Despite early predictions that the Iranian protests against the election results would fairly quickly run out of steam, the marches and rallies bravely continue 1 and the calls for a re-election vote persist.
Several issues have emerged. Firstly, the internet media, in particular twitter, have played an important role in publicising and maintaining momentum for what is going on in Iran, despite official efforts to block traditional sources of communication. The people are now the providers of news, not just the consumers.1
Secondly, the ongoing protests have increasingly led to eyes on exactly how President Obama is responding, and how he should respond to the situation. While one would think that he would naturally be strongly supportive of popular sentiment and openness, Obama has been disappointingly cautious, in a way that may lessen his US domestic support and his Western leadership role.1 Israeli politicians such as Ehud Barak have also tended to downplay the power of the protests, suggesting that the policies regarding nuclear development are not very different between Mousavi and Ahmadinejad. 1
Thirdly, increased attention is being shown to exactly what is happening to the power structure of Iran. For instance, Robert Baer, in a fascinating analysis in the New Republic, states that “Iran is not a theocracy. It is a military dictatorship headed by Khamenei and advised by a coterie of generals from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Army, as well as hard-liners in the secret police. Ahmadinejad is little more than the spokesman for this group. He may have a say in the day-to-day management of the economy and other parts of Iranian administration–but all important decisions, particularly those related to Iran’s national security, including rigging presidential elections, are made by Khamenei.” He goes on to discuss Khamenei’s strengths and weaknesses, concluding that there is instability. It remains uncertain how things will pan out 1, with the possibility of a severe crackdown in the next day or two by the powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
Arutz Sheva has highlighted a positive connection between Israel and Iran. Iranian-born Israeli Jews have established a Persian language broadcast from Tel Aviv. The goal is to provide a link to Persian culture and create a shared ground between Iranians and Israelis, as reported here.
For outsiders looking in at Iran, there appear to be 2 major questions. Firstly, do we support the Iranian green protest movement; and secondly, if yes, how can we be best supportive.
In answer to the first question, the answer must surely be YES. While Mousavi may well have been responsible for the Iranian move to nuclear power, and been involved in suppressive activity, the protests are bigger than him, and Mousavi is now primarily the symbol of a vast popular movement against the repressive and economically ruinous activities of Ahmadinejad and the regime. Mousavi’s wife is also a powerful symbol for womens rights. The opposition, widely supported by the Iranian middle class youth, appears to call for a more open society within a Muslim framework, and for Iran to lose its pariah status and rejoin the world ranks (see here). Undercutting the radical element of the current leadership could have major global benefits, including for Israel. For us and our governments to no be supportive would be to ignore the cries of people longing for freedoms that we take for granted..and indeed would devalue these freedoms.
The answer to the second question, how best to support the movement, remains less clear. The most basic level would be moral support – to send emails and other expressions, encourage Iranian colleagues, wear green – Sunday is supposed to be the day for global support – and attend supportive rallies. A second more organisational level would be for communication networks to help ensure that tweeter, websites, internet and other media are able to stay on-line, and that the activities are well reported. A third level would be governmental. Here, it is clearly more complex; where governments must be guided in part by what the Iranian opposition itself want, and what would be helpful. In addition, both US and Israel do not want to provide excuses for the Iranian powers to attribute the protests to “interfering” outside “enemies” which could be harmful. On the other hand, all of the Western world would significantly gain by an Iranian transition to a more open and less radical Iranian leadership. This dilemma, where variables are changing over time, is being discussed at length in the media. Meanwhile, one senses that a climax in Iran will occur in the next couple of days.