A lot has been written on the unrest in Iran since the disputed elections six months ago and a lot more has happened in the last few days. There have been massive anti-government protests and pro-government demonstrations; opposition members have been arrested and government officials are calling for harsh punishments for protestors or at least a harsh ‘demo’ punishment. All through the violence – which Iran blames on the West – there are still reports about Iran’s nuclear intentions, most recently over Iran’s alleged deal to import purified uranium ore from Kazakhstan. Washington, clearly not upset by the undoing in Iran, is preparing sanctions against the Iranian regime that are meant to be ‘paralyzing.’ While a lot has happened, I will leave the details out.
There are, on the other hand, some very interesting opinions about the situation in Iran. So, consider these:
Michael Totten on some of the symbolism of the protests – specifically the comparison of Khamenei to Umayyad caliph Yazid who killed Hussein, the son of Ali at the Battle of Karbala (commemorated every year by Ashura);
Daniel Drezner on the likelihood of and intelligence behind sanctioning the country;
Stephen Walt on what would come after the current regime (spoiler – not a westernized one);
Walt (again) on the best response from the West (do nothing);
The Washington Post on whether Ashura was a turning point in Iranian history;
Tariq Alhomayad on the division between Iranian hard-liners and really-hard-liners;
The Jerusalem Post comparing the unrest to the Palestinian Intifada in 1987;
Juan Cole on the religious symbolism in Khamenei’s violent response (a very good read); and
Meir Havadanfar on the contradictions between long-standing Islamic institutions and Khamenei’s Islamic rule (a very good read).
The sanctions planned by the United States could be detrimental to the opposition – though not as damaging as any military attack would be. The size of the protests and their prevalence around the country is telling. Moreover, with many days of mourning to come (funerals, seven days of mourning for each death, religious holidays…) there will be plenty of opportunities for the oppositions to get to the street. The comparisons of Khamenei to Yazid and the Shah (circa 1979) are very powerful images in Iran and perhaps suggest that the violence we are seeing might actually be a turning point in Iranian history. I remain, however, skeptical of an imminent regime fall. I’ll leave that prediction to people smarter than I, but for now I will leave you with two videos and a suggestion to see Andrew Sullivan’s coverage at The Daily Dish.
Photo from Three Bulls