Good news: State Dep't refuses to condemn Iranian crackdown; Update: 2 to 3 million at rally

So says Fox News, via the Standard. Lefties keep assuring me on Twitter that western meddling will only make it easier for the regime to demonize the protesters, but (a) the demonization’s going to happen anyway, (b) no one’s asking Obama to send in the Marines, just to speak up, and (c) Angela Merkel managed to issue a statement earlier today calling the Basij thuggery “completely unacceptable” without killing the uprising in its crib. And still, from the White House, nothing. To think, some commentators are accusing The One of “cowardly silence.”

You’ll also be pleased to know that, according to no less than the New York Times, Obama didn’t bother holding any meetings or conference calls about this yesterday. Remember: Health care is a “crisis.” This is but a “situation.”

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters Monday that the United States is concerned about allegations of ballot fraud.

Kelly described the U.S. government as “deeply troubled” by the events in Iran, which is a stronger expression of concern than over the weekend when Vice President Biden cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election.

When pressed by a reporter, Kelly declined to condemn the Iranian security forces for their crackdown on street protesters. And he said the U.S. knows too little about the conduct of the election to say for sure whether there was fraud.

If you’re having trouble visualizing what’s meant by “crackdown,” take a look at this or — content warningthis, which I assume is a photo of the man described in an AP report earlier as having been shot dead at that massive rally in Tehran. How massive was it? I keep hearing the number 100,000 or “hundreds of thousands” but, per Iranian tweeters, BBC Persia claims it was one or two million. CBS says the crowd stretched for more than five miles. The clip below will give you a taste of the volume (in both senses of the word) but spare some time for this fabulous collection of photos at to get the full flavor of what’s happening.

For all the attention being paid to Mousavi, the guy to keep your eye on going forward is Rafsanjani. He’s easily the most powerful Ahmadinejad enemy inside the Iranian establishment and, as head of the Assembly of Experts, is in position to have Khamenei removed as supreme leader if he can round up enough clerical support. Read this astute analysis about “ayatollah vs. ayatollah” in Time mag for more, including Khamenei’s gambit to cool down the situation by launching that sham fraud probe. (And yes, Mousavi knows it’s a sham.) If things really fall apart and Khamenei’s forced out, Rafsanjani would be his likely replacement with Mousavi installed as president. Fun fact about Rafsanjani, incidentally: He’s been known to talk openly about why nuking Israel would be a big win for Islam because even if Iran is wiped out in a counterstrike, there’ll still be more than a billion Muslims left. What could go wrong?

Update: Time magazine says today’s rally was fully 20 to 30 times larger than the 100,000 estimate we keep hearing.

At the rally Monday, Mousavi supporters referred to the president’s speech derisively, chanting, “Ahmadi, just keep saying it’s a game of football.” Marching past a Revolutionary Guard station full of uniformed men in position, the demonstrators chanted, “We are no weeds and dirt. We are the people of Iran.”

One demonstrator looked to the guy by his side and yelled, “That drove me crazy. When he said that yesterday, calling the protestors weeds and dirt.” A 26-year old mechanic from Hashemiye in the south of Tehran, said he had left his garage to come to the protest.

As a helicopter hovered overhead, the chants grew louder with arms raised in the air: “This 63 percent that they say, where is it?”