Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Iranian Football and Change

Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of IranImage via Wikipedia

As it says in the sidebar, we change our minds if facts change. Although I still think that Ahmadinejad will remain as president of Iran, the demonstrations appear to have taken on a new dimension and have a life of their own.

The fact that the Iranian football team - or at least six of its players - are wearing green armbands (the color of Mousavi's campaign and also the color of Islam) seemingly in support of Mousavi, has raised the stakes for the Iranian clerics supporting Ahmadinejad, particularly Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The game was televised and it is assumed widely viewed in Iran. The clerics, and Khamenei certainly, appear to have very badly miscalculated the reaction to the election.

The demonstrations appear also to be gathering in intensity and it may be too late for the government to crack down violently. Although they have the ability to do so, mass violence or turning loose the security apparatus will permanently damage their previous, well guarded reputation for dealing in an evenhanded way with past opposition figures.

Internationally, Iran has had its credibility damaged, likely to the delight of the Saudi government especially. Their house is not in order and that will affect how they can deal with or pressure neighbors.

President Obama's handling has been exactly correct. Senator Lugar (R. Ind) concurs. Supporting the opposition is exactly what the supporters of Ahmadinejad and the clerics would love. They could then portray the opposition as tools of America.

Speaking of "tools", we then are treated a profoundly stupid resolution being introduced by Mike Pence (R. Ind)that plays right into the hands of the conservative clerics, Ahmadinejad and the Republican Guard:

"Today I'm introducing a resolution that ... express its concern regarding the reported irregularities of the presidential election of 12 June, 2009. It will condemn the violence against demonstrators by pro-government militia in Tehran in the wake of the elections. It will affirm our belief in the universality of individual rights and the importance of democratic and fair elections. And lastly, and most importantly, it will express the support of the American people for all Iranian citizens who struggle for freedom, civil liberties and the protection of the rule of law."


So, the situation has changed a little. The expanding demonstrations, calls for a new election and an inability to use force to end the stand-off may not be game changers yet - but the longer the opposition is in the streets, the less maneuvering room is available for Ali Khamenei.

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