You cannot be serious!

How else can you react to Reza Aslan’s notion that the Iranian regime’s electoral system allows for “greater diversity of religious and political thought” (thanks to “Michael Goldfarb”:http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2009/06/reza_aslan_in_praise_of_irania_1.asp at TWS)?

The Iranian constitution’s “article 115″:http://www.servat.unibe.ch/icl/ir00000_.html contains many discriminatory elements.

The president must be from a defined group of “religious and political personalities.” The word for “personalities” is _regal_. It has until recently been interpreted to mean a man. Certainly no woman has ever been allowed to run. That means 50% of Iran’s population is excluded from running for the presidency.

Article 115 also states specifically that only members of the official _madhab_ (school of Islamic jurisprudence) can run for the presidency. That is a religious test which excludes the 20% of Iranians who are not Shia Muslims. Such a religious test is illegal in the U.S.A. according to article VI of the constitution.

You cannot be serious!

Europeans behaving well

Yesterday embassies of EU countries “opened”:http://raymankojast.blogspot.com/2009/06/list-of-embassies-accepting-injured.html their doors to casualties. They were near the clashes and there were rumors that the Basij vigilantes were waiting at the hospitals. EU countries have also been vociferous in their criticism of Iranian regime violence.

It is about Iran, not about America!

There is a silly debate starting about the impact of President Obama on the Iranian election. It is worth noting that President Obama is making no such claims. Here are some examples:

bq. “’Whereas the Bush administration united Iran’s disparate political factions against a common threat, Obama’s overtures have accentuated the deep divisions and incongruities among Iran’s political elites,” said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. (from the “BBC”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8111290.stm).

bq. Could there be something to all the talk of an Obama effect, after all? A stealth effect, perhaps?

And in his Cairo address June 4, he accepted responsibility for America’s part in the enmity between the United States and Iran.

“In the middle of the cold war, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government,” Mr. Obama said — a reference to the 1953 coup in which an Iranian prime minister, under whom Iran had nationalized its oil industry, was overthrown and the now-despised Shah was restored to power. (from “The New York Times”:http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/21/weekinreview/21cooper.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&pagewanted=all).

So is there “an Obama effect” in Iran?

Short answer: No

Long answer: No

Why? Because the Clinton Administration made the same overtures. “Here”:http://www.fas.org/news/iran/2000/000321-iran1.htm and “here”:http://newsmine.org/content.php?ol=coldwar-imperialism/iran53/gesture-to-iran.txt are links to stories from 2000 in which Madeleine Albright acknowledged the U.S. role in the 1953 coup in Iran. President Obama is saying little different from his last Democratic predecessor.

What has changed is Iran. Back in 2000 Iran was run by a so-called reformist who was running into opposition from the same forces that have recently showed just how dishonest Iran’s system is. Today Iranians are on the streets in protest against that act of massive electoral fraud and the regime’s violent response.

It is about them. It is not about us.

What they are chanting in Iran

Here is a video from yesterday’s protests in Tehran with a translation of the chants.

“Death to the Dictator” (see earlier “post”:http://www.michaeltotten.com/archives/2009/06/pictures-from-t.php)

“As long as Ahmadinejad is in power, the situation will be the same”

“Allahu Akbar” (God is Great)

“People why are you sitting…Iran is becoming Palestine” (The Iranian regime never tires of talking about the Palestinians)

“Ya Hossein, Mir Hossein” (A reference to “Hossein”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Husayn_ibn_Ali and then to Musavi, whose first names are “Mir Hossein”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mir-Hossein_Mousavi)

“Do not fear…we are all together”

More eyewitness reports

Thanks to “RFE/RL”:http://www.rferl.org/content/Elys_Tehran_Diary_Tear_Gas_Left_White_Trails_We_Could_Hear_Gunshots/1759113.html.

Confrontation looms

The Iranian activist blog “Raye Man Kojast? “:http://raymankojast.blogspot.com/ reports that the authorities have “denied”:http://raymankojast.blogspot.com/2009/06/permission-denied-for-saturday-rallies.html Musavi permission to march tomorrow. Sounds like Iranians will have to defy the Islamic Republic again–as they have done for the last week.

