posted at 8:46 am on June 22, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
The moment of truth has come in Iran. The Guardian Council and Ali Khamenei have played their last card — and it might be a trump. The Revolutionary Guard has now threatened to meet the protestors in the streets and give them a “revolutionary confrontation”:
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is threatening to crush any further opposition protests over the disputed presidential election and warns demonstrators to prepare for a “revolutionary confrontation” if they take to the streets again.
The country’s most powerful military force ordered demonstrators to “end the sabotage and rioting activities” and said their resistance is a “conspiracy” against Iran.
A statement posted Monday on the Guard’s website warned protesters to “be prepared for a resolution and revolutionary confrontation with the Guards, Basij and other security forces and disciplinary forces.”
The mullahs have given up on the police and Basijis alone. The Friday warning from Ali Khamenei, the prince formerly known as the divine and Supreme Leader, did nothing to stop Iranians from filling the streets this weekend. Increasing brutality from the Basijis and police resulted in hundreds of arrests, dozens of deaths, and one national martyr for the opposition, but no end to the protests. The police and Basijis have failed to put Iranians back in their place as subjects, and the only option left is a military operation to clear the streets.
If the Revolutionary Guard makes good on its threat, the transition to military dictatorship will be complete. The mullahs will have no credibility with the people and will remain completely reliant on its army to maintain power internally. The Revolutionary Guard will understand this well, and will quickly turn Khamenei and his elders into nothing more than puppets for the Guard’s purposes. The question then will be whether the Guard can maintain control over 70 million Iranians who have already lost faith in their theocrats and never assented to rule by military force.
That assumes the Revolutionary Guard will remain cohesive. Their senior leadership will see this as a way to grab power, but the rank and file may find it difficult to go to war with their own people, especially against Iranians protesting an election that the Revolutionary Guard considers stolen from one of their own. Will the Revolutionary Guard maintain cohesion as they march into Iran’s cities and kill women and children? The fact that the mullahs have to play this card makes the question all the more critical.
Update: Unconfirmed reports have the opposition calling for a general strike of indeterminate length starting tomorrow. That will be difficult for a military operation to counter, and will further undermine the mullahs, if successful.
Update II: Allahpundit retweets a report from Tehran that claims the streets have gone quiet today, with Basiji and police patrolling in large numbers. The strike may be the next phase, if it’s true and it’s successful.