Tom Ricks on Iran

Tom Ricks believes that the Obama administration has taken the right approach on Iran so far.  He explains why in these two posts.  I don’t pretend to know what to do, but I thought that I would pass on the links that he recommended.

One of the links that Ricks posts is an interview with Iran expert Karim Sadjadpour.  He provides a glimpse into the mindset of Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei: don’t back down.  He believes that the regime is reasserting its authority and that Mousavi now must make the critical decision about whether he will back down.  Here is his advice for the Obama administration:

This is extremely delicate and the situation is so dynamic. We clearly have to be on the right side of history here, but I think if we try to insert ourselves into the momentous internal Iranian drama that’s unfolding we may unwittingly undermine those whom we’re trying to strengthen. Historically that’s often been the case in Iran.

It goes without saying that the Obama administration should clearly not acknowledge the results of these contested elections. This would demoralize people. We should also be pushing all of our allies not to acknowledge the results of these elections until justice prevails in Tehran. I was disappointed that Turkey’s Abdullah Gul and Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai did not hesitate to congratulate Ahmadinejad.

But again, I think if we overtly take sides the regime could well react with a massive and bloody crackdown on the demonstrators using the pretext that they are acting against an American-led coup. And the sad thing is that much of the global media would focus more on what Obama said than what the Iranian government did.

That said, I do think the President should condemn the flagrant violence against innocent civilians, including women and the elderly. The Iranian regime likes to talk a lot about justice, and we should make it clear we want to see justice and the will of the Iranian people prevail.

Ricks also posted an article by Robin Wright.  She describes the internal dynamics of Iranian politics and culture in this short piece.  If she’s right, the status quo in Iran can’t last much longer:

At the same time, however, hundreds of thousands of Iranians have not taken to the streets to reject the current constitution but rather to demand that the individual rights it guarantees are enforced.

Past international crises are now being invoked to forecast Iran’s fate: Mousavi supporters fear Iran’s security forces will reenact China’s crackdown in Tiananmen Square. Regime supporters compare Mousavi to former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, fearing the undoing of their own revolution if he prevails.

But whatever happens in Iran will be distinctly Iranian in style and outcome. The movement has already invoked Shiite symbolism. Mourning is traditionally marked in commemorations on the third, seventh and 40th days after a death, a cycle also used to galvanize greater public outrage when the shah’s forces killed protesters in 1978. The commemorations often led to new clashes and more deaths — and then volatile new cycles of mourning.

It was no accident that Mousavi called for the mass demonstration Thursday to mourn the dead killed on Monday. And the cycle is only beginning. The 40th-day commemorations are traditionally most important.

I’m as eager as you are to see how all this turns out.

Karim Sadjadpour

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