Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Iran heating up 

Lots of goings-on in Iran...

First, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini is opposing a postponement of the February 20th parliamentary elections, from which nearly 2,500 reformist candidates have been banned.

"The leader insisted that elections must be held on Feb. 20 under any circumstances," Mazrouei, who has been barred by hard-liners from running in the polls, said.

The meeting between Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, and the embattled president was seen as a last chance to ease Iran's worst political crisis in years.
The reformers have threatened to boycott the election if it is held. They have made good on their past threats, so it's likely they'll stick to their guns on this one as well. They haven't given up on a postponement, though, having asked President Mohammad Khatami to push for a delay.

"We insisted on two demands: Elections must be postponed and all candidates disqualified illegally must be reinstated," IRNA quoted vice speaker Khatami, who also was disqualified, as saying.
If the demands are not met, and it's not likely they will be, it's hard to say what will happen. But to call the situation volatile would be an understatement.

Meanwhile, we finally hear from the students, who normally lead the way on protests, but who have been largely silent during the electoral crisis. They have threatened to boycott classes if the election is held without the reformist candidates, and have planned a demonstration, which was, of course, quickly banned.

The more I hear about this, the more convinced I become that things could get very ugly in Iran. Seventeen days until the election...

UPDATE: Jason Broander is doing a great job blogging the Iranian crisis, and once again comes through with good analysis, examining the possible outcomes.

If the moderates do not back down, and continue to let their voices be heard through print and protest, will the clerics crush a student protest (ala Tiananmen Square) or will one of two things happen: will the government refuse to use force, and therefore let the whirlwind sweep them out of power like when the Berlin Wall fell and the USSR collapsed, or will perhaps the police and military refuse to crush the moderates (ala Petrograd and Red October, when the Czars personal guard refused to fire on the crowds in the streets) and either turn against their masters or sit the conflict out?
All of the above are possible, but my gut says "Tiananmen." I don't see the clerics giving up power without a fight, and while there are dissenters in the ranks, the security apparatus is too closely tied to the regime to sit this one out. I hope I'm wrong, but I'm not optimistic.

On the other hand, it appears that the regime is at least a little concerned about military loyalty and resorted to foreigners for help in putting down the student protests last July.

Time will tell.
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