Photo from Tehran 24's excellent roundup
The Green Revolution, so the conventional wisdom went, had passed. After almost a solid month of upheaval, it seemed as if the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad faction in Iran's government had managed to brutally suppress the democratic uprising. The internet memes had died down.
I had my doubts. Revolutions don't happen overnight, and certainly not on a media-friendly timeline. Despite the show trials and crackdowns, many of the leaders and protesters remained free. I figured (hoped, even) that a great deal was going on behind the scenes, that the regime had lost most of its legitimacy (the lifeblood of any power structure) and as soon as there was an opening, it would be proven that this far from over.
Along comes Friday. Qods Day, an event the regime, for political reasons, couldn't very well cancel. Still, there were dire warnings that protests would be dealt with very harshly.
It didn't work. The crowds were massive, angry and uncowed. They wore green.
A useful roundup of the day reveals the slogans are getting more militant (not surprising after the crackdown) and the response from the Basij militia more violent, even going so far as to attack former President Mohammad Khatami (the crowd drove them off).
Right now it's hard to tell what this all means. We over here in the West like our dramas neat and telegenic; the reality is anything but. It's unlikely that the current regime will be swept out of power by the street demonstrations, vital as they are. What will probably end up playing the decisive role are behind the scenes fractures within the regime and the war of attrition being fought in the streets. From where we sit it's impossible to really know a damn thing about either.
This is still excellent news for any supporter of the basic freedoms the Green Movement has united behind. The long game here is not in the ruling faction's favor. The military has remained largely neutral, leaving them to rely on the Basij militia. Further, they seem incapable of totally crushing the opposition, but unwilling to cut a deal or try to co-opt it in another way. So this is going to go on for a long, long time. Public holiday? Protests. Show trial? Protests. Forty day mourning mark for a Green martyr? Protests.
Each one is going to keep the anger dialed up, and each crackdown will possibly bring new converts. RIght now the regime's tactics are right out of the Shah's playbook. They would do well to remember his fate.