Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Watching Iran

I have kept one eye peeled on the aftermath of the Iranian elections recently. Largely wondering if this was going to be a big deal or just a media event. I think I've figured it out today.

The recent turmoil over the presidential elections in Iran underscored several things. First of all, US intelligence in Iran is practically non-existent. We don't understand the situation at all over there so it more or less paralyzed us. Not only were we not proactive, the US wasn't even reactive. Obama's response to the situation was the political equivalent of saying "duh". Totally stumped. But, at least Joe Biden didn't say anything stupid. So that's something I suppose.

Secondly, while there were clearly massive rallies in support of Mir-Hussein Mousavi prior to the election and immediately following the election, as soon as the Ayatollah Khamenei proclaimed "enough is enough", the intensity of the opposition dwindled. Rallies of thousands of people became rallies of hundreds.

Blood was shed, but such violence represented a disproportionately severe crackdown by the Iranian state against what was a diminishing opposition - in an effort to prove a point. On the other hand, the worldwide media and some Iranians using portable video devices and the internet attempted to respond to Iran's media crackdown on the continuing election unrest by feeding what seems to me to be misinformation over the extent of the rallies and the degree of the bloodshed. This is basically a propagandist approach to make the rallies seem huge and the resulting violence and arrests much larger that they actually were.

In other words, it seems to me the opposition is now effectively squelched. It was squelched by the intimidating show of force by the Iranian security forces and by the simple fact that the supporters of Mousavi possessed neither the structure nor the numbers to continue to advance their position. Out of desperation it turned to sensationalizing events to make them seem bigger than they really were.

For now, the opposition in Iran is literally dying. Perhaps it can survive and grow in strength until the next elections are held. But, in this closed, Islamic society such "trouble-makers" will find the advancement of their position extremely difficult.

On the other hand, I think there has been a small shift in the dynamics of Iranian politics among the urban class, particularly among women and students. But, (and this is critical) we should not construe events in Iran as being a protest for change of the Islamic state - it clearly isn't about that at all.

For the short term, nothing will change and you can put a fork in this media event. Hey, if elections can be stolen in America why not anywhere else in the world. It's just politics, right?

No comments: