Saturday, June 13, 2009

The revolution will be socially networked

The Iranian election and subsequent protests have been fascinating and heartwrenching. I wish I knew more about Iran, but I really only know the basics--my focus has been on Levantine Arab countries.

At any rate, what's going on right now is history in the making. (I wonder how many theses will be written on these clashes--even if the protesters are unsuccessful--a few years from now. Get me out of academia.) Basically, it seemed like the reformist challenger, Mousavi, was probably going to win. Supporters had been in the streets for days. Then the initial election results were confusing, muddied, and then started to just look funny with a ridiculous margin for Ahmedinejad. At this point, it's pretty clear the election was stolen. It seems the regime has abandoned appearances altogether and is just going for broke. Mousavi is under house arrest, people are screaming and marching and bleeding in the streets. I don't know where this is going to go.

A "victory for the Iranian people," Ahmedinejad has called it. In a sense, he's right: the regime would have been far better off allowing Mousavi to win and curry favor with the U.S. and others while the nuclear project plugged away and the theocracy got some street cred. The ridiculously ham-handed way they've done this has made the fiction impossible. If they crack down hard enough and people give up, then they will have won a huge authoritarian victory, as Digby describes here. If they fail to do so...who knows? The whole thing would be cracked wide open. So whether Ahmedinejad's coronation is a victory for the people or not, it's definitely not good for Ayatollah Khameini. (This begs the question of what on earth Khameini thinks he's doing at the moment, other than panicking--this is in large part his doing--but this is the sort of thing those theses I mentioned will be dealing with. The data's not there now and may not be for years.)

So far he has been congratulated by the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hizbullah (if I remember correctly), and...Syria. I don't know if Syria anticipated being out in front alone like that; I wonder if they'll regret it. I have no idea how this will affect Iran's regional clout or the way Arabs view the country. I simply don't know enough about this topic to speculate in any remotely worthwhile manner.

The regime seems to have blocked cellphones and many websites, but Twitter and Youtube keep updating with reports and footage of protests, police brutality, statements by both sides, and so on. Here are some resources:

The NYTimes Lede Blog

Andrew Sullivan


Nico Pitney at HuffPo

Juan Cole with Top Pieces of Evidence the election was stolen.

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