Rioting in Tehran Saturday is shown in the above video. Protests are quickly developing into an insurrection. The Iranian government is using brutal force to suppress the dissidents, but reports from Iran clearly indicate that the situation is moving well beyond the ability of the government to suppress it without massive bloodshed. The Guardian has an hour by hour account of the events yesterday here. Nico Pitney here has been doing yeoman work in covering the crackdown at the Huffington Post. Ed Morrissey here has been doing his usual fine work covering breaking events at Hot Air.
President Obama’s attitude is stiffening toward the Iranian government:
“The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.
As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion.
Martin Luther King once said – “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I believe that. The international community believes that. And right now, we are bearing witness to the Iranian peoples’ belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness.”
Update I: The latest update on the situation in Iran as of Monday morning June 22 is here. I think the warning from the Revolutionary Guards is significant. The need for the warning might indicate that the Iranian regime is beginning to verge on panic mode.
Update II: Reza Aslan has an insightful article here at the Daily Beast as to how “the Supreme Leader” of Iran, Ali Khamenei, converted a protest into a revolution by deciding to back to the hilt Ahmadinejad and thereby destroying in the eyes of many Iranians any credibility to have a divine mandate to rule Iran. Nothing like trying to fix an election to convince most people that God has nothing to do with a regime holding on to power with a death grip
Update III: The Guardian Council of Iran, ruled Tuesday that there will be no revote. Rumors on twitter yesterday that there will be a General Strike today in Iran to protest the election fraud. We shall see.
Update IV: General Ali Fazli, commander of the Revolutionary Guards in the province of Tehran, has been arrested for refusing to carry out orders to use force against protesters.
So, what does it all mean?
1. Modern technology makes it much more difficult today than it was in China in 1989 for a government to end a threatening movement through a bloodbath. Twitter and cellphones make it much easier for dissidents to coordinate their efforts. It is much harder for the government to control the flow of information internally. Externally it is well nigh impossible for the news of a government crack down not to flood the internet in real time.
2. These protests are not limited to Tehran, but have spread throughout Iran which means that Ahmadinejad and his mullah puppet-masters have a huge problem. When an insurrection is no longer geographically limited, it is much harder to defeat and the entire nation sees in its own streets that the government is tottering.
3. There are reports, and I pray they are accurate, of police and Revolutionary Guard units refusing to fire on the protesters. If true this will have a devastating impact on the morale of the police, para-military and military units charged with the suppression. The men in those units begin to wonder if they will soon be fighting their comrades, and whether they could end up subject to vengeance from victorious dissidents if the government is toppled.
4. Based on what I have read I think thus far the regular Iranian army has not been fully deployed against the dissidents. That could be significant. The Iranian regime could doubt the loyalty of the regular army if even some Revolutionary Guard units have refused to fire. The Iranian generals have a lot to think about. If a brigade sized unit, about five thousand men, were to announce support for the dissidents, the regime could face civil war in hours. If some general is willing to roll the dice, and risk being dead very quickly, he could be a very important player in a new Iran. There is little love lost between the regular army and the Revolutionary Guards, so a move by the army may happen if it appears clear that the regime simply cannot suppress the insurrection quickly, say within the next three days.
5. The dissidents thus far do not appear to be cowed. They are angrier than they are scared. If the Iranian regime wishes to defeat them they will quickly have to turn some of the major cities of Iran into full-fledged battlefields, and hope that their troops remain loyal. The type of measures they have adopted thus far clearly are not working.
6. On the lunatic side, Frank Schaeffer takes the occasion of the Iranian crackdown to warn the nation against the evil “Republican Mullahs” here. The man is his own parody.
7. Whether a new government that comes out of this turmoil will be a vast improvement over the mullahs, who can say. But the Iranian dissidents, by the courage they have shown, may well give their country an opportunity to take a new, and I hope much better, path.