P.S. _Raye man kojast_ means Where is my vote?

Who says Iranian regime media has no sense of humor?

Only Press TV (beautifully mocked by “Harry’s Place”:http://www.hurryupharry.org/2009/06/19/off-the-buses/) could come up with this headline:

bq. “Ahmadinejad to ‘improve world’”:http://www.presstv.ir/detail/98517.htm?sectionid=351020101

Iranian demonstrators ignore threats

Iran’s protesters are ignoring the intimidation handed out by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei this morning.Instead, Musavi has chosen not to comment, but will instead rally people tomorrow afternoon in Tehran. Below is a statement from an Iranian reformist blog “Campaign 88″:http://campaign88.persianblog.ir/ (this year is 1388 in the Iranian calendar).

bq. “Reformist Blog: ‘Destiny-Making’ Protest March To Go On in Tehran 20 Jun 09″:http://raymankojast.blogspot.com/2009/06/reformist-blog-destiny-making-protest.html

The destiny-making march will take place at 1600 [1130 gmt] on Saturday [20 June] in the company of Messrs [Mehdi] Karrubi, [Mir-Hoseyn] Musavi and [Mohammad] Khatami from Revolution Square towards Azadi ["Freedom" Square].

bq. We call on all the supporters of reform and change to have an overwhelming presence so that their cries are a protest at cheating and lying and backing for it at the highest levels of the system. May the massive crowd make all officials, who do not attach the slightest value to the people’s votes, tremble.

The Ghost of Howard Baskerville

“Howard Baskerville”:http://www.howardbaskerville.com/ was an American from Nebraska who died fighting with the Constitutionalists against Iran’s despotic King Mohammad Ali Shah in the Azeri-Iranian city of Tabriz in 1909. He was only 24 years old when he was shot through the heart and buried there. You might not have heard of him, but many Iranian nationalists consider the man a hero even now.


Howard Baskerville

For the next nine days, Howard Baskerville’s ghost will be filling in for me on this blog.

Let me explain: Nine months ago I planned a short nine-day vacation — my first in almost four years — with some friends. Most of it has been paid for already. I would not have chosen such an electrifying time in history to drop off the face of the world had I known what was going to happen. (In case you just woke up from a week-long nap, there is an uprising in Iran that may change the country forever.) And I certainly don’t want to leave this Web site without fresh material on it for much of the remainder of June.

So please welcome “Howard Baskerville” who will keep you apprised of events while I am away. He’s a friend who needs to write under a pen name right now, he knows more about Iran than I do, so I think you should trust him.

And don’t forget to be nice in the comments.

Don’t Forget

I’m posting a huge amount of material on Iran at Commentary’s Contentions blog. I’ll be posting there through tomorrow. Just “click here and keep scrolling”:http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/category/contentions/contentions?author_name=totten.

See also “Why We Should Support the Green Revolution”:http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/hazony/70261 by David Hazony.

Party Like it’s 1979

Kevin Sullivan at RealClearPolitics and I were interviewed about developments in Iran on the Rick Moran show last night. You can listen to the podcast “here”:http://www.blogtalkradio.com/rickmoran/2009/06/17/Iran-Party-Like-its-1979.

The Iranian Revolution

I’m posting a huge amount of material on the Iranian revolution (and yes, it’s a revolution now) “over at Commentary”:http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/category/contentions/contentions?author_name=totten. I’ll be posting there for the next couple of days so I can get paid without having to ask for donations from readers here. So please don’t neglect to “follow me there”:http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/category/contentions/contentions?author_name=totten.

An Enemy of the World

The Islamic Republic regime in Iran is vividly revealing itself as an enemy of the entire world.

“Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei’s police and the Basij militia are using violence and terror to suppress the Iranian people at home. His terrorist proxies fire missiles at Israel while torturing, maiming, and murdering Palestinians. He sponsored a violent coup d’etat against the elected government in Beirut last year with his Hezbollah militia. He sponsors a terrorist insurgency against the elected government of Iraq, while his fanatical proxies shoot and kill American soldiers. A car bomb cell belonging to the regime’s Lebanese franchise was recently arrested in Azerbaijan, and more cells were rolled up in Egypt. Terrorists sponsored and encouraged by him and his predecessor, Ruhollah Khomeini, have murdered civilians from “Argentina “:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6085768.stm to “Japan”:http://www.nytimes.com/books/99/04/18/specials/rushdie-translator.html.

