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The Green Movement at One Year

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles

08 Jun 2010 18:4933 Comments
PlusOne.jpgA broad-based phenomenon wages a complex struggle.

June 12 marks the first anniversary of Iran's tenth presidential election. Iranian people participated in the voting en masse, not just inside the country, but all over the world in the diaspora: 85 percent of those eligible cast a vote. There was great hope that the election would close a sad chapter in Iran's recent history -- the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- and usher in a new era with a more open and tolerant society, representing the first concrete steps toward a democratic political system.

But the people's hopes were dashed after the hardliners rigged the election and committed fraud on a large scale to declare Ahmadinejad the "victor." Protests broke out, beginning with a massive demonstration on June 15 in Tehran. According to Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, three million people took part. Alireza Zakani, a hardline Majles (parliament) deputy, quoted former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani to the effect that at least 3.5 million people had participated. Whatever the precise figure, it was one of the largest demonstrations in Iran's history. The protests strengthened the Green Movement that emerged just before the election and plunged the country into a deep crisis that has yet to end. The protests began with a simple question, "Where is my vote?" But people's demands quickly broadened until the very foundations of the Islamic Republic were brought into question. In previous articles, I have chronicled these events and those that followed over the past year.

A well-known reporter for the New York Times who has spent years in the Middle East, asked me the other day where I believe Iran and the Green Movement stand one year after the rigged election, and what changes, if any, the movement has brought. In my view, the changes have been deep and lasting, both for the large majority of Iranians who aspire to live in a democracy and for the hardline fundamentalist leadership and its supporters. After years in which the world's view of Iranian society had been deeply distorted, the Green Movement succeeded in drawing a much truer picture of the country's people, a young, educated, highly dynamic population that wants a democratic political system, the rule of law, and respect for fundamental human rights, regardless of citizens' political leanings, gender, and ethnicity.

At the same time, the Green Movement has also revealed the true face of the hardline fundamentalists, a narrow segment of the population that is willing to do whatever it takes to retain power, including jailing a large number of people; holding Stalinist show trials that have resulted in long jail sentences for Reformist leaders, university students, human rights advocates, and ordinary citizens; torturing, sodomizing, and murdering protestors; assassinating innocent victims in order to send a "message" to the people and the movement's leadership; and even refusing to return the bodies of executed young political activists to their families.

With few exceptions, elections in Iran have never been democratic or fair. The regime often bars opposition figures from running. The ruling elite utilizes the vast resources of the nation in order to promote its own candidates and, at the same time, prohibits the opposition from speaking to the public through its own dailies, weeklies, and other publications and from operating its own TV channels and radio stations. The opposition is not given any time -- let alone equal time -- on the national TV and radio network to address the public.

On the other hand, since the 1979 Revolution, elections have been held regularly and on schedule. With few exceptions, they have been competitive in the sense that there have always been contrasting views about the important issues facing the nation, at least some candidates have supported at least some of the people's aspirations, and the outcome was not known in advance. In short, the elections were not of the type that are held in some U.S. allies in the region, such as Egypt -- foregone conclusions. Moreover, the ruling establishment usually went along with the results, even when they were not to its liking.

But last year's election showed that the ruling establishment is no longer willing to accept displeasing outcomes, because it recognizes that it cannot win competitive elections, let alone democratic and fair ones. It thus resorted to fraud.

As a result, the hardline leadership lost any residual legitimacy that it might have had, not only in Iran, but around the globe as well. It can no longer boast to the people of the Middle East and the Islamic world about its "religious democracy." The process of voting was turned into an exercise in futility. There is no point in participating in the electoral process when there is no guarantee that the opposition can run and people's votes will be respected. In my view, this is the first important fruit of the Green Movement: It forced the hardliners, in order to retain power, to transform the elections from a dynamic process to a meaningless event, thereby annulling any rightful claim to that power.

The second important change in Iran's political scene is that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei became a direct, public target of people's anger. His role in creating the crisis that the nation faces, his decision to take sides with a small coterie against a very large majority, his condoning of violence -- as in his Friday Prayer sermon last June 19 -- have transformed him into a despicable figure in the eyes of many Iranians. An important psychological barrier has been broken: Khamenei is now explicitly held responsible for the ills of the nation.

