Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Yet More Short Takes

The scholar in me is trying to remain cautious, but I'm impressed by the fact the so far, the opposition has done everything right. Not only has Ayatollah Montazeri called for a mourning period for slain demonstrators, but now Mousavi is effectively generating mourning protests. The massive silent, peaceful protests continue, and according to Robert Fisk, some regular Iranian military forces are separating the Basij and protesters to the advantage of the latter.

My worry is still that the regime is holding back in Tehran only because it is a center of reporting. Andrew Sullivan's Twitter feed still shows intense violence in other cities. Demonstrators in Mashhad have taken shelter in the Shrine of Imam Reza, and nighttime cries of "Allahu Akbar" continue. The slogans merit some explanation. It is probably not Islamist, but anti-autocratic. As early as the Young Ottomans in the mid-19th century, Muslim intellectuals in the Middle East have cast absolutist rulers as usurpers of God's sovereignty. Part of the use of this slogan in 1979 was aimed at countering the Shah's absolutist claims, and I suspect something similar is happening now directed at Ayatollah Khamene'i. As I noted yesterday, Khamene'i has sought to gain through enhanced titulature and propaganda the type of authority Khomeini had through his credentials and moral authority, and this has alienated many.

Finally, Nico Pitney flags a report from Reza Aslan that there will be an emergency meeting of the Assembly of Experts, presumably to discuss the position of the Supreme Leader. Remember that in 2006, the mainline conservatives won at the expense of the Principlist faction surrounding Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi and with which Khamene'i has effectively allied himself through his support for Ahmadinejad. If they sense a threat to the regime, they will not feel tied to Ahmadinejad. I'm also intrigued what the idea that Rafsanjani has been rumored to support a conciliar model of paramount leadership. Implicit in the question of whether Khamene'i goes is what happens afterward, and he may have brought up this idea to persuade key players within the Assembly that if they join with him, they could have an enhanced status in a new regime.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)



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