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Christian

What's Happening in Iran

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I complained loudly about Andrew Sullivan's blogging during the last election cycle -- and since -- but the guy's done a huge service with his live-tweeting of what he's dubbed "the revolution" in Iran. I hope that's what it is.

Must-reading.

Edited by Christian

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And it would seem that the U.S.'s response is casual at best. It would be nice if the Administration or at least the State Department would put out a clear message of democratic solidarity at the very minimum. I don't "do" network news. Any net covering it? Anyone other than Fox covering on cable? Busy day today. I haven't watched any news at all.

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Not seeing much news out there, Rich. Seems that the media is following Obama's lead in kind of ignoring it. (WSJ article very critical of Obama's response here.) I check in every now and then via Twitter search with #iranelection, there have been a lot of photos of today's giant rally.

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Somebody help me understand: How desirable... for Iran and for the world... is the triumph of the opposition in this case?

I know that result is unlikely. But while the pictures are inspiring, is the man they want in charge a preferable candidate? I read a report that said there's next-to-zero difference in policy between the two men. With the mountains of material being published right now, what should I read on this subject?

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The one thing Obama has said very clearly is that the new candidate wouldn't make much of a difference in terms of foriegn policy. I have yet to run across someone saying otherwise.

But then I am having a hard time squaring this with the way this current protest looks like what we have been hearing for so long about how younger Iranians are far more amenable to the West. Like you, I would be far more inspired by the protest if I new more about Iranian politics, and if someone would write more definitive editorial on what a regime change would really mean.

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From what I've been able to find out from analysis (not actual news), there isn't too much difference between the candidates to begin with. The mullahs are the real power. What has everyone excercised is the dispatch with which the election was certified despite suspicions of fraud. Iran has not had problems with election fraud in the past, but there has been great suspicion with this election. NPR reported this morning that journalists are essentially on lockdown and the government is monitoring cell phones and internet use. Landlines are not as easy to monitor right now.

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Both the NY Times and the BBC on line news site are providing very good coverage.

Here is a good summary from the BBC about the implications and history: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8106211.stm

How the candidates would differ in the relationship with the US may not be that different...but within Iran it seems the difference in quite large, especially if you're a woman or middle class. In short, you should care what happens. It could very well affect us. Remember back when nobody knew where Iraq was? Also there is the whole dimension about what this means for Christians in Iran. There are some there, mostly underground...

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Quite by chance (or Providence?), my long-ago request for Persepolis at the public library just came through. I hope to watch it sometime in the next week. Seems like a timely choice.

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Here is a good summary from the BBC about the implications and history: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8106211.stm

Still not much specifically about what distinguishes the two candidates. There is a little bit here in terms of how it would shift the power base. There are some fairly dramatic points made in this video ad for a different reform candidate.

Very helpful primer here.

Edited by MLeary

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MLeary wrote:

: The one thing Obama has said very clearly is that the new candidate wouldn't make much of a difference in terms of foriegn policy. I have yet to run across someone saying otherwise.

To western foreign policy, or to Iran's? I know Mark Steyn and others on the right have said that it doesn't make much of a difference which of these candidates wins in the end, as far as Iran's nuclear program or its approach to Israel is concerned; in Steyn's words, there appears to be "bipartisan" consensus on those points over there. So, by extension, I guess you could argue that Steyn et al. might agree with Obama on that point.

But there might be other issues where it does make a difference, no? It has been argued that Bush pitched his appeals to the democratic sensibilities of the Iranian public (however receptive they may or may not have been), whereas Obama has tried to befriend the ruling establishment class (the mullahs, etc.) ... so if it turns out, now, that the ruling establishment class is deeply unpopular with the people, then that could backfire on Obama fairly badly. Hence, Obama is now saying it makes no difference, he's equally okay (or not-okay, whichever) with whoever wins in the end, etc.

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But there might be other issues where it does make a difference, no? It has been argued that Bush pitched his appeals to the democratic sensibilities of the Iranian public (however receptive they may or may not have been), whereas Obama has tried to befriend the ruling establishment class (the mullahs, etc.) ... so if it turns out, now, that the ruling establishment class is deeply unpopular with the people, then that could backfire on Obama fairly badly. Hence, Obama is now saying it makes no difference, he's equally okay (or not-okay, whichever) with whoever wins in the end, etc.

