Monday, June 22, 2009

Fundamental Shifts

The events of this past weekend in Iran have signaled what is going to reveal a fundamental shift in Iranian politics. If the regime - Ahmadinejad and Khamenei - cracks down and survives the demonstrations, it will purge the regime of anyone who opposes them.

Steve Shippert further notes that there are rumblings among the opposition that they may look to do away with the position and role of Supreme Ayatollah, a position that Khamenei still holds.

Iraq's Ali Sistani appears to have developed a significant following inside Iran, who has watched as he has threaded his way through Iraqi politics and positioned himself as finding that Islam and democracy can go hand in hand.
This is a huge development. One of the biggest questions I and others have had since the Iranian protests/revolt/revolution began was whether Mousavi would be any different in tangible effect (Hizballah & Hamas support, etc.) than Ahmadinejad and whether Rafsanjani was seeking to sack 'Supreme' Leader Khamenei simply to acquire the powerful position for himself. That question perhaps may have been answered today.

My ears first perked up when word made it through the grapevines over the weekend that Rafsanjani had been meeting with other Ayatollahs and clerics in Qom, and had among them a representative of Iraq's Ayatollah Ali Sistani.

Why? Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in 2007 made two very critical statements: that "I am a servant of all Iraqis, there is no difference between a Sunni, a Shiite or a Kurd or a Christian," and that Islam can exist within a democracy without theological conflict. You will never hear such words slip past the lips of Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei. Ever.

Sistani's presence at the Rafsanjani talks in Qom, Iran, through a representative brings therefore added significance. And the al-Arabiya report above seems to suggest that Rafsanjani is not seeking Sistani's support for superficial reasons.
If you're looking for tangible benefits of the Iraqi invasion, it's that the seeds for democracy might be taking hold not only in Iraq, but well beyond. If it takes root inside Iran, Hamas and Hizbullah may be out of business since they lose their financial backing.

Fatah faced a similar problem after Saddam Hussein was overthrown (Saddam used to fund martyrs' funds for the Palestinian terrorists). Without that money coming in, Fatah had to look elsewhere. Eliminate the flow of money to the terror groups, and they will wither on the vine. That presents the best chance for peace in the region, not the ongoing demands to force concessions from Israel.

But for now, the battle for Iran's future is being fought on the streets and online. The regime is showing that it has developed sophisticated means to quell online communications and they had help from European telecommunications companies in the process.
The monitoring capability was provided, at least in part, by a joint venture of Siemens AG, the German conglomerate, and Nokia Corp., the Finnish cellphone company, in the second half of 2008, Ben Roome, a spokesman for the joint venture, confirmed.

The "monitoring center," installed within the government's telecom monopoly, was part of a larger contract with Iran that included mobile-phone networking technology, Mr. Roome said.

"If you sell networks, you also, intrinsically, sell the capability to intercept any communication that runs over them," said Mr. Roome.

The sale of the equipment to Iran by the joint venture, called Nokia Siemens Networks, was previously reported last year by the editor of an Austrian information-technology Web site called Futurezone.

The Iranian government had experimented with the equipment for brief periods in recent months, but it had not been used extensively, and therefore its capabilities weren't fully displayed -- until during the recent unrest, the Internet experts interviewed said.
Demonstrators have been using the Internet and various services online to communicate and get their message out via Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and the video services YouTube and LiveLeak. Disrupting those services by limiting overall Internet access gives the regime the ability to crack down without anyone being the wiser.

Iranian police continue to call demonstrators hooligans, and threaten to continue using force - at least 19 were killed so far yesterday, and the toll was likely far higher.
There were lots of Internet postings on Twitter and Facebook about a 4 p.m. (7:30 a.m. ET) vigil at Haft-e Tir Square for a young female protester identified as Neda. Her death, which was caught on camera, has become a rallying cry for many protesters.

