Commentary Magazine


Brace for An Escalation

I am frankly surprised the last few days in Iran have not been more violent, but I doubt the relative “peace” is sustainable.

The New York Times says the regime is now explicitly issuing death threats.

The sense of threat against the opposition was growing. Reuters reported that Mohammadreza Habibi, the senior prosecutor in the central province of Isfahan, had warned demonstrators that they could be executed under Islamic law.

“We warn the few elements controlled by foreigners who try to disrupt domestic security by inciting individuals to destroy and to commit arson that the Islamic penal code for such individuals waging war against God is execution,” Mr. Habibi said, according to the Fars news agency.

Nico Pitney published an email at the Huffington Post that indicates at least some of the demonstrators are willing to take casualties.

I spoke with my father last night who is [in Iran]… [He] told me the common sentiment among the protestors is that of incredible resolve. He said that from what he’s heard, this will not stop until the Ayatollah himself is overthrown. As he put it, “Even if a million people (Moussavi supporters) die, they will not back down”.

And Ramin Ahmadi wrote something in Forbes that I’ve been worried about but reluctant to come out and say:

The expulsion of foreign journalists is another ominous sign indicating that more bloodshed is planned. The government has made a calculated decision to confront demonstrations with pure force. It believes that the excitement of the people over the election results will be short lived. That the movement can be contained and the majority’s will can be subdued using massive force and unimaginable brutality. In preparation for that scenario, it plans to isolate the country from the rest of the world as much as possible.

UPDATE: Michael Ledeen adds:

The regime is massing two Revolutionary Guards divisions for an assault on the dissidents–something like twenty thousand soldiers from outside Tehran–and the Mousavi people don’t want to give them time to organize and prepare their attacks. No doubt there are all kinds of secret meetings going on, as the various military, militia, religious and political leaders try to read the chicken entrails and guess their destiny.


The most powerful leaders in Iran are facing a life or death showdown. Both Khamenei and Mousavi–the two opposed icons of the moment, at least–know that they will either win or die. After nightfall, millions of revolutionaries chant from their rooftops “Allah is Great” and they are chants of defiance hurled at the Islamic Republic. I cannot imagine a soft landing.

UPDATE: But then there is this in the Los Angeles Times:

Perhaps more perilous for authorities is the possibility that some soldiers, security officials and Revolutionary Guardsmen might refuse orders to fire on protesters, creating a dangerous rift within the security apparatuses.

“I would never do it,” said Hossein, a 23-year-old member of the security forces who said he and many of his friends at the military base where he serves supported the marchers. “Maybe someone would, but I would never fire on any of these people myself.”

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