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A Bigger Showdown

Writing in the New Yorker on Iran’s current predicament, Laura Secor notes that

of the two sides in this confrontation only one has an army of special forces, known as white shirts, willing to extract a price for defiance in blood. There is something vertiginous now about the display of all that courage under the lengthening shadow of Tiananmen Square, in a nation whose government has long appeared to view China’s as a model. President Obama has so far struck the right notes by upholding the human and civil rights of the protesters without interfering in Iran’s internal politics. But a bigger showdown is coming. If the Islamic Republic dares to mow down those ebullient crowds, it will write itself a villainous chapter in history and offend the conscience of the world.

Two points are worth noting.

First: the conscience of the world — it’s been offended before, and it gets over the offense, usually. I would not assume the regime is wholly concerned with its global approval ratings right now. Had they been, they would not have taken the trouble to rig the election results in such an “in your face” way.

Second: the bigger showdown. Whether this is the Prague Spring or the Velvet Revolution remains to be seen. I am inclined to agree with Secor — a regime that so blatantly disregarded popular will is not going to retreat. The real question is: will the army of special forces balk at the violence as their hands get soaked in the blood of their compatriots? In Tienanmen they clearly had no compunction. Across Eastern Europe they did. But violence there will be — what we’ve seen is nothing compared to what a paranoid regime is prepared to do to ensure having its way.


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