The regime’s only allies in the world are terrorist armies and Bashar Assad’s Baath Party state in Syria. Assad himself, like Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, is a pariah among the Arabs, Persians, Turks, Kurds, Azeris, and Israelis who make up the region.

Iranian civilians risk violent beatings and worse by the thousands for standing up to the regime in the streets and treating it as the enemy it clearly is. There is no better time for the rest of us to do so, as well, especially since such gestures carry far less risk for us. The Pasdaran have no divisions in Washington, Paris, or London.

Obama Administration officials still hope they can talk Khamenei out of developing nuclear weapons and supporting Hamas and Hezbollah. This is delusion on stilts. Khamenei can’t even compromise with his own regime or his hand-picked presidential candidates. He placed them under house arrest, along with a Grand Ayatollah, and deployed thousands of violent enforcers into the streets. Not only does he confront the world, he is at war with his very own country.

Understand the mind of a totalitarian. “Probe with a bayonet,” Vladimir Lenin famously said. “If you meet steel, stop. If you meet mush, then push.”

The Khomeinists in Iran likewise only stop when they meet steel. In his book The Persian Night: Iran under the Khomeinist Revolution

, Amir Taheri describes how since 1979 the regime has always continued to push until, as he put it, it hits something hard. It’s hitting something hard right now within its borders. This is no time for mush from everyone else. The regime today is weaker than it has ever been. If the insurrection continues, a fast hard shove might well push it over. If the regime survives, it may well feel invincible.

“Read the rest in Commentary Magazine”:http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/totten/69651.

Blogging at Commentary

“Commentary”:http://www.commentarymagazine.com asked me to cover the upheaval in Iran on the Contentions blog during the next couple of days, and you can “click here to read what I’m publishing”:http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/category/contentions/contentions?author_name=totten. I know it’s slightly less convenient for you read my work “over there”:http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/category/contentions/contentions?author_name=totten, but this means I don’t have to rattle my tip jar over here.

I’m mostly finished with my next dispatch from Iraq, but I’m finding it difficult to concentrate on it right now. It’s a bit “off topic” anyway, so I’m thinking of holding onto it for a bit. Maybe Iran will settle down soon.

In the meantime, you can click “this link”:http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/category/contentions/contentions?author_name=totten and read only my blog posts at Commentary, or you can click “this link”:http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/category/contentions and read everyone’s blog posts at Commentary.

Insurrection: Day 2

Insurrection in Tehran Day 2.jpg

The great Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski witnessed and wrote about dozens of revolutions in the course of his life. He has, perhaps, seen more revolutions than anyone in the history of the world. He knew, while he lived, revolutions better than anyone.

In his book Shah of Shahs, about the Iranian revolution in 1979, he describes the beginning of the end for the Shah Reza Pahlavi.

Now the most important moment, the moment that will determine the fate of the country, the Shah, and the revolution, is the moment when one policeman walks from his post toward one man on the edge of the crowd, raises his voice, and orders the man to go home. The policeman and the man on the edge of the crowd are ordinary, anonymous people, but their meeting has historic significance.

They are both adults, they have both lived through certain events, they have both their individual experiences.

The policeman’s experience: If I shout at someone and raise my truncheon, he will first go numb with terror and then take to his heels. The experience of the man at the edge of the crowd: At the sight of an approaching policeman I am seized by fear and start running. On the basis of these experiences we can elaborate a scenario: The policeman shouts, the man runs, others take flight, the square empties.

But this time everything turns out differently. The policeman shouts, but the man doesn’t run. He just stands there, looking at the policeman. It’s a cautious look, still tinged with fear, but at the same time tough and insolent. So that’s the way it is! The man on the edge of the crowd is looking insolently at uniformed authority. He doesn’t budge. He glances around and sees and sees the same look on other faces. Like his, their faces are watchful, still a bit fearful, but already firm and unrelenting. Nobody runs though the policeman has gone on shouting; at last he stops. There is a moment of silence.

