Have you heard about the unrest in Iran yet? It’s an invisible uprising that doesn’t pull a lot of news coverage, at least not yet. Iranian demonstrators held big rallies today in Tehran and Isfahan, Iran’s capital and third-largest city, respectively.
The ruling tyrants decided to skip the long contest of wills that played out in Egypt’s Tahrir Square, and skipped right to the oppressive crackdown. It was less colorful, since Iranian goons ride motorcycles instead of camels, but it has resulted in dozens of arrests and the violent dispersion of thousands of demonstrators. The current weather in Tehran is 41 degrees and partly cloudy, with the clouds being composed of tear gas. There have also been scattered showers of paintball pellets.
The opposition leaders, including the guy who actually won the last Iranian election, Mirhossein Mousavi, are already under house arrest. The UK Telegraph reports that Mousavi wanted to join the protests with his wife, but the police stopped him, then thoughtfully cut the phone lines to his house.
Amnesty International was quick to condemn these tactics, calling them “the latest in a series of moves by the authorities aimed at blocking the work of activists and stifling dissent.”
The Iranian government made a lot of noise about supporting the Egyptian protests that dethroned President Hosni Mubarak. When Iranian dissidents pointed out this hypocrisy, the Interior Ministry sniffed, “These elements are fully aware of the illegality of their demands, and know that they won’t get permission for revolt.” Damn! And I was so certain the enlightened Iranian regime was on the verge of granting permission for a nice revolt. Looks like the forces of democracy are checkmated again!
White House reaction to the events in Iran has been as muted as American media coverage. As reported by Fox News, last Thursday a national security spokesman glumly observed, “For all of its empty talk about Egypt, the government of Iran should allow the Iranian people the same universal right to peacefully assemble and demonstrate in Tehran that the people are exercising in Cairo.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeated this clever bit of “gotcha” today. “We wish the opposition and the brave people in the cities in Iran the same opportunity that they saw the Egyptians seize,” she is quoted in the Politico. “We think there needs to be a commitment to open up the political situation in Iran. We think President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a tyrant who illegally occupies his office, and he should leave Iran now, and now means yesterday.” Nah, she didn’t really say that. I added the last sentence just for contrast. All the Iranians get for Valentine’s Day are Hillary Clinton’s fond wishes, and a load of paintball pellets in the gut.
I’m sure Ahmadinejad will crack under this hellish pressure any day now. Perhaps the demonstrators should re-submit their “Request For Permission to Have a Revolt” paperwork and see if they get a better answer. Assuming they can still see through the tear gas to fill out the forms.
The Iranian uprising is invisible for a number of reasons. The Iranian government is far more brutally oppressive than Mubarak was, so any real momentum protesters might gain will be nipped brutally in the bud, and media coverage is more tightly controlled.
Also, there just isn’t the same scent of “blood in the water” as the international press pool smelled in Egypt. The demonstrations in 2009 were bigger, and they were stomped into the ground, producing no worse consequences in Washington than the loss of their invitation to Barack Obama’s Fourth of July picnic… after he watched the violence for a couple of days. Today’s response from the Administration amounts to hurt surprise that the Iranian theocracy didn’t really mean it when they said they supported democratic revolutions last week. That’s not something the media wants to cover in depth.
Events in Egypt proved that massive, determined, peaceful protests can capture the attention of the world. That’s why the Iranian government will crack as many skulls as it takes to shut them down quickly. The White House just needs to mutter about “hypocrisy” for another day or two, and all this will most likely blow over. The enduring lesson of Egypt is that only dictators allied with America have to worry about losing a contest of wills with an unhappy population. The really bad guys have other options.