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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Iran: more repression « Previous | |Next »
June 25, 2009

It is increasingly obvious that the Islamic regime in Iran is transforming into a dictatorship as it increasingly turns to repression to deal with civil disobedience, and clamps down on the opposition. The attempted silencing of dissent is now Iran’s everyday currency. As Juan Cole states:

By stealing the election for Ahmadinejad, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has effectively made a coup on behalf of the clerical sphere in alliance with lay hard liners, which threatens to virtually abolish the sphere of popular sovereignty. That is what Mousavi and Karroubi and their followers are objecting to so vehemently. The reformers are saying that the regime has just moved toward really being a totalitarian state and is now removing any space for dissent.

Though this is the largest popular uprising that country has seen since 1979, it does not herald the imminent collapse of the current theocratic regime.

RowsonRAyatolla Khameni.jpg Martin Rowson

The neocons are arguing that the protesting Iranians we see on our TV screens and computer monitors have gone far beyond demonstrating about a stolen election. They want to dump the current regime, turn their backs on radical Islam and install a Bush-era Middle East secular democracy. Bush redeemed. 'Something Must be Done' they say.

These calls for a more proactive U.S. stance by the Right ignore that the memories of the U.S. role (CIA) in the Mossadegh coup--ie helped the UK to overthrow the elected government of Iran in 1953 over oil nationalization----fresh in the national consciousness of almost all Iranians still. The neocon account implies that Obama should proclaim that Moussavi was America’s candidate, and that the US is firmly pitching its tent alongside his.

What would that do for the protesters on the ground, and the larger reform movement in Iran? In nationalist Iran today, if someone is successfully tagged as an agent of foreign interests, it is the political kiss of death.Moreover, as Juan Cole points out:

Obama will likely be as helpless before a crackdown by the Iranian regime as Eisenhower was re: Hungary in 1956, Johnson was re: Prague in 1968, and Bush senior was re: Tiananmen Square in 1989.George W. Bush, it should be remembered, did nothing about Tehran's crackdown on student protesters in 2003 or about the crackdown on reformist candidates, which excluded them from running in the 2004 Iranian parliamentary elections, or about the probably fraudulent election of Ahmadinejad in 2005.

What is unclear is whether the clerical regime of Ayatollah Khamenei as a totalitarian state can generate change from within. The rhetoric at this stage is that the "enemies" of the Islamic republic are threatening its existence; that "resistance" to these is essential; and that President Ahmadinejad and his allies represent the strongest force to defend the regime.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:17 AM | | Comments (10)


Francis Fukuyama, one of the original neocon icons, disowned neocon foreign policy partly because of the stupid assumptions it made about what other people think/want. Luckily for Iran and the US, the neocons are now irrelevant.

yeah they are on the margins in the US and Australia but not in Israel, which works with the neocons.

The current Likud Government under Netanyahu continues to portray Iran as a nation of wild-eyed revolutionary fanatics, led by Holocaust-denying zealots who openly crave martyrdom and would therefore be willing to fire nuclear weapons at other countries even if it led to their own destruction. So there is a need to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities in a preventative strike.

Richard Silverstein in The Guardian says that Netanyahu has been on US TV screens praising the Iranian demonstrators for unmasking the true terrorist nature of the Iranian regime and yearning for freedom. He points out that in doing so:

he conflated two issues which no Iranian ever would. He attempted to transform Iran's reformers into counter-revolutionaries who would turn their back on Iran's foreign commitments supporting Israel's enemies in Gaza and Lebanon. In effect, he has co-opted the demonstrators and turned them into Israel's ally. If anyone in Iran were to believe Bibi, the opposition would be dead.

But for Bibi it makes little difference. If the opposition wins, he wins, since it may change Iran's policy. And if the opposition loses, Bibi still wins because the more bloodshed in Teheran, the more favourably the world will view Israel's case for regime change (or at least a massive bombing campaign against nuclear facilities). In fact, as far as the Israeli right is concerned, if the opposition loses, it will be better for them. That's why they care very little how much damage they do to its cause with such ill-advised statements.

The pro-Israeli lobby in the US is worried that the civil unrest in Iran has derailed their ongoing political campaign against Iran's nuclear programme

Israel is also irrelevant to what's going on in Iran at the moment. Israel has no bearing on the public legitimacy of the Iranian election or Iran's current power configuration, whether Israel likes to think it does or not.

I'm pretty sure that Iranian people having the crap beaten out of them by militias are not being kept awake at night worrying over Israel. I'm pretty sure the powers that be in Iran are more concerned with domestic issues than with Israel right now.

