I am writing this as the sun is about to rise in Iran. I have this dreaded feeling that very bad things are about to happen throughout Iran in a few short hours and I pray I am wrong.
In his Friday Prayer address, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei essentially threw down the gaunlet at the foot of presidential contender Mir Hossein Mousavi and his allies warning that no matter how the Guardian Council may see it, the election was divinely free and fair no ifs, ands, or buts. Khamenei ominously warned that any further mass demonstrations, such as the ones planned by Mousavi's legions of supporters for today, are now considered a direct threat to the regime and no longer deemed by the mullahs a mere protest against a rigged election. Demonstrators, according to Khamenei's Fatwa are now fair game for the regime and will be met with the full force of the state.
If, as predicted, Mousavi's hundreds of thousands of followers take to the streets throughout Iran, Khamenei and Ahmadenijad may follow through and unleash the much feared Basij Militia -- the regime's dreaded Nazi equivalent of the SS and Gestapo. Think of the Basij Militia as roaming divisions of religious zealots armed with pipes, chains, knives, swords and guns who only answer to Ahmadinejad. Under his direct control and dispatched by his hand-picked Revolutionary Guard commanders, the Basij have begun to transform Iran from a theocracy to an outright military dictatorship and protesters will not merely face a round up, but the full wrath of the state's deadly force.
That full force is something Americans barely comprehend -- with good reason. Iran being a police state, Khamenei has decided that no matter the magnitude of the outcry, whether domestic or foreign, he would rather commit state sponsored mayhem and murder against his citizens rather than cave into the demands of his opponents. While overtly Khamanei is no firebrand like his presidential puppet Ahmadenijad, he is a diabolical believer in a pontifical-like divine ordination of his absolutist authority. In the warped reasoning of such tyrants, It is Allah's will that his rule be absolute, and, therefore, preservation of the Islamic Republic and the mullahs' monopoly on such divine-right power is worth every drop of spilt Iranian blood, especially if that blood is spilt to prevent the evil hand of foreign forces from overthrowing the Islamic Republic.
In 1979, when faced with the prospect of massive demonstrations against his rule, Shah Reza Pahlavi was convinced by Jimmy Carter not to fire on his citizens, and the rest as they say, was another nail in the coffin of Jimmy Carter's presidency. In 2009, when faced with a similar street conflagration, Ayatollah Khamenei will pay no heed to President Obama, and that, I venture to say, will be the first big well-deserved nail in the Ayatollah's coffin for the violence he will unleash on Tehran's streets.
I say that because while Khamanei may succeed in silencing his detractors in the short run, the ruling clerical establishment is not universally beholden to him, and may very well turn against the Supreme Leader if they believe that his rigidity has irrevocably turned the Iranian public against the regime itself. Unlike the Pope, a supreme leader can theoretically be religiously "impeached" by the Council of Experts.
Unfortunately, the titanic struggle of wills between the Supreme Leader (how Orwellian a title) and Mousavi that is so riveting may very well seal the fate of any durable prospect of a rapprochement between Washington and Tehran.
Why so? Because Khamenei and Ahmadenijad are drinking their own foreign interventionist Kool Aide and assert the regime itself is under assault by the West.
Indeed, in yesterday's ominous address, the Supreme Leader brought up the dreaded bogeyman Britain and denounced it as the "most evil" of Iran's enemies. Like feeding candy to a baby, exhorting the regime's supporters to blame the UK for the disturbances is all Khamanei's mad followers need to strike at pro-democracy demonstrators. Khamenei and Ahmadenijad are holding their fire against the U.S. because in the annals of Persian history the UK warrants a much more demonic place.
For good measure, the Supreme Leader can't stand the BBC's Persian radio and television broadcasts, which have become the most feared instrument of truth against the regime and are virtually impossible to jam. And, just to make sure the U.S. is caught up in the regime's anti-foreign tirade, Ahmadenijad's political hatchetman, Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi fired a preemptive shot at Washington warning President Obama that any further statements on his part will irrevocably impair any hope for a serious dialogue -- as if Ahmadenijad was going to listen to reason in the first place.
Quite likely, Khamanei fears taking on Obama and the U.S. right now, as well. He may be calculating that to do so will only further inflame his domestic detractors who are mesmerized with the possibilities of what Obama's outreach to Iran may mean for Iran. Khamanei may also want to keep the door open to Washington to manifest an artificial appearance of external reasonableness while cracking heads inside his country. But deep down inside, Khamanei likely believes that the U.S. is instigating the crisis, and that Washington's preoccupation with Iran's nuclear program is nothing but a stalking horse to ultimately bring down the regime. All the more reason why, in my estimation, the Ayatollah will want to accelerate his nuclear weapons program regardless of any rapprochement with the Obama Administration.
That may backfire.
The more the regime clings to its nightmarish fear of its own people, and fails to accommodate to the forces at play, the more likely the regime may accelerate its own decay.
Those in the U.S. constituting the discredited neoconservative bund demanding a clarion call to the ramparts from President Obama to Mousavi's followers dangerously misunderstand Iran and the Ayatollah's calculations.
As tempting as it is for seriously callow Iranian observers such as Charles Krauthammer or Paul Wolfowitz to denounce the Obama Administration's carefully calibrated approach, they do so merely to cleanse their flawed reasoning for invading Iraq. They believe that the Iran today (like Iraq or Eastern Europe or the Phillipines) is ripe for a democratic uprising if only the U.S. rushes in a megaphone or three of rhetorical support no matter how many may die in the streets (ask the Kurds what Wolfowitz's clarion call brought onto them in 1992. These miscalculations always like at the root of what trips up such emotion-laiden flawed logic. How interesting to read Wolfowitz's Washington Post Op Ed yesterday taking one giant leap over his most recent and utter catastrophic miscalculation of what an American intervention could accomplish just next door to Iran.
Other than scoring cheap political points against the administration and perhaps feeling good about it, there is absolutely no basis to assert that should President Obama stand on the rooftop of the White House shouting out his solidarity with Iran's women and students, as such action would help tip the balance against the Ayatollah -- it is the Ayatollah's own obstinancy that will bring that about.
Rather, it could very well backfire on America's own goals and objectives and the hopes and aspirations of the very demonstrators we are most committed to supporting.
Indeed, the advice coming out of Iran from Mousavi's supporters is totally contrary to the flawed neocon logic. Iranian intermediaries in the UAE who are communicating with their brethren in Tehran are sending carefully worded messages urging Washington not to take Khamenei's or Ahmadinejad's bait.
But why would chaps like Krauthammer or Wolfowitz respect the wishes of Iran's anti-Khamenei democratic forces if such entreaties fly in the face of their own preconceived ideological beliefs?
I trust that those excoriating the White House until now will take a moment and listen not to their own voices, but to the credible messages coming out of Iran from the regime's opponents and accept that they are serving no one inside Iran by trying to provoke an irrational and unhelpful statement out of the president at this time -- a statement that would be seized as an excuse to unleash the Basij.
But should blood flow through the streets of Tehran as many fear, the president will be justified in taking a stronger position against the regime, which will no longer have a pretext to justify its crackdown from anything the president may have said to date to blame America for its resort to force and violence.