We don’t know whether the policeman and the man on the edge of the crowd already realize what has happened. The man has stopped being afraid — and this is precisely the beginning of the revolution. Here it starts. Until now, whenever these two men approached each other, a third figure instantly intervened between them. That third figure was fear. Fear was the policeman’s ally and the man in the crowd’s foe. Fear interposed its rules and decided everything.

Now the two men find themselves alone, facing each other, and fear has disappeared into thin air. Until now their relationship was charged with emotion, a mixture of aggression, scorn, rage, terror. But now that fear has retreated, this perverse, hateful union has suddnely broken up; something has been extinguished. The two men have now grown mutually indifferent, useless to each other; they can now go their own ways.

Accordingly, the policeman turns around and begins to walk heavily back toward his post, while the man on the edge of the crowd stands there looking at his vanishing enemy.


Now take a look at this video uploaded from the city of Isfahan. A ferocious-looking unit of armed riot police officers is shown running away in terror from civilian demonstrators.

YouTube Preview Image


“Reza Shoja reports”:http://www.themedialine.org/news/news_detail.asp?NewsID=25420 for The Media Line.

Car horn protests could be heard throughout the city, as could chants of “Bye bye dictator”, “Ahmadi Nejad is the biggest liar in Iran,” and “The president is committing a crime and the supreme leader is supporting him”.


Listen to the chants on Tehran’s rooftops in the middle of the night.

YouTube Preview Image


“Roger Cohen”:http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/15/opinion/15iht-edcohen.html in the New York Times:

I’ve argued for engagement with Iran and I still believe in it, although, in the name of the millions defrauded, President Obama’s outreach must now await a decent interval.

I’ve also argued that, although repressive, the Islamic Republic offers significant margins of freedom by regional standards. I erred in underestimating the brutality and cynicism of a regime that understands the uses of ruthlessness.


Defrauded opposition candidate Mir Hussein Mousavi belongs to the establishment. The regime is coming apart and turning on itself. “Even clerics”:http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/06/an-ayatollah-dissents.html are turning against the “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei.

Grand Ayatollah Sanei in Iran has declared Ahmadinejad’s presidency illegitimate and cooperating with his government against Islam. There are strong rumors that his house and office are surrounded by the police and his website is filtered. He had previously issued a fatwa, against rigging of the elections in any form or shape, calling it a mortal sin.


Kevin Sullivan at “RealClearWorld”:http://www.realclearworld.com/blog/2009/06/iran_no_longer_a_theocracy.html:

What’s emerging here could be interesting. Iran hawks prefer to label the Iranian police state as simply “The Mullahs,” but the legitimate clerics in this dispute are the ones standing with Mir-Hossein Mousavi against ONE Mullah and his secular police apparatus. If the election has been rigged in such a fashion, then what you are in fact seeing is the dropping of religious pretense in the “Islamic” Republic of Iran. This is a secular police state in action.

Iranian poet Sheema Kalbasi “agrees with Sullivan’s analysis”:http://zaneirani.blogspot.com/2009/06/from-theocracy-to-junta-yesterday-even.html:

Today is the day that the Islamic Republic officially transformed from a theocracy supported by Pasdaran to a Junta supported by a handful of clerics.


Meanwhile, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is “sounding like Baghdad Bob”:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/06/13/iran-demonstrations-viole_n_215189.html again today.

The situation in the country is in a very good condition. Iran is the most stable country in the world, and there’s the rule of law in this country, and all the people are equal before the law.


According to “a Twitter post from inside Iran”:http://twitter.com/IranRiggedElect/status/2166325738, the army announced it will not use force against Iranians, only foreigners. The army is made up of conscripts. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and Basij Militia, though, are separate armed forces loyal to the regime.

I don’t like relying on Twitter feeds. Rumors are bound to get posted this way. But things are moving so fast. You can follow Twitter feeds yourself “here”:http://iran.twazzup.com/ “here”:http://twitter.com/IranRiggedElect and “here”:http://iranfeeds.tumblr.com/. (“Thanks to David Hazony”:http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/hazony/69592 at Commentary for the pointer.)

David also points to “a YouTube channel”:http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=ahriman46&view=videos where dozens of videos have been uploaded.


