Saturday, June 13, 2009

Riots in Iran: Implications for U.S. Foreign Policy

Here's Borzou Daragahi's report from Tehran:

Huge swaths of the capital erupted in fiery riots that stretched into the early morning Sunday as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared victory in his quest for a second four-year term amid allegations of widespread fraud and a strident challenge of the vote results by his main challenger, who was reportedly placed under house arrest.

As Ahmadinejad promised a "bright and glorious future" for Iran in a televised address, supporters of his reformist rival Mir-Hossein Mousavi clashed with police and militiamen in riot gear and throughout Tehran in the most serious clashes in the capital since a student uprising 10 years ago.

Searing smoke and the smell of burning trash bins and tear gas filled the night sky. Protesters poured into key squares around the capital, burning tires, erecting banners and hurling stones at riot police on motorcycles, who responded with truncheons.

In the same streets and squares where young Iranians were dancing and waving green banners in support of Mousavi days ago, baton-wielding police chased and beat mobs of hundreds of demonstrators chanting, "Down with dictatorship!" and "Give me my vote back!

Official results released by the Interior Ministry, which is under the control of the incumbent president, showed Ahmadinejad with more than 63% of the vote, a surprise performance given turnout figures of 80% and city dwellers mostly opposed to Ahmadinejad massing in lines for hours. Mousavi received 35% of the vote, according to the results.

Both Mousavi and fellow reformist candidate Mehdi Karroubi strongly disputed the results in public statements.

Karroubi, a former speaker of parliament, called the results "engineered" and "ridiculous."

Mousavi, after security forces prevented journalists from attending an early afternoon news conference he tried to hold, released a statement alleging a conspiracy to manipulate the vote results, which he claimed showed he was the winner. "I will not submit to this dangerous charade," he insisted.

He had submitted a long list of alleged irregularities, including thousands of his poll monitors being barred from the voting stations, the previous night. Iran allows no independent observers to monitor the vote.

As the day drew to a close, both campaigns reported that the candidates were under house arrest. The offices of Mousavi and Karroubi had been shuttered earlier, as were affiliated websites that had emerged as critical information tools in the face of the Ahmadinejad camp's sway over state-controlled broadcasting.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, ignored the dispute over Friday's vote and hailed the 80% turnout as a great victory for the nation against the plots of its enemies.

"Your epic Friday was a striking and unprecedented event, in which the political growth, determined political visage and the civic capability and potential of the Iranian nation were beautifully and splendidly displayed before the eyes of the world," he said in a speech broadcast on state television.

Even as the results were released and effusively praised, demonstrators allied with Mousavi defied Iran's restrictions on unauthorized public gatherings and began setting fire to garbage bins and assembling in rowdy protests.

Many young protesters, some wearing surgical masks to guard against tear gas attacks, set fire to garbage bins and blocked traffic along several major streets as older Iranians stood along the sidelines cheering them on, occasionally joining in the chanting.

Passing drivers honked in support. A woman with her head scarf ripped off screamed defiantly at the stunned security officers who had just beaten her. Riot police chased demonstrators and some passersby down streets, beating and bloodying those who refused to move, and running off as the demonstrators fought back with rocks.

Shopkeepers urged panicked pedestrians into their stores for protection, in one instance locking the gate as a group of black-clad truncheon-wielding riot police approached menacingly.
The blogosphere has erupted in response to the news.

Check the New York Times, "
Protests Roil Tehran After Disputed Vote." And especially, Fox News, "Iran's Controversial Election Results Raises Questions Over Its Relations to U.S."

John Podhoretz discusses the implications:
For more than a decade, we’ve been hearing about the real Iran—the one whose youth is Westernized, desirous of connection with the United States, and tired of living in a theocracy. It’s too soon to know whether the protests today in Iran represent the fruition of the ideas about popular sentiment and the possibility of an uprising. But it is clear that this is a time of testing for the idea that the mullahcracy can be shaken to its foundations by an aggrieved populace. If it can’t, then the regime will prove itself stronger than some of its most heated critics say it is, and the world will have to adjust accordingly. If this is Tienanmen II, and the regime crushes it, there will be no easy approach to regime change. And there will be no pretending any longer that Iran’s regime isn’t a unified, hardline, irridentist, and enormously dangerous one.
See also the Foreign Policy blogs, especially The Cable and Passport. Wayne White writes:
I question the prudence of simply plowing ahead on engagement as if nothing has changed the potential state of play between Tehran and Washington ...
Meanwhile, while American officials* are "shocked" at the results, the administration will continue full steam ahead, "Obama Administration Officials Say Efforts to Engage Iran Will Move Forward."

* Correction appended.


cracker said...

Dat's what I'm talkin bout!

"Strategy Rock, strategy!"

cracker said...

Also, follow that "shocked" link...get past the goof at AS.....and you'll find the referrence is not to the Obama admin. but to analysts floored at Ahmadinijad, he didnt merely tilt the man went full on and declared a landslide!.....

Basically telling all Iranians to go "F" themselves!please go back to sleep.....I'm still Lovin it!