The country is ruled under a system that Khamenei has upheld since he was appointed Supreme Leader in 1989. The Constitution bestows upon him absolute power. With this power, which he has not hesitated to use, comes responsibility, including that for the present state of affairs, in which a small group of reactionaries led by Ahmadinejad and his supporters in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have squandered the nation's resources through unprecedented levels of corruption, nepotism, and outright theft, as oppression of the people continues unabated and the jails grow overcrowded with political prisoners.

Mostafa Pourmohammadi, the head of the National Auditing Organization, recently reported to Khamenei that Ahmadinejad's administration is the most corrupt since the 1979 Revolution. Pourmohammadi was Ahmadinejad's first minister of the interior and is a hardliner himself. His report thus represents a very important development, as the hardliners, and even a substantial part of the population, have long considered the Rafsanjani administration as the benchmark of corruption. Although the report was not publicized -- Khamenei ordered it suppressed -- it does indicate that even leading hardliners now recognize the depth of the problems with Ahmadinejad and his government.

More important is the fact that the protests against the election fraud quickly turned into protests against all that has gone wrong in Iran over the last 30 years and, in particular, since 1989 after the war with Iraq ended and Khamenei came to power. People finally expressed what they wanted loud and clear, and showed that they are no longer willing to passively accept what the hardliners do to them. They were, and still are, willing to make great sacrifices. At least 110 people have been confirmed dead. Several people have been assassinated, from Mir Hossein Mousavi's nephewto Professor Masoud Ali Mohammadi and others.

Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, Dr. Zahra Rahnavard -- Mousavi's wife -- and former President Mohammad Khatami have not allowed this innocent blood to be wasted. They have resisted tremendous pressures, have kept up speaking against the crimes, and as the people's demands have broadened, so also have the steps these leaders taken to reinforce the movement. It is difficult for some, especially in the diaspora, to believe it, but the fact is the four have courageously spoken against the very political system in whose creation they played important roles.

Another important change is that the Revolutionary Guards were finally forced to admit publicly that they are the true power in Iran. It was already known that major figures in Ahmadinejad's cabinet, as well as many provincial governors, mayors, and Majles deputies are former Guard officers, and that Ahmadinejad could not have been elected in 2005 without the massive support of the Guards and the Basij militia. But it was last year's election, when the fraud was led by a one-time Guard officer, former Interior Minister Sadegh Mahsouli, and its aftermath that forced the corps' high command to set aside any pretense. Major General Mohammad Ali (Aziz) Jafari, the Revolutionary Guards' top commander, said last week, "Before being a military organization, the IRGC is a security-political organization." Other Guard commanders have publicly admitted how their forces played the lead role in the violent crackdown, because the police and Ministry of Intelligence operatives could not control the protests.

Another important change in Iran's political scene brought about by the Green Movement is that the deep fissures among the clerics finally came to the surface. Except for a small reactionary minority that benefits from the present state of affairs and hides behind the Supreme Leader, most are not happy about what is going on. They recognize that Khamenei's blind support of Ahmadinejad is hurting both the nation and Islam. Some ayatollahs, such as Yousef Sanei, Asadollah Bayat, and Mohammad Ali Dastgheyb, have spoken publicly and courageously against the crimes that are transpiring. Many other ayatollahs, including Abdollah Javadi Amoli (the Larijanis' maternal uncle), Ebrahim Amini, Musa Shobeiri Zanjani, and Hossein Vahid Khorasani, have refused to meet with Ahmadinejad or congratulate him on his "reelection." Still others, such as Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi and, especially, Ayatollah Sayyed Abdolkarim Mousavi Ardabili, have tried behind the scenes to resolve the crisis. Perhaps most importantly, the hardliners can no longer deny their desire to remove Rafsanjani from the political scene, and the resulting power struggle is now being played out openly.

The hardliners are keenly aware of the gaping fissures and extremely sensitive to their public discussion. When Dr. Abdolkarim Soroush, the distinguished Islamic scholar, recently urged the clerics in Qom to move to Najaf, Iraq, to demonstrate their displeasure, Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi -- a corrupt reactionary who, together with his son, has been accused of stealing national assets -- declared him an apostate. Kayhan, the daily mouthpiece of the hardliners, prominently displayed the declaration.

Another fruit of the Green Movement has been the emergence of Mousavi, Karroubi, and Dr. Rahnavard -- and, to a lesser extent, Khatami -- as its leaders and symbols, even though they humbly make no claim to such status. By imposing Ahmadinejad on Iran, and in particular transforming Mousavi into the symbol of resistance, the hardliners have committed a strategic blunder that has cost them dearly. If Mousavi had been elected, he would have begun making meaningful, but incremental, changes in the system.