A reader comments “at niacINsight”:http://niacblog.wordpress.com/2009/06/14/mousavi-supporter-to-us-help-us/:

“I am in Tehran. Its 3:40 in the morning. I’ve connected with you [by hacking past the government filter]. It’s a big mess here. People are yelling from their houses — ‘death to the dictator.’ They are setting up a military government. No one dares to go out. No one has seen Mousavi today. Rumor has it that they have arrested him. I don’t have an email but I will contact you again.

Help us.”


“This isn’t encouraging”:http://niacblog.wordpress.com/2009/06/14/election-unrest-day-two/:

According to our private phone conversations with people in Tehran, hundreds of parents have gathered by a police station in Yousef Abad, now known as Seyyed Jamal Aldin Asad Abadi, with their hands raised to the sky saying “Obama, please help us, they are killing our young children.”


The United States will not help. Senator Joe Lieberman, though, “at least thinks we should say something”:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/06/13/iran-demonstrations-viole_n_215189.html.

[T]hrough intimidation, violence, manipulation, and outright fraud, the Iranian regime has once again made a mockery of democracy, and confirmed its repressive and dictatorial character.

We as Americans have a responsibility to stand in solidarity with people when they are denied their rights by repressive regimes. When elections are stolen, our government should protest. When peaceful demonstrators are beaten and silenced, we have a duty to raise our voices on their behalf. We must tell the Iranian people that we are on their side.

For this reason, I would hope that President Obama and members of both parties in Congress will speak out, loudly and clearly, about what is happening in Iran right now, and unambiguously express their solidarity with the brave Iranians who went to the polls in the hope of change and who are now looking to the outside world for strength and support.


Policemen aren’t massacring civilians in the streets. At least not yet. The police are restrained. Who can say if their hearts even warm to policing right now? Take a look at the video below. Riot police officers ride into a crowd on motorcycles. The demonstrators set one of the bikes on fire, then help a wounded policeman to safety.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see some defections in the ranks of the police. But what about Hezbollah, the Revolutionary Guard, and the Basij Militia? It will take something extraordinary to get them to back down.


“Ardeshir Arian”:http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/iranians-protest-government-cracks-down/:

There are widespread reports of police and security forces, around Tehran and other big cities where there have been demonstrations, who are not Iranian and either speak Persian with a very pronounced Arab accent or speak no Persian at all.

I’ve read reports for a couple of years now that the regime hires Arabs as mercenaries from outside the country because it can’t even pay enough Iranians willing to suppress their countrymen.

Arian adds:

Reports are circulating that Venezuela has sent anti-riot troops to Tehran to help Ahmadinejad, joining Hezbollah members from Palestine and Lebanon who are employed by the Islamic government as anti-riot police — the reason such forces are being brought in is that some of the Iranian police are unwilling to hit people as ordered and some are even joining the protesters.

Maybe. It’s hard to separate fact from rumor right now.


The regime may well yet survive, at least for a while. I wouldn’t bet against it just yet.

Barry Rubin “nails the bottom line”:http://www.gloria-center.org/blog/2009/06/stealing-an-election.html if it does:

The only logical explanation for why the regime did this is that Ahmadinejad’s opponents got so many votes that it frightened the regime. It also shows that the regime is wedded to Ahmadinejad and his approach.

Is a regime that just committed itself irrevocably to the most extreme faction, most radical ideology, and most repressive control over the country going to compromise with the West on nuclear weapons or anything else?

Of course not, like Gamal Abdel Nasser in the 1960s, Syria’s rulers in the 1970s, and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in the 1980s (and many examples elsewhere in the world) it is going to use foreign adventurism and mobilizing hatred against the West and Israel to consolidate its hold on the country.


And finally, see my own piece just published in Commentary Magazine about the Islamic Republic regime in Iran: “An Enemy of the World”:http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/totten/69651.

Over the next couple of days I’ll be posting “regular updates and analysis at the Commentary Magazine blog”:http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/category/contentions/contentions?author_name=totten.


Stay tuned for another long dispatch from Iraq after the weekend. And if anyone feels like hitting my tip jar today, I promise not to get mad.


Subscribe to RSS - blogs