Freedom New Mexico
Most of the news about Iran focuses on the possibility that the regime may be getting close to developing a nuclear weapon.
Such concern is justified, although it is difficult to see how the outside world can prevent it: Sanctions have been ineffective, and military intervention seems impractical.
Even as we worry about the mullahs’ regime in Iran, however, evidence is mounting that it could be on shakier ground than most people have suspected. Rigged elections in June — when the rigging probably wasn’t necessary — set off massive anti-regime demonstrations that were eventually subdued brutally, though the killing of young Neda Agha-Soltan created a symbol that energized the opposition. Since then several mass demonstrations have been held on dates significant to Iranians and other Shia Muslims.
That tradition continued at the funeral Monday of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, widely viewed as the most erudite Islamic scholar in Iran and, at one time, the designated successor to the late Ayatollah Khomeini.
Ayatollah Montazeri, who objected to the growing brutality of the regime he had helped to godfather, was imprisoned and then put under house arrest. But he continued to insist that religious leaders could be advisers and helpers but not political leaders and administrators, winning the admiration of millions of Iranians who had become discontented with the regime.
The response to his death last Sunday has become yet another signifier of the vulnerability of the regime. Demonstrations require determination and bravery; the regime still has most of the weapons and instruments of oppression. Demonstrators face the possibility of beatings, jail, torture, even death.
This doesn’t necessarily mean the theocratic regime is doomed — yet. The mullahs, however much they may justify themselves with religious talk, are shrewd wielders of worldly political power and have generally calibrated their violence carefully to keep the opposition under control without triggering complete revolt. But the opposition is also clearly serious and getting bolder.
The intensity of the current uprising is magnified by the fact that it comes during Muharram, the period devoted to memorializing the martyrdom of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson and a time holy to the Shia.
Today is the final day of Muharram, called Ashura, and will come seven days after Montazeri’s death. To many Iranians it feels fitting and symbolic, and protests are likely then to hit a crescendo.
The demonstrations are all the more inspiring in that they have emerged spontaneously from the Iranian people. However much most Americans may support what is being called the Green Revolution, the U.S. government, beyond perhaps a modest expression of admiration, should stay out of it. Being tagged with even a modicum of credibility as puppets of the Great Satan can only hurt the protesters and help the regime.
The Iranian regime may not fall this year, next year or any year. But it is increasingly clear that it is the enemy of most Iranians, not their legitimate representative.