Marx would have delighted in the events of Friday, September 18th, all over Iran. Groucho, that is, for on the 18th the supreme leader and all his co-conspirators were transformed from figures of awe to objects of ridicule. As Machiavelli likes to remind us, the most dangerous thing for any leader is to earn the contempt of his followers, and the Iranian people made it luminously clear that they would no longer be intimidated. The regime had launched a vicious repression following the challenges to the “election results” of June 12th. For a hundred days they had killed, raped, tortured and threatened. In the runup to the 18th, the stern face of the leader of the Revolutionary Guards had appeared on television and his confident voice had been heard on the radio, warning that anyone who dared wear green, or carry protest signs, or chant criticism of the Islamic Republic, would be treated “very harshly.” His words were like so much spittle in a storm; among the many chants in the streets that day, you could hear “rape, murder and torture will not silence us.”
When a tyrannical regime dies, you can see the symptoms in the little things. Late Friday afternoon, after millions (yes, millions–this according to Le Monde, France 2, and L’Express, with the BBC saying that the demonstrations were bigger than those at the time of the Revolution) of Greens mobbed the streets and squares of more than thirty towns and cities to call for the end of the regime, there was a soccer game in Azadi Stadium in Tehran. It holds about a hundred thousand fans, and it was full of men wearing green and carrying green balloons. When state-run tv saw what was happening, the color was drained from the broadcast, and viewers saw the game in black and white. And when the fans began to chant “Death to the Dictator,” “Death to Russia,” and “Death to Putin, Chavez and Nasrallah, enemies of Iran,” the sound was shut off. So the game turned into a silent movie.
But the censors forgot about the radio, and the microphones stayed open, so that millions of listeners could hear the sounds of the revolution. And in Azadi Stadium, as in most parts of the country, the security officers either walked away or joined the party.
You will not have heard such stories, nor read about them in our “media,” which have raised denial of the day’s major events to an art form of late. Rather like the Iranian regime, which used to have an enormous influence on the way citizens thought, the major broadcasters and dead-tree scribblers have also become objects of ridicule. On Sunday morning, Supreme Leader Khamenei proclaimed that the demonstrations had been an enormous success for the regime, but anyone looking at the pictures could see that he was short on sleep. So would you if you had heard the thunderous shouts of “Death to the Dictator” during the night. Khamenei’s claim was greeted with ridicule.
Sunday also brought open contempt from some of the most revered leaders of the Shiite world. Khamenei had declared Sunday the end of Ramadan, a day of feasts and prayers, one of the most joyous of the Muslim year. Such a proclamation is supposed to be canonical, for Khamenei speaks in the name of all Muslims. But fifteen Grand Ayatollahs like Montazeri, Taheri, Sanei, and Sistani (of Iraq) rejected Khamenei’s reading of the moon, and said that the feast could not begin until Monday. No one could get away with such an open challenge to the supreme leader’s theological authority unless there were a considerable consensus that his rule was illegitimate. And it’s even worse for him: across the country, many mosques were closed on Sunday. The faithful were told to go home and fast, and come back the next day for prayer.
No wonder Khamenei looks tired. And in keeping with the avalanche of errors, Tuesday the Revolutionary Guards’ favorite newspaper kept the whole thing going, insisting that the supreme leader was right after all. Stupid and irrelevant, a classic example of people in a hole who keep digging deeper.
These little stories illustrate a great event, indeed a world-changing event: the death of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Khamenei, Iran’s president Ahmadinejad, and the rest of the evil empire in Tehran are all dead men walking. We don’t know the schedule for the funeral yet, but Iranians know it’s on the agenda. One will get you ten at my betting window that, aside from a very thin veneer of top officials (for whom there is no hope, for they will fulfill the demand of the nightly rooftop chants), anyone who is anyone in Iran today is trying to make a deal with [presidential challenger] Mir-Hossein Mousavi and [leading opposition leader] Mehdi Karroubi. They are all whispering that their hearts are green, and always were green.
Khamenei & Co. certainly know this, as they know they are being betrayed by some very high-ranking people. And the exodus is under way; by the end of the week we will see some important representatives of the Islamic Republic resign their posts, for they do not wish to be associated with it any longer.
Look at what didn’t happen in the streets last Friday. Not a shot was fired at the millions of demonstrators in Tehran. There are YouTube videos of police fraternizing with the Greens. There are stories of Revolutionary Guardsmen helping the demonstrators, and even the Basij didn’t dare to attack or arrest, with a handful of exceptions (one of which is notable: in Tabriz, if I remember correctly, they started to round up some people, and the crowd turned on them, freed the would-be victims, and beat the Basijis to death).
And look at what else didn’t happen: nobody tried to arrest Mousavi or Karroubi. Somebody tried to stab [former president] Khatami in the street, but it was thwarted, and Karroubi has been told to show up at a Revolutionary Tribunal to respond to charges of spreading false claims of rape and murder in the prisons. But this subpoena, which previously terrified the recipient, is no longer threatening. Karroubi has proclaimed it is good news, for it will give him the opportunity to present the evidence, which is iron-clad, and can no longer be destroyed (copies of documents, audios, and videos are now in the hands of Green supporters in Europe and the United States).
So we have a regime of zombies in Tehran, but they can still do a lot of damage to Iranians and to us. Early last week, Khamenei summoned Afghan terrorist chieftain Gulbadin Hekhmatiar to Tehran and told him to step up attacks against American and other Allied forces. Other Iranian-supported terrorist groups have received similar instructions.
Under the circumstances, you’d think that your government would be talking to the Greens. But you’d be wrong. There are no contacts between the American Government and the leaders of the opposition. One should not expect the new government to look kindly upon a President Obama who publicly sweet-talked the Tehran butchers. The same applies to the Europeans, all of whom scrambled for oil and other commercial contracts, and none of whom talked to the Green leaders.
As so often, Martin Luther King Jr. summed it up perfectly: “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”