strife specifically between those that back Khamenei and those that back Hashemi Rafsanjani. The latter has continued to remain silent but is said to be working furiously behind the scenes to undermine Khamenei’s power and cast doubt on his leadership.

Be sure to pay close attention to Khamenei’s words at Friday’s prayer services. Last time he spoke he triggered the worst day of violence in Iran in many years. What he says tomorrow could have the same effect, and more bloodshed will ensue.