Also, the US is keeping Israel busy over the settlements issue. Somebody, don't know which side, pulled out of scheduled talks between the US and Israel. That's not the chummy US/Israel relationship Israel relies on to back up its threats.

you are quite right re the Israeli thing. What is happening in Iran--a political crisis--- is the result of a multidimensional internal dynamic for greater freedom and reform by younger Iranians---post 1978---who are utilizing the global communications technology in a very creative and effective way.

However, I am going to stand by my view that Israeli is actively fostering, and keeping alive, the neocon discourse in the US and in Israel. The US neocons and the Israeli government work hand in hand in fostering this discourse. This is directed at attacking Iran to prevent it from becoming a dominant regional power, no matter who wins the power struggle within the theocratic state.

The US has a long-term involvement in the region, given the overarching importance of the Persian Gulf region and its oil reserves; Iraq alone has nearly four times the reserves of the entire United States including Alaska. Iran sits on a sea of oil and natural gas--more than Iraq. Oil is important in American strategic thinking about Iran since Iran is certain to play a key role in the global energy equation, no matter what else occurs.

Violence is increasing in Iraq as US troops are drawn down, whilst the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan is getting worse. So the US do need to talk to Iran rather than take on another war, as is advocated by the neocons.

However, relaxing international tensions is associated with the heritage of the Bush doctrine; namely, sanctions against Iran's economy (for the neocons these are designed to squeeze Iran's economy); American Special Forces (or Kurdish agents) moving in and out of Iran; Iranian air-space infringement and air-defense testing on the part of American unmanned aircraft.

The neocons see their mission as one of pushing the United States toward a showdown with Iran.For the neocons talk is a cover for action (any talks will necessarily fail) to contain a nuclear Iran. Containment requires a show of force in the region. Such action would certainly require permanent U.S. bases spread widely in the region, including in Iraq.

Michael Klare spells out the strategic dynamic for an imperial power:

When considering Iran's role in the global energy equation, therefore, Bush administration officials have two key strategic aims: a desire to open up Iranian oil and gas fields to exploitation by American firms, and concern over Iran's growing ties to America's competitors in the global energy market. Under U.S. law, the first of these aims can only be achieved after the President lifts EO 12959, and this is not likely to occur as long as Iran is controlled by anti-American mullahs and refuses to abandon its uranium enrichment activities with potential bomb-making applications. Likewise, the ban on U.S. involvement in Iranian energy production and export gives Tehran no choice but to pursue ties with other consuming nations. From the Bush administration's point of view, there is only one obvious and immediate way to alter this unappetizing landscape -- by inducing "regime change" in Iran and replacing the existing leadership with one far friendlier to U.S. strategic interests.

Iran is a regional threat that American neocons are most determined to eliminate. That is what Obama has inherited. He has to tread carefully in responding to what is happening in Iran now.

I think most neo-con commentators are simply engaging in their time-honoured tactic of criticising Obama's actions using deductive logic about how much better things would have turned out if only he had done something else. Since this kind of reasoning is inherently non-falsifiable, they can go on with it forever and show every sign of intending to.

Albrechtsen's puff piece is in the same mould. Any links between events in Iran and the US occupation of Iraq are wildly speculative and incapable of proof. People will therefore draw the conclusions that suit their own ideologies and present them as fact.

The neo-cons are still locked into fantasies of a New American Century in which they exercise global dominion through the exercise of raw power. Since Obama is completely unsympathetic to their cause, they loathe him with a frenzied passion. Their obsession is to bring him down and clear the way for another president who will resume the march to achieve America's Manifest Destiny.

If follows that their response to the Iranian events is all about getting domestic political mileage. They couldn't give a stuff about Iranians. A year ago they were all in favour of bombing the crap out of these same people about whose suffering they now weep contemptible crocodile tears.

So what if the war of aggression against Iraq cost over half-a-million civilian lives (and displaced millions...? Just imagine how many lives it SAVED!!! Or something like that.

One thing is clear. It's never been about securing the welfare of the "locals". NEVER.

"However, I am going to stand by my view that Israeli is actively fostering, and keeping alive, the neocon discourse in the US and in Israel."

I wouldn't argue with that. It's not going too well for them at the moment though. Damn democracies and the power of popular opinion.

Given the video, twitterings and so on coming out of Iran, Palestinians could do with decent internet coverage and a laptop per child program. Lobbing video at YouTube is more effective than lobbing missiles over borders.

Not sure if it would be as useful for the Palestinians.

The "official" view of Palestinian resistance isn't anywhere near as flexible as the "official" angle on the Iranian people.

Palestinians have been cast as the villains for decades.

"Palestinians have been cast as the villains for decades."

Easily done when your villains can't speak for themselves. Imagine the video and twitter streams that the recent thumping in Gaza would have generated.