28 June 2009

Iran: the road ahead

With the regime's vicious crackdown over the last few days, the focus of the uprising has shifted from street protests to other strategies, the most significant of which (if it can be sustained) is the national strike. At the same time, the stakes have become higher, with the slogans shifting from "Where's my vote?" to "Death to the dictator!" This no longer is, if it ever really was, about who occupies the front-man "Presidency", nor about some reshuffling among the bearded holy men who hold the real power. It's about completely overthrowing a theocratic gangster-regime which has lost all claim to rule by anything other than naked force and fear.

This will take time. The revolution that brought down the Shah spanned months. But the regime cannot bring back the quiescent Iran that existed before June 11. As the thunderous nighttime shouts of Allâho akbar from the rooftops grow still louder, I'm reminded of Boris Yeltsin's quip: "You can build a throne out of bayonets, but you can't sit on it for long."

The internet, and specifically its decentralization of control over information, has transformed politics. Twitter and other internet tools have played a crucial role in organizing the resistance, and will continue to do so.

Then there were the blogs, from heavyweights like Sullivan and Totten and the Huffington Post to individual bloggers (many of them Iranians like Saeed Valadbaygi and Azarmehr), who have kept us up-to-date on the most earthshaking geopolitical event since 9-11, while the useless MSM blithered on with "full coverage" of Letterman-Palin and Michael Jackson and tomato-throwing contests, or at best focused on the internal maneuvering within the regime and barely discussed what was going on in the streets.

I've seen a couple of reports that some Basîj (government militia) members captured by the resistance turned out to be unable to speak Persian; they spoke only Arabic. There have been persistent rumors that the regime has brought in foreign enforcers to fight the uprising because its own army and police cannot be relied on to do so. If this is true, its days are numbered indeed.

Even so, it's important to remember the costs. Dozens (probably hundreds) have been killed, and many more arrested. While you are reading this, brave people are being tortured to force them to betray friends and allies. Be thankful that you live in a land where political activism does not carry such risks.

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