CNN explains the Islamic Revolution

I first saw this on the Angry Arab. CNN International is only marginally different than CNN in the States, and I’ve seen plenty of coverage of the Shah’s family here. As the last Shah’s exiled son said in DC on Monday, “The moment of truth has arrived… The people of Iran need to know who stands with them.” Indeed. Then CNN decides to explain how the man got to America.

Pahlavi has lived in exile since 1979, when his father, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, was overthrown during the Islamic Revolution. Under the shah’s regime, Iran saw nationalization of its oil and a strong movement toward modernization. Still, his secular programs and recognition of Israel cost him the support of the country’s Shiite clergy, sparking clashes with the religious right and others who resented his pro-West views.

“Secular programs” and the recognition of Israel caused the Islamic Revolution in Iran, CNN explains… of course, the world being that simple. It wasn’t rampant corruption amid wretched and rising wealth gaps. Nor the repression of dissidents. Nor the SAVAK. Not the Jansen-designed “tents” and lavish menu to celebrate 2,500 years of Persian history at a cost of $200 million for the world’s royalty. And certainly not the guile and appeal of Khomenei. History is the first thing axed in media, and the world should be an easily composed picture on CNN.

Nikki Keddie’s book for one offers better explanations.

‘Like a war zone’


Bloody clashes broke out in Tehran yesterday as Iran‘s supreme leader said he would not yield to pressure over the disputed election. The renewed confrontation took place in Baharestan Square, near parliament, where hundreds of protesters faced off against several thousand riot police and other security personnel.

Witnesses likened the scene to a ­war zone, with helicopters hovering overhead, many arrests and the police beating demonstrators.

One woman told CNN that hundreds of unidentified men armed with clubs had emerged from a mosque to confront the protesters.

“They beat a woman so savagely that she was drenched in blood and her husband fainted. They were beating people like hell. It was a massacre,” she said.

From the Guardian. Photo near Azadi Square in Tehran on 20 June, 6pm, from Tehran Bureau.


From Reza Aslan at The Daily Beast again. Photo from the Economist.

Khamenei was chosen to succeed Khomeini because he was considered a safe bet, someone who would not rock the boat, someone who could be easily controlled by more powerful, more charismatic figures who chaired the various clerical subcommittees, like his fellow revolutionary Hashemi Rafsanjani (now an ayatollah himself), who was instrumental in Khamenei’s selection to the post of supreme leader.

Devoid of Khomeini’s charisma and his religious credentials, Khamenei dropped into the background. Throughout his term as faqih, he has consistently played the role of neutral interlocutor among the competing poles of power in Iran, always strenuously portraying himself as the above the fray of common politics. This hands-off approach resulted in the gradual diffusion of the faqih’s powers both to the subcommittees beneath him and, more disastrously, to the state’s military-intelligence apparatus, the Revolutionary Guard, which has become arguably the most powerful force in Iranian politics (see my piece on how the stolen elections represent a military coup by the Revolutionary Guard). At the same time, the ranks of junior clergy studying in Iran’s seminaries have begun increasingly to question the theological validity of the Valayat-e Faqih, especially now that Iraq’s more traditionally inclined (read: politically quiescent) clergy, headed by perhaps the senior-most ayatollah in the world, Ali al-Sistani, have become increasingly active in Iran.

Now it seems Khamenei wants his divine authority back. Yet by so enthusiastically—and, as even his confidants have admitted, inexplicably—inserting himself directly into the election controversy, he has destroyed his reputation as a “divinely guided arbiter.” Worse, by so forcefully backing the unpopular Ahmadinejad, he has tainted himself with an aura of corruption and scandal. In short, Khamenei has utterly, perhaps irreparably, damaged the office of supreme leader. That is why the very people who helped put him in power 20 years ago are now trying to get rid of him. (As I write this, Ayatollah Rafsanjani is currently in Qom trying to garner support from his fellow Assembly of Expert members to remove Khamenei from power.)

The police and the basiji


Robert Fisk was in north Tehran last night:

The fate of Iran rested last night in a grubby north Tehran highway interchange called Vanak Square where – after days of violence – supporters of the official President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at last confronted the screaming, angry Iranians who have decided that Mirhossein Mousavi should be the president of their country. Unbelievably – and I am a witness because I stood beside them – just 400 Iranian special forces police were keeping these two armies apart. There were stones and tear gas but for the first time in this epic crisis the cops promised to protect both sides.

“Please, please, keep the Basiji from us,” one middle-aged lady pleaded with a special forces officer in flak jacket and helmet as the Islamic Republic’s thug-like militia appeared in their camouflage trousers and purity-white shirts only a few metres away. The cop smiled at her. “With God’s help,” he said. Two other policemen were lifted shoulder-high. “Tashakor, tashakor,” – “thank you, thank you” – the crowd roared at them.

This was phenomenal. The armed special forces of the Islamic Republic, hitherto always allies of the Basiji, were prepared for once, it seemed, to protect all Iranians, not just Ahmadinejad’s henchmen. The precedent for this sudden neutrality is known to everyone – it was when the Shah’s army refused to fire on the millions of demonstrators demanding his overthrow in 1979.

More of the story, and more photos from the Independent.

Votes cast abroad favor Moussavi

Press TV has obtained the Interior Ministry’s detailed list of the votes cast abroad in the country’s 10th presidential election held on Friday, June 12.

A total of 234,812 votes were cast outside Iran, out of which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won 78,300; Mehdi Karroubi won 4,647; Mohsen Rezaei won 3,635 and Mir-Hossein Moussavi won 111,792 votes.

Get all the numbers here.  Interesting the note the breakdown in Damascus:


Total votes: 10,378
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: 7,184
Mehdi Karroubi: 60
Mohsen Rezaei: 153
Mir-Hossein Moussavi: 2,866

A Military Coup


So let’s get this straight. We are supposed to believe that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was reelected in Iran’s presidential election last week by a 2 to 1 margin against his reformist rival Mir Hossein Mousavi. That this deeply unpopular president, whose gross mismanagement of the state budget is widely blamed for Iran’s economy hovering on the edge of total collapse, received approximately the same percentage of votes as Mohammad Khatami, by far Iran’s most popular past president, received in both 1997 and 2001? That Mousavi, whom all independent polls predicted would at the very least take Ahmadinejad into a run-off election, lost not only his main base of support, Tehran, but also his own hometown of Khameneh in East Azerbaijan (which, as any Azeri will tell you, never votes for anyone but its own native sons)…and by a landslide. That we should all take the word of the Interior Ministry, led by a man put in his position by Ahmadinejad himself, a man who called the election for the incumbent before the polls were even officially closed, that the election was a fair representation of the will of the Iranian people.


Reza Aslan at The Daily Beast. Photo from the AP of Monday”s protest in Tehran, from Azadi Square.