Some say that a President Mousavi would have been the second coming of Khatami who, despite being genuinely good and uncorrupted, often acted weakly. I disagree. I believe that, had he been elected, Mousavi would have resisted Khamenei's interference in the state's affairs -- a view supported by the events of the past year. Khatami put it best when he told his young angry supporters after he withdrew from the presidential race, "I am the man of Friday, but Mir Hossein is the man of Saturday." Iranian elections are held on Fridays -- the "man of Friday" can win the votes. "The man of Saturday," the day after the elections, is the man capable of resisting the hardliners once in office. The hardliners saw Mousavi in a similar light, which is why they were so fiercely opposed to him.

Mousavi's transformation has been manifested not only in his rejection of what the hardliners do in the name of the Islamic Republic and Islam. It has also been demonstrated by his gradual move, which began before last year's election, toward genuinely democratic positions. He has supported the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, pluralism within the Green Movement, and respect for the ideas of others. At the same time, he has condemned all the crimes perpetrated by the regime. In this regard, both Mousavi and Karroubi are way ahead of Khatami at the height of the Reformist movement of 1997-2000.

Mousavi has also made it clear that he draws no line between himself and any other supporter of the Green Movement. For example, when his own nephew was assassinated, his wife Dr. Rahnavard was assaulted, his brother-in-law Shapour Kazemi (a completely apolitical engineer scientist) was arrested on bogus charges, and his aides were thrown in jail, he restrained his outrage, declaring that he is no different from the rest of the Iranian people as a victim of the hardliners' crimes.

Mousavi's declaration on January 1, 2010, that Ahmadinejad's government is illegitimate and illegal, yet still responsible for the nation, was a political masterstroke. He made it clear that because the hardliners control all levers of power and resources in Iran, they are also responsible for whatever may happen to the country, both domestically and internationally. He issued two warnings. He counseled against making radical demands that are not quickly achievable, and may only push the nation toward large-scale bloodshed and a resulting loss of support for the movement. He has stated emphatically, "We should agree on a minimum set of demands so that we can attract the maximum support." He also predicted that the hardliners might well make concessions to foreign powers that hurt Iran's long-term national interests, just to lower the external pressure on themselves -- the recent concessions on Iran's nuclear program and the nuclear fuel swap are an example of precisely what he was talking about.

Mousavi has taken these steps, while still professing loyalty to what he calls "the ideals of the Imam," Ayatollah Khomeini. Some have attacked him for doing so. While talk of loyalty to Khomeini's "ideals" is, in my opinion, a mistake and will not bring the movement any new support, attacking Mousavi, Karroubi, and Khatami for talking about Khomeini is also wrong. Mousavi, in particular, has always said that he defends pluralism and respects other people's opinion. He has always said he is a supporter, not a leader, of the movement, precisely because he wants to freely express his opinion without any constraints. At the same time, the hardliners will use anything to attack the trio -- imagine what they would make of a public renunciation of Khomeini. The most important issue for the supporters of the democratic movement is what the trio and other leaders do, rather than what they say.

I must also pay tribute to Karroubi, who has courageously, bluntly, and with utmost honesty spoken against the crimes that have taken place. He has declared repeatedly that he is prepared for the consequences, and is not afraid of the threats against him and his family, including the assaults on him and his sons. His courage is truly admirable, especially in a country where the Revolutionary Guards and Ministry of Intelligence agents murder people with impunity.

Another important fruit of the Green Movement is the death of Khomeini-ism. Although Rafsanjani proclaimed the end of the Khomeini era back in the mid-1990s, events since 2005, when Ahmadinejad was elected, and particularly since last year have demonstrated that Khomeini has become something like Mao Zedong of China: His nominal supporters still mention his name with respect, and see to it that huge posters of him hang everywhere, even as they act against many things that he stood for.

I should clarify that I am completely opposed to Velaayat-e Faghih (guardianship of the Islamic jurist, the backbone of Iran's political system, as represented by Ayatollah Khamenei), which is the most important inheritance that Khomeini left for Iran. He is also responsible for the execution of thousands of political prisoners in the 1980s.

But the point here is a comparison between the broader nature of his leadership and what the hardliners and Ayatollah Khamenei do in his name.

