An Iranian opposition supporter next to a burning police motorcycle in Tehran. Amir Sadeghi, Getty Images
It is the rebellion that will not die. Yesterday, and today, Iranian opposition supporters clashed with riot police and pro-regime militia, leaving nine dead. One of those was Ali Mousavi, the nephew of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, slain in an apparent hit. The regime intensified its response today, arresting seven protest leaders and stealing Mousavi's corpse to prevent a funeral. Funerals for those slain in the protests have become a common rallying point for protests.
Many in the media are throwing around words like "tipping point" or "endgame" to describe the current situation. In a sharp editorial, The Guardian describes things thus:
It is fruitless to speculate whether a tipping point has been achieved by Iran's burgeoning opposition movement. But after the weekend's protest marches in which at least eight people and probably many more died, we do know that the movement is both exceptionally resilient and spreading. What started out as a loose-knit coalition of reformist groups led by defeated opposition candidates protesting rampant fraud in the presidential election is becoming bolder, more focused and angrier by the week. Many protesters on the streets of Tehran on Sunday did not even cover their faces in the videos uploaded to YouTube, as they did in the post-election protests six months ago. The crowds displayed great bravery, refusing to retreat under police baton charges and volleys of warning shots. The other feature of the internet clips was the scenes of policemen either being overwhelmed or giving up and walking away. The protest is also going national. Opposition websites reported clashes in Qom and seven other cities in central, northern and eastern Iran. None of this seems likely to melt away.
To engage for a moment in such speculation, I do think it's likely that the protests have crossed the Rubicon, so to speak, and the evidence of that lies not just in the protesters' courage but in the savagery of the regime's response. Risky steps like confiscating bodies and attacking on a religious holiday imply that Khamenei and Ahmadinejad see this fight as past the point of no return: they are desperate, believing that they must either crush the rebellion or be crushed themselves.
Ironically enough, the regime's own steps in the past few days seem to have made a reformist compromise or power-sharing deal not just unlikely, but impossible. The repression may also have sabotaged what legitimacy the regime has left. The leaders of fundamentalist, "revolutionary" regimes may often be cynical power players, but their followers contain enough true believers that violating religious taboos carries risks that it wouldn't for secular tyrants. Bludgeoning enemies of the cause is one thing; attacking people on a holy day and sabotaging a funeral is quite another. Riot police walking away in disgust doesn't bode well for the regime.
Many in the West stopped following the protests after the much-ballyhooed "Twitter Revolution" stage this summer. However, it's clear now that the post-election marches were simply the opening of a much larger, longer struggle.
The Twitter phase is largely past, and this fight rests, as ever, not on the West, but on the Iranian people. Still, there is something important everyone outside of Iran needs to keep in mind: the world is not a chessboard. It sure as shit ain't ours.
Yeah, I've said that before. Here's why I'm repeating it: on Dec. 23, just days before Iranians demonstrated, again, that they are not the faceless mass of fundamentalists depicted in the media, an editorial appeared in the New York Times calling, once again, for the bombing of Iran.
This extended column, by Alan J. Kuperman, a credential-laden dumbass director of the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Program at the University of Texas at Austin, argues for what has been a surprisingly consistent position among far too many of the "serious" foreign-policy elite. This position seemingly endures despite any political changes.
Ahmadinejad gets elected in 2005. Well shit, that means Iran is made of fanatics; we must bomb them. Wait, millions of Iranians are fighting tooth and nail against Ahmadinejad's coalition; we must bomb them.
This isn't foreign policy, it's dementia. The more I hear it, the more I believe that this has far more has to do with the desire of upper-class intellectuals for vicarious bloodshed than it does any serious attempt, however misguided, to make the world a better place.
Their views would be vastly improved by the added perspective of a blow to the face: a reminder that blood and pain are real, and they should think twice before blithely advocating slaughter.
The drumbeat to attack Iran is also something that, unlike the street battles in Tehran, we can do something about. The foreign policies of many nations have had a detrimental effect on the lives of the Iranian people, and those polices do originate on our shores. Instead of turning avatars green, we can press our representatives and governments to cut this bullshit, and we can start treating pieces like Kuperman's as the idiotic delusions that they are.