Good stuff on a day that saw the biggest demonstrations in Iran since the heyday of the Green Revolution. One person’s already been shot dead and many, many more have been beaten and teargassed. The crowds apparently weren’t huge like they were in Egypt, but demonstrations were spotted in multiple cities and the regime’s nervous enough to have placed opposition leaders Mousavi and Karroubi under house arrest. I read somewhere today that Mubarak’s downfall supposedly teaches the lesson that we’re better off making nice with rogue states like Iran, since then at least we have some leverage in restraining their military when people turn out in the streets. Is that right? Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, who’ve had no problem unleashing thugs against demonstrators before, will supposedly hold off in the face of an existential threat simply because Obama will be grumpy if they don’t? The real lesson of Mubarak’s downfall that’s being learned by leaders around the region, I’m afraid, is that if you don’t unleash the goons, you’re apt to get a knock on the door from your own military one morning and put out to pasture at Sharm el-Sheikh. The mullahs cracked down in 2009 and they’re still in power; Mubarak didn’t and now he’s yesterday’s news. No amount of nice-nice with the State Department will alter that blueprint. And if push ever comes to shove in Saudi Arabia, the royals will prove it.
Still, this is a useful statement by Hillary, not merely because it scores an easy point on the surreal Orwellian hypocrisy of Iran’s regime cheering on democracy in Cairo but because of the point I made earlier in the Ferguson post. There are a lot of nascent democrats around the region right now. Best to remind them of what it’s really like to live under an Islamist government before they go and elect one of their own. Two clips for you here, one of Clinton and the other a quickie CNN round-up of the protests. Note the footage near the end of Iranians beating a man who was trying to protect a poster of Khamenei; according to whoever uploaded it to YouTube, that man was a member of the Basij, the brownshirts sent by the regime into the streets at moments like these to crack heads and terrorize people. (Mubarak briefly deployed his own version of the same sort of goon squad back on February 2.) Exit question: Are the protests done for now or will people be back on the streets tomorrow? If it’s the latter, look out.