Although he was the Supreme Leader, with unparalleled authority as the icon of the 1979 Revolution, Khomeini rarely interfered in the daily affairs of the nation -- a sharp contrast to the behavior of his successor. In addition, he was fiercely opposed to military intervention in politics and the economy, whereas the nation is now essentially run by the Revolutionary Guards. Khomeini always emphasized that "Majles dar ra's omoor ast" (the Majles is the most important organ), whereas it has now become little more than an obedient arm of the hardliners. The most important consequence of the death of Khomeini-ism is that it has been amply demonstrated that a nation cannot have a Supreme Leader and be democratic.

All of the above have resulted in the most important change, the greatest fruit of the Green Movement: the lines have been drawn. There is no longer any pretense. On one side are the Revolutionary Guards, the security/intelligence apparatus, a small faction of reactionary and ultraconservative clerics, and a narrow social base, probably about 15-20 percent of the population. On the other side is everyone else. Those in the majority have different demands, some economic, others social or political. Some are willing to do anything to bring about meaningful change, some are more cautious. But, they all agree on one thing: the present situation is no longer acceptable or tenable.

A year after its birth, the Green Movement should be recognized for what it does and does not represent:

The Green Movement is not about secularism versus religion, but about citizens' rights regardless of their individual beliefs. Some, particularly in the diaspora, have tried to define the movement as secular, but this denies both its origins and the source of much of its internal support. Some demand that the movement's leaders declare that they support a secular system. But that demonstrates a misunderstanding of the movement's current goals.

The goal of the Green Movement at this stage is not the takeover of the government, although it will hopefully be able to achieve that at some point. Rather, to attain Iranian citizens their proper rights, it aims to critique the ruling elite and demonstrate with utmost clarity and honesty the regime's many shortcomings. In this way, any success that the movement may have will be lasting.

The Green Movement is not yet strong enough, to issue, for example, an ultimatum to the ruling establishment. The reasons are at least fourfold. First, the movement has not yet spread to every strata of society. Significant works remains to achieve this. Second, the hardliners control the nation's vast resources; the Greens have none, aside from the people. Third, the hardliners are armed to the teeth, and they have demonstrated time and again that they will not hesitate to resort to bloodshed to retain power. Fourth, unlike Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the hardliners do have a significant, albeit narrow, social base. Unlike the Shah, as well, the hardliners and their supporters have no place else to go. They have little choice but to stay in Iran and fight. That is why the Green Movement must diligently avoid violence, except in self-defense.

The Green Movement represents, at this stage, a social network, both horizontal and vertical. It is not a true political organization, because as soon as it ever became one, it would be savagely suppressed.

The Green Movement does have a leadership, because no movement can succeed without one. Those who, in the name of democracy, oppose the Green Movement or its present leadership, or even refute its existence, are in denial. The most important aspect of the leadership is that it is not based on individual charisma -- as was the case in the 1979 Revolution -- but on what it has actually done over the past year. I am aware of the row among some in the diaspora over the movement's leadership. But those who deny its plain existence are mostly either ambitious opportunists who want to ride the waves to power, supporters of the Mojahedin-e Khalgh Organization, or members of extremist monarchist factions. At least in Iran, the question of the leadership is a nonissue. But as Mousavi has always emphasized, everyone is equal to everyone else within the movement.

The Green Movement belongs to all the people who share its goals, regardless of who they are. However, note the words of Taghi Rahmani, the distinguished nationalist-religious thinker who has spent 14 years in the prisons of the Islamic Republic. As he put it, "Those who demand radical actions by the movement should explain what it is that they have done for the movement. Are those who have any means of mass communications willing to put that to use for the movement, without mentioning their own group or affiliation?" In addition, the critics of the Green Movement should ask themselves whether they can demonstrate their own righteousness and the superiority of their strategy to a large segment of the population. Many take idealistic positions without any regard for the facts on the ground in Iran, and why not? From the comfort of our homes abroad, we can take any radical position and present ourselves as "super" progressives. But at some point we must come back to earth and deal with the real problems.

Despite the skepticism of some, the Green Movement is alive and well. The strongest evidence is the fact that the arrests of university students, political figures, human rights advocates, feminist leaders, journalists, and intellectuals have continued without pause, as have the show trials. Long sentences are still being handed out. Seven people have been executed, and another 16 are on death row. Torture and beatings of political prisoners continue, and the threats against the leaders of the movement grow ever louder. Just last week, tens of thousands Basij and Guard forces were moved to Tehran and other large cities. Mousavi, Karroubi, Dr. Rahnavard, and Khatami have not been arrested simply because that would ignite a huge explosion.

