Sunday, June 21, 2009

Walking Back from the Brink -- The Old Magic isn't Working

The news in today that Iranian State television has broadcast that the Guardian Council has admitted that there are instances in 50 cities where the number of votes reported exceeded the number of eligible voters.   This along with the announcement that Rafsanjani's daughter has been released suggests that the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad  camp is quietly backing down from what seemed yesterday seemed like a commitment to brave out the challenge posed by the Green Movement and Mousavi.  

This seems to be good news, and seems to suggest that Khamenei has been forced to recognize that he is up against more than he had reckoned with.  This is not to say we know where we are going.  Khamenei, Ahmadinejad et. al are now bereft of support.  The continued readiness of the Basij to beat up protestors is a reminder of another key difference with the revolutions of 1989, where the riot police knew they had little in the way of public support. Nor should it go unnoticed that earlier today the protestors were called terrorists, no report on whether that continues to be used, but I suspect that will continue.  For while whatever negotiations go on behind closed doors, the authorities will still do whatever they can to frighten the demonstrators.

Yet, some of the actions taken yesterday by the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad camp suggests that they are not adapting well to the changing political environment, and are playing trumps that would have been held in reserve by more confidentplayers .  The alleged suicide bombing at the Khomenei Mausoleum the deliberate mistranslation of Obama's speech regarding the Iranian election, and the arrest of Rafsanjani's daughter all seemed pretty extreme, and more importantly quite risky steps.   At least according to one observer who saw the Iranian Television report (See 1:19 pm)there was no sign of serious damage of the kind that would have been caused by a suicide bombing that killed two people, not even any blood.  Thus if viewed by an audience with any skepticism doubts were going to surge, especially when seen in light of other suspect information aired in recent days.  Nor did it have the desired effect of leading enough Green movement supporters to stay at home to suggest that a further crackdown would frighten still more --even Mousavi braved the risk of being explicitly linked to the demonstration.  

Similarly, while English is not as widely known as in much of Europe, there are plenty of English speakers, so playing games with what Obama or any other English speaking person strikes me as risky.  Now whether Iranian State Television tried to do the same for domestic television is something I haven't heard, but it seems likely they would.  In so doing the press and authorities will open themselves to further charges of lying, because well connected Mousavi supporters will make sure the accurate version of what Obama said gets out.  That is hardly going to help Khamenei and his supporters regain the upper hand in the p.r. war.   Indeed these manipulations may well be the nail in the coffin.  The old magic of linking dissent to terrorism and outside intervention is not working anymore.  

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