Tightrope Walking in Tehran (and Washington, D.C.)
"There’s a wall between you and what you want
And you’ve got to leap it
Today you’ve got the power to take it
Tomorrow you won’t have the power to keep it."
— Bob Dylan, 1981
Via Nico Pitney’s indispensable liveblog at the Huffington Post, President Obama has edged a bit further off the sidelines regarding the Iranian post-election protests:
I’m very concerned — based on some of the tenor and tone of the statements that have been made — that the government of Iran recognize that the world is watching. And how they approach and deal with people who are, through peaceful means, trying to be heard will, I think, send a pretty clear signal to the international community about what Iran is and — and is not.
Meanwhile, the immense crowds that have been gathering daily in Tehran and the authoritarian regime they’re protesting against continue to watch each other, waiting to see who will blink first.
Despite threats from "supreme leader" Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of violence in response to further demonstrations, messages of continuing resistance are being passed along via new media (thanks, Attackerman) and word of mouth.
The mood of the protesters seems to be both courageous and fatalistic. Anecdotes cited in Nico Pitney’s liveblog and elsewhere on HuffPo reveal individuals uncertain of their chances of success — or even survival — and not viewing Mousavi as a savior, but nonetheless recognizing what may be a singular opportunity to affirm that the voice of the people matters in their country.
The government’s reluctance so far to respond with a direct crackdown is explained by Jon Lee Anderson in the New Yorker:
Thirty years ago, during the demonstrations that led to the Shah’s downfall, one of the dominant images was scenes of uniformed soldiers firing live ammunition at protesters. This week, Iran’s clerics seem determined, at least, not to repeat that historic mistake. They remember that the daily news coverage of the Shah’s soldiers shooting and killing unarmed protesters precipitated the collapse of the regime.
In this context, Obama’s reminder that "the world is watching" is timely and important as a way of (hopefully) deterring wider bloodshed.