Finally, let us take a look at the state of media and journalism in Iran since the election. Over the past year, 170 journalists, including 32 women, were arrested. Twenty-two journalists have been given a total of 135 years in prison. Eighty-five journalists are awaiting their show trials or their jail sentences. Thirty-seven journalists are in jail, making Iran the first -- or second largest prison for journalists in the world after China. One hundred journalists have left Iran. One journalist, Dr. Ahmad Zaydabadi, has been banned from writing for life. Another, Jila Baniya'ghoub, has been banned for 30 years. In a country where a typical journalist makes less than $1,500 per month, $520 million has been paid by journalists to the judiciary as bail to be temporarily released. Twenty-three newspapers have been closed or forced to close "voluntarily." One journalist, Alireza Eftekhari, who had worked with the daily Abrar-e Eghtesaadi, was murdered on June 15, 2009 [the day in which huge demonstrations took place] as a result of repeated blows to the head. His body was returned to his family on July 13, 2009. It is not
yet clear how he was murdered.

The Green Movement, as a Persian proverb goes, "is a raging fire under a heap of ash," with the potential to come to the surface again at any moment. What needs to be done is to recognize its strengths and build on them, address its weaknesses, and make it an all-encompassing movement for every Iranian.

Copyright © 2010 Tehran Bureau

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Dear Dr. Sahimi,

The Green's Accomplishments you highlight are well worth contemplating as they will be key to indigenously inspired social and political transformations in Iran.

Another key change in the past year, one which I have heard from several friends and colleagues across a spectrum of Greens, and one that I wish you would have touched upon, is the realization by the "younger Greens" that the U.S. (and more broadly western) goals in Iran is highly cynical. Maybe the subject of another post by you?!

As an aside, I would suggest that the accomplishments of the Greens stands on its own and irrespective of the extent to which the elections were fair and/or free. In other words,there are extensive arguments on many sides of the election issue, but what the Greens have been able to visibly demonstrate is the deep roots of a democratic movement in Iran and this I suggest is a great accomplishment independent of what one may think of the election shenanigans. It deserves to stand on its own.

Jay / June 8, 2010 9:40 PM

Another well-written article.

I think what we are seeing happen to the "Islamic revolution" is transformation by splintering. Some, like MKO and communists splintered early, almost right from the onset, changng the ladscape of the revolution. Last year we saw further splintering as the "leftist Islamist" fell out (perpetrators suddenly becoming victims themselves---tasting some of their own medicine--- suddenly, feeling first hand the corruption and injustices of the regime!)

With this trend one can see more and more splintering down the road, perhaps at an accelerated rate, making Khamanai and his core supporters and agents more and more isolated-- and weaker. This trend should continue as long as greens (people) continue holding the regime's foot to the fire, and noone does any thing stupid, like starting a war.

I think what is important here is realizing that this may be a long process, a marathon, not a sprint.

In this battle, time is on our side.

The author has correctly acknowledged the "significant, albeit narrow, social base" of the hardliners. (He made a reasnoable estimate of 15-20% of population i.e 10-15,000,000 people, a significant number).

It is possible that many of these supporters (or at least their children) share some of the aspirations of the rest of the population. They can potentially be educated and enlightened and shown that democracy, justice, and rule of law benefit them as well.
Educating and enlightening this population via art, cinema, information sharing and accessibility can be very effective and should be a priority.

Ahvaz / June 9, 2010 4:24 AM

I totally disagree with the author that If Mousavi had won the election, he would have resisted inference by khamanei or the other hardliners in government affairs or he would have been any different from khatami. The election of Ahmadinejad was the best thing ever happened to Iran. Because people especially the young and educated generation reacted spontaneously and took to the streets and demonstrated their dissatisfaction with the result and obvious vote rigging. It was the recognition of wedge and clash of interests of 2 fronts of the government by people and created the biggest uprising since the notorious Islamic regime. Do you think Mousavi would have stood up to khamanei or other hardliners if he had won. The current situation and MOusavi and Karubi siding with people was imposed on them by people. Mousavi was Prime minister of Iran in the 80's during the darkest chapter of the Islamic regime and he didn’t seem to have any problems with how the country was being run or how deadly the regime was silencing voices of dissidents. However I must say I admire Mousavi and Karubi's Resistance and standing up against Khamanei. but don’t forget it was the people of Iran who took their fate in their hands, weathered all kinds of repression, torture, killing, and rape to provide MOusavi and Karubi with the ammunition they needed to stand up against the hardliners. Other wise without people's active role and in fact leading this movement, Mousavi Karubi wouldn’t be where they are today as they were before the election.

