Saturday, June 27, 2009

Iran in the Shadow of Michael Jackson

Just a few days ago, we were sitting in rapt attention waiting for the latest from Iran. Of course, there was little confirmed information, because the Iranian Government, having turned to martial law, had shut down the foreign media, and its own government controlled media only offering its own narrative. Still, there was information coming out here and there through twitter and YouTube. But, then Michael Jackson died, and now our attention has shifted, and Iran has stepped into the background.

Everything that is coming out of Iran suggests that the government, using a brutal crackdown, has managed to take control of the streets, quash open dissent, threaten the opposition (many of the campaign staff members of Mir Hussein Mousavi are in custody. That may explain why Mousavi has stepped back from the brink. If he's arrested, his staff, family, and friends are likely to face retribution as well. We're also seeing results of an effort that is either using tortured confessions or misinformation that is blaming the unrest not on the government, but on "foreign influences." And the government sponsored Friday sermon, delivered by a high ranking hardline cleric is calling for the execution of some of the protesters, especially those influenced by these foreign influences.

The article in today's NY Times describes a surreal scene, in which a normally bustling Tehran has become something of a ghost town. The streets are empty of cars, and the shops, though open, are empty. No one is venturing out lest they become victims of the militias and other government sponsored thugs.

There is little that the United States or its allies can do at this moment. Only time will tell where this leads. For now a hard line government has taken control, but the people have seen a side that many do not like. Over time the government's control might lessen, even as its legitimacy is challenged. Iran is a complicated place, and so we simply don't know what to expect.

However, while the attention given Michael Jackson is to be expected, let us not forget the bigger picture and push the Iranian people out of our minds and our prayers. They deserve better.


John said...

We can call out Iran for what it has become - it is a totalitarian state and its elections are a sham.

In the future we should publicly identify it for what it is. Their government is not freely elected and it's elections are a masquerade, a fake stamp of approval on the continuation of totalitarian control. They cannot even claim with any legitimacy that the mullahs are in control - only the most powerful of them. It is a dictatorship.


Anonymous said...

I agree, its a little dangerous and maybe naive to say we can't do anything about Iran. Not suggesting we blow the place up, but we can make life very uncomfortable for them. It worked with North Korea in the past.. cut off the personal funds and suddenly they fall in line. Again, I default to the easy example, Europe left Hitler alone and didn't stop him only empowered him. Iran you have a dictator who clearly wants to destroy other countries.. to simply let the dog lie is trouble.


Anonymous said...

Sorry.. but I also wanted to give you a HUGE compliment Bob for pointing this out. In our media obsessed culture, we mourn the pop star vs an entire nation being repressed.


Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

John and Chuck,

I think we need to recognize that Iran is a complicated place, and that we don't know how this well end. The Iranian people have had an urge for more freedoms, though not necessarily an end to an Islamic based government. The have the foundations for democracy, but they need to let it breath and live.

As for how to treat Iran. Iran isn't North Korea, nor is Hitler's Germany. There is an expansionist element in Iranian life -- Khamanei represents that. But there is another element that wants to pay closer attention to things at home. In the long run, I believe the later will end up on top, but it will take time.

And as for Iran's influence, remember that the current Iraqi government, put in place with the blessings of the former administration, is Shiite and allied with Iran. This makes this thing a whole lot more interesting. I think that the move to restore an ambassador to Syria is an important move -- wooing Syria away from Iran is easier now than it has been. Syria is likely spooked by this turn of events.