Apparently, according to the BBC and others, the current crises reflects a schism within the ruling class as well. This will make whatever happens very interesting -- and it could go many different ways.

The problem for the US is, if it takes a side, and the opposition within Iran is associated with the US, anyone in the ruling class joining them will be seen as a traitor. In the past, this is exactly what has happened and has allowed the regime to come down very hard on two previous large scale pro-liberaltization protest movements. So Obama's stance...of neutrality...is actually pretty good statesmanship.

Edited by Harris-Stone

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The problem for the US is, if it takes a side, and the opposition within Iran is associated with the US, anyone in the ruling class joining them will be seen as a traitor. In the past, this is exactly what has happened and has allowed the regime to come down very hard on two previous large scale pro-liberaltization protest movements. So Obama's stance...of neutrality...is actually pretty good statesmanship.

But if there is little policy difference between the two sides, there is limited utility to supporting the faction in power in that little would be lost. However, would there be any profit in aiding and helping shape the perspective on the U.S. among the members of the democratic faction? What is the best of all possible worlds here? I'm not talking about talking the faction into diplomatic relations with us and Israel. We don't HAVE diplomatic relations with Iran right now. Despite policy similarities to the present regime, would the individuals among the opposition be reasonable and more responsible in rhetoric and policy implementation? I wouldn't say that doing nothing can be called statesmanship. Controlled waiting maybe.

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Harris-Stone wrote:

: The problem for the US is, if it takes a side, and the opposition within Iran is associated with the US, anyone in the ruling class joining them will be seen as a traitor. In the past, this is exactly what has happened and has allowed the regime to come down very hard on two previous large scale pro-liberaltization protest movements. So Obama's stance...of neutrality...is actually pretty good statesmanship.

Well, in general, I would agree that American presidents shouldn't be throwing their weight around in the elections of other countries; I think your presidents have been fairly good at remaining neutral in, say, Canadian elections, at least in my lifetime.

But you don't want to carry that principle too far. If terrorism is evil, then even a democratically elected terrorist regime needs to be opposed, e.g. Hamas in Palestine. The fact that an evil regime is elected democratically does not make it any less evil -- and if the public at large puts it there, then that, too, can help to clarify just what sort of opposition we are dealing with.

In the case of Iran, I don't know enough about the other side to say whether it's any better than the current regime (and of course, the deeper problem here is that the mullahs are ultimately the ones who run the show, quite separate from any of the elected figures).

But I don't know if Obama can be credited with "pretty good" anything at the moment. Reversing Bush's policy and appealing to the established rulers rather than the people they are ruling is a dodgy prospect to begin with. And now, filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf, who is standing up for the "moderate" candidate in Iran, has criticized Obama for saying that there is no difference between the two candidates:

Obama has said that there is no difference between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi. Does he like it himself [when someone is] saying that there is no difference between Obama and [George W.] Bush? Ahmadinejad is the Bush of Iran. And Mousavi is the Obama of Iran.

Of course, if Obama continues to disappoint the likes of Makhmalbaf, then Makhmalbaf and his cohorts may wish to retract that comparison.

Meanwhile, I hear that the other side is already accusing Obama of meddling in the election anyway.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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Just wondering, is anybody else bothered by the haste with which some people are citing that woman named "Neda" as a martyr for the cause, and calling this movement "Neda's Revolution", etc.? If a teenaged girl really WAS killed by the authorities, then that is sad and regrettable of course, and cause for further protests. But if our experience with e.g. Palestine has taught us nothing else, it is that we cannot always trust the martyr iconography that comes out of these Middle Eastern hotspots, not even when it seems to be backed up by video recordings. (And of course, closer to home, we have alleged myths like the "She said 'Yes'" girl who was killed at Columbine, etc.)

I don't like to make that point, when the martyr in question appears to be on "our side". But the point needs to be made, even so.

- - -

Iran and North Korea growing crises

MS: No, you know, the interesting thing is that this is the death of Obama

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