Date: Saturday, January 9, 2010
Now, a week after Mousavi’s 17th statement was issued, I can say with greater certainty that it has changed the tumultuous [atmosphere], which has been redirected toward finding a political solution to the crisis at hand. [I say this in light of] the horrific Ashura protests and the subsequent, less-than-enthusiastic pro-government rallies. Mousavi’s statement has helped to calm the apprehension of our activists and bolster their hope while marking the “overthrow of the establishment” or an “inevitable blood-bath” as increasingly unlikely options. Moreover, he has neutralized the tactics of terror and intimidation [utilized by the establishment]. Mousavi’s innovation was very timely and paved a path of rational decision-making to move the country farther away from falling into a whirlpool.
The tone and the level of demands found in [Mousavi’s] 17th statement were selected so as to shift the balance of power from the government to the dissidents, thus facilitating the attainment of those demands. Moreover, it has succeeded in doing so by:
– Establishing more unity and trust among dissidents and promoting trust between them
– Confusing government officials and increasing tensions among them
Some evidence for these claims [is as follows]:
– Among the protesters: Positive feedback from a wide diversity of people – virtually nobody has opposed [the statement], neither from inside Iran nor from abroad. Dozens of statements have been issued by various groups, all in favor of it and in its support.
– Among those in power: There was no unified reaction, and [the statement appears to have] widened the gap among them. For example:
- [Mohsen] Rezaei’s [partial backing of the statement and his] suggestion [for finding a compromise]
- [Ali] Larijani’s defense of Rezaei, and many others attacking both
- Parliament’s private session and Ruhollah Hosseinian’s letter of resignation
- Mortazavi’s fate
- [Ali] Motahhari’s interview with state TV
- Most significantly, [Ayatollah] Khamenei’s neutrality (ie. indecisiveness) and silence on how Mousavi, Karroubi, and the people should be treated
The statement increased the level of trust that activists have in Mousavi as a politician and strengthened his position among the people. Furthermore, it moved the government one step closer to accepting [Mousavi] as the “voice of the other side.”
The 17th statement was also very precise in terms of its political content. It acknowledged [the need for] fundamental social change, the essential consequences of which are understood and described.. At its core the statement is an effort to reconcile the Islamic Republic with these changes and the demands they have instigated. It also warns those in power that refusing to see these profound changes in Iranian society will only lead to a blind and inconclusive confrontation with the people and the fate of the country.
We are approaching a point where a [large and] influential section of the establishment is convinced that, for the sake of the regime’s survival and cohesion, the risk of attacking people and eliminating the opposition – assuming, hypothetically, that it’s possible – is higher than the cost of tolerating them. Every day, more and more officials, who are amongst people themselves, understand that a policy of oppression and elimination will eventually burst the tension on both sides; more are losing hope in achieving government unification with a policy of merciless oppression. The spirit of Hosseinian’s letter of resignation revealed the depth of the agitation among government officials. A significant number of the former “group of devoted supporters of the supreme leader” have realized that oppressing reformists is a preface to their own oppression and those accusations of hypocrisy and espionage may [easily] backfire.
Until recently, moderates among the conservative camp assumed that the “solution” lay in drawing the line between Karroubi, Mousavi and the democratic movement, forcing [the two leaders] to reject the modern democratic forces. Karroubi and Mousavi’s approach has convinced them that such a return [to how things were before the crisis] is impossible. The power of changing times has destroyed the divide between “insiders” and “outsiders” and no one can restore it. The moderate conservatives have understood that eliminating Mousavi will lead to confrontation with half of the Iranian people – the more powerful half. The situation in Tehran and other major cities has shown them that Mousavi represents the part of the Islamic Republic that is backed by the more modern and more powerful half of the population.
Mousavi and Karroubi’s resistance, as well as the strong support they have received in large cities, has persuaded some portion of the government that separating them – with the use of force, if necessary – from their popular base [in Iranian society] in order to redefine the former boundaries of the Islamic Republic is an unachievable goal. The current leader of the Islamic Republic practically doesn’t lead the country anymore and those opposing him have the definite and very active support of a significant portion of Iranians.
The leader of the Islamic Republic is facing a very crucial decision. He must either accept the risk of “dual leadership” – as well as the right of the opposition to “exist and compete” within the country’s infrastructure – or, he can choose to escalate confrontations with the opposition, which will result in explosive tension, severe international isolation and bring about the collapse of the whole establishment.
Nevertheless, it is still too early to say that the right for democratic competition between the main collectives in the Islamic Republic has been accepted within the establishment. Even if this approach is revived among some in the higher levels of the power hierarchy, there is a very serious risk of assassinations and subversion taking place. The armed attack on Karoubi’s vehicle and the assassination of Mousavi’s nephew are clear warnings. We may just be near the beginning of a complex and turbulent political process. There is still a long way to go, with many ups and downs, many twists and turns, before we can change the balance of power in our political institutions and achieve structural reform; before we can devise new laws and legislate them; before we can make actual changes in the lives of our people and fulfill their fundamental demands.
We are melting this iceberg from every direction. The winter may end much sooner than we would have thought this time last year. Wherever you look, hope is seen, and heard and sensed. This means that the smell of spring will here soon. Let’s believe in the spring.