Sia / June 9, 2010 7:31 AM

Green at one year:


pouya / June 9, 2010 10:19 AM

I guess the author left the best for last. The final few paragraphs are truly enlightening.

While the Green are truly dead, the overall thesis of this article, as I see it, is correct: something deep changed in Iran last year. We can all look back at 2009 events and agree, not in a too distant future, that change started on June 13th, 2009.

An article in the magazine Nation, written by an Iranian American journalist, points that many who supported the Greens felt the movement was hijacked by foreign powers, and for fear of war sat home. That explained to me the death of the Green, but it also shows that it is transforming into something else, and as Dr. Sahimi points out, there is fire under the ashes. Hopefully when it emerges again, it won't be tainted by a color revolution.

Despite my disagreements with Dr. Sahimi, I must say he has written another balanced article. One worthy of reading, even if you disagree with it.

Pouya / June 9, 2010 11:06 AM

Green movement in another 1953 operation Ajax that failed, fortunately or unfortunately depending on who you are talking to. One thing is sure though, with passing time the green movement is joining a plethora of other opposition groups who have emerged in the past several decades in Iran. A plethora which have no influence what so ever on Iranian political functioning. Groups such as MKO, PJAK, Monarchists, etc. The protests have been getting thinner and thinner by the day unlike what had happened in 1978-79. I predict, there is not going to be any major protests on 12th June this year and most probably past the 12th June, the greens will be officially dead since they have not been able to muster any significant opposition force and the role of the opposition is being transferred to other parties inside Iran who have some level of influencing the events. Parties and people like Larijani and others. The biggest mistake of greens was their uncompromising stand which burned them out quickly. Politics is the name of compromise. Any respected politician would tell you that. Unfortunately greens whose ideology does not go beyond a color and some adjustment to the current system do not have a chance against the political entities in Iran who are enormously powerful. These entities who have propelled Iran into having the world's fastest growth rate in science and technology and turning Iran into an international power since for the first time in the past 300 years can not be side lined without equally strong ideologies and goals.
The greens were born on internet life support machine. People of Iran wanted deliverance not slogans and as soon as they realized greens can not deliver on their goals the people abandoned them. Though they still have a sizable support outside of Iran, thanks to the coverage by foreign media but the diaspora has least interest in political deliverance of greens and is only fixated to take revenge on mollahs. In fact many of diaspora supporters of greens come from non-reconciling backgrounds with wild variations from monarchists to communists. Such a spectrum hardly binds together for long.
As for what Iran holds in future long after the greens have become another diaspora opposition group joining the afew hundreds already active outside Iran, is any body's guess. But certain things are clear and should be taken into account by these anti-IRI groups. One thing is that any foreign assistance and "guidance" will make them weaker as the Iranian society has reached such level of maturity that it can recognize its interests and the ways to reach it. So their association with foreign powers and working along the paths that puts the interests of the foreign powers before Iran would be self defeating and weakening. Obviously if a western state is willing to bankroll an institution or political entity they would want to use it to further their interests and this makes them a liability rather than an advantage with regard to Iran. The opposition groups should put only Iranians living in Iran as their only supporters, financial or political. That way they can become a true opposition. The second thing is that opposition groups must start interacting politically with both the system and people in Iran. True revolutions are rare breed, only less than a dozen haven happened in human history and no two have happened in the same nation. Coups are many and most of them are branded under the name of revolution but in reality they are not. Both coups and revolution are not going to happen in Iran, so opposition groups should stop thinking in those terms. Revolution by its rarity and the fact that it already has happened in Iran once is statistically a non-option. Coup in Iran is impossible as this latest CIA attempt in Iran has proven. The security apparatus of Iran is too strong for a coup to function since Iranian apparatus today is not being run off political convictions but runs on religious convictions which are very potent. One would betray his boss on political convictions but betrayal in a religious system is inherently minimized since the believer would not want to buy the wrath of God he believes in. The third advice for Iranian opposition is for them to devise complete, explainable and transparent plans which are better than the current government's plans with regard to advancing Iran and making it a prosperous nation. Currently none of the