At Monday's rally in the square, one witness said a male protester in his 20s was chased into an alley by two members of the pro-government Basij militia. A group of protesters chased the Basijis away and then the crowd could be heard chanting "Do not be scared. We are all together."

On Monday, the country's Revolutionary Guard warned that protesters who "disturb the peace and stand up to security forces" will be considered a threat to the regime and will be met with a strong response.

"The guardians of the Islamic revolution and the courageous Basiji together with the security forces following the orders of the supreme leader and following him unquestioningly, are determined to act strongly to return peace and tranquility to society ... and to clean the country of these plotters and hooligans," the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said in a statement, according to Iran's state-run news agency, IRNA.
In other words, the regime expects to purge and eliminate its opposition, cementing control via the clearly bogus election results. The regime admits errors were made, but will do nothing to rectify the situation.

You cannot expect anyone to trust the election results when you have 50 cities showing that they had more than 100% voter turnout. Clearly, someone cooked the books, and that can only be the Ahmadinejad regime. After all, if they were truly secure in the fact that they won this election fair and square without chicanery, they would have had no problem allowing a recount. Instead, they used iron fisted force to ram through the election results without scrutiny because it was all a sham.

More to the point, no one in Iran will accept the regime's say on what will come next because they've already attempted to lie their way into securing power for themselves.

Demonstrations continue around the world, including in the United States, Turkey, Germany and France, and the death of Neda has become a focusing moment for the demonstrators. Her death may have been one of the nearly two dozen murdered by the regime, but since it was captured on video in brutal detail, and because she was a very attractive woman before the Basij murdered her, she has become a rallying cry for opponents of the regime.

The regime's goons aren't above home invasions to terrorize the people:

They may have murdered Neda, but not her voice. Indeed.

Meanwhile, a Life photographer has apparently gone missing in Tehran. That comes after threats against journalists to refrain from covering the events on the streets of Tehran and elsewhere in Iran. This regime is doing all it can to remain in power and shows the utmost contempt for the Iranian people in demanding they obey the thugs in charge despite admissions of electoral fraud that the Supreme Ayatollah signed off on as legitimate.

The protesters have called for a general strike tomorrow, which the regime has apparently countered with a claim that anyone who doesn't show up is fired.

BBC is reporting that the thugs in charge were fearful that there would be tremendous crowds showing up to memorialize Neda, so they've taken to cracking down on demonstrators in smaller groups to prevent them from organizing.

And she wasn't even participating in the demonstration when she was murdered:
The fiance of Neda Agha-Soltan, the young woman whose violent death during clashes in Tehran on Saturday was recorded on video and uploaded to the internet, has described the events leading up to her shooting in an interview for BBC Persian TV.

She had been sitting with her music teacher in a car, stuck in traffic, when she decided to get out because of the heat. “She got out of the car for just for a few minutes [and] that’s when she was shot dead,” said Kaspin Makan.

Mr Makan quoted eyewitnesses as saying she appeared to have been targeted deliberately by “paramilitaries in civilian clothing.”

He added that officials had prevented mourners holding a memorial service at a mosque on Monday. “The authorities are aware that everybody in Iran and throughout the whole world knows about her story,” he told the BBC. “They were afraid that lots of people could turn up.”
Depraved... and this is the regime in charge.

HuffPo has more details from the interview with Neda's fiance.
Kasamin Makan, Neda Agha-Setan's fiancee, was interviewed by BBC Persia, noting that Neda would have turned 27 this year. "Neda's goal was not Mousavi or Ahmadinejad, it was her country and was important for her to fight for this goal. She had said many times that if she had lost her life or been shot in the heart, which indeed what happened, it was important for her to continue in this path," he said.
The regime is setting up special courts to deal with the protesters it has arrested thus far. Keep in mind that the regime has called such protesters terrorists, and has murdered its own citizens to remain in power. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the writing on the wall. They intent to make examples out of some of those who they've arrested to force the rest of the country into submission to its will.

More video:

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