Its gonna be a long weekend, its gonna boil through Sunday, with a massive demonstration....its gonna look like tianemmen square.....troops , the whole 9...but its gonna end differently....but how how how...(thats my prediction fellas) odds anyone?

Mark Harvey said...

The mug shot reminds of the eyeglass holders in the movie The Jerk. Appropriate.

Tom the Redhunter said...

Here's another thought; for the past few years we've been assured by liberals that "Ahmadinejad isn't the real power so we don't need to worry about his rantings."

Now it looks like he cheated his way to an election victory. Surely this could not have happened without at least the tacit approval of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Assembly of Experts. So maybe they do approve of his rantings after all.

Also, as Podhoretz says, this is a time of testing. All too often the United States stands back and lets democracy protesters be crushed. Witness 1956/Hungary, 1968/Czechoslovakia, and 2003/Iran. George HW Bush let Saddam massacre the Shiites in Iraq after the first Gulf War.

Time for us to go all out for regime change. I hope we're pulling out all the stops behind the scenes.

I doubt it, though.


cracker said...

Are you kidding me Tom! this is to good to be true....but there can be no mistakes....

If Any connection is made of American interrupton....the game is lost and we're the bad guys aaaagain. However there are a Shi-ite ton (Get it! Harvey the analyst might)...of Iranian expats here in the US who are, texting, email the folks back in Iran.....How do I know.....One of the engineers I work with has been here for 10 years...there is a real viable movement...The Iranians dont have near the control of media the way the Chinese did.....again, my predictions.

AmPowerBlog said...

Cracker: Post is corrected, but ... you're really off the charts in your comments. This is NOT good for the U.S., or for international relations. We need to cut off diplomatic ties, at least in the short term ... especially if there was major loss of life.

Reliapundit said...


Rusty Walker said...

Tom, I wish you were right, but with a Democratic congress and a timid president the U.S. will not do anything. Ahmadinejad is controlled and backed by the Ayatollah. We in the United States tend to want to project our basic optimism onto our enemies. Instead we need to see what is before us, not what we think they might be (read – Obama’s "hope" strategy). The strong show of Iranian youth riots are no match for their military resolve. This regime is nothing short of a fascist, theocratic, totalitarian government that will exact iron-clad control, no less than Saddam Hussein did in Iraq. Our American president, Barak Hussein Obama, is too much in an American-media-comfort-zone trance to move into action, or even sic Secretary Clinton on Iran. We, as a nation, have a pattern of attributing humanistic qualities to our enemies that don’t exist – Iran is on a path of destruction, maybe even self-destruction, that must be stopped by the only means that the government understands – a military strike on nuclear targets. Waiting for the youth movement to overturn this religious fundamentalist state will be a bloody long wait.

cracker said...

Rusty.....go have a drink, get a hooker...chill for a minute :)
Goddamn man.... do you think McDonalds invented fast Food AND fast Policy
.....Lets Lay Low and quiet....Ahrminadinajad ...(thats after two bottles of wine) has Got to keep it together.......and this is big ...Really big...Sure he's got the "Modesty Guard" ... and it may be students versus soldiers in the end...(man I hope its at a mosque)... but the world IS watchin... and I gotta say...we have a new, fresh set of eyes watchin it all go down...we are in the catbird seat... so shut up keep your head down ....and wait man, jus wait...

cracker said...

SHIT and if Reliapundit is correct and Mousavi is under arrest....fuel to the s where all the talk comes back in aint cool,funny or sucks. Lets see, lets see...damn. Its part of the holy land maybe Ahrmadinajad will step back?

Dennis said...

I think one needs to slow down and cool their enthusiasm for what appears to be happening in Iran. Guns and people who are willing to use them without remorse to hold on to power can put this on hold for quite a long time.
The fact that the government is more afraid of its own people than of us says a couple of things, one good and the other not so good. Here I believe that Rusty has it right that Obama's fecklessness only aids the mullahs. As I have stated before politicians understand politicians and have already sized up Obama as a poser who, because of his political stances and base, could not use force if he wanted to do so. And I seriously doubt that the Obama administration, after gutting the parts of government that could aid the people who were in the streets, would aid them at all except with weasel words. Much hot air with no substantive value.
Obama has proven on several occasions that he cannot be trusted to stand by the friends of the US. One only needs to look at his actions in regard to Israel, England, France, Germany, et al to note a very dangerous pattern of appeasement. Obama is looking more like Clement Atley( sp,) with all the attendant disasters that are waiting in the wings for an unprepared nation run by an increasingly unprepared leadership.
As much as I admire Cracker's enthusiasm I believe it is misplaced because of the government we currently have in place. I don't doubt that large numbers of us would like to see regime change here, but I do not hold much hope.
If you cannot keep your implied promises to your own constituents then it is not likely you will keep them where the people are far removed from you.

The Limerick Avenger said...

Mahmoud really lost the election
This cake is not his confection
That the votes were unkind
He really did mind
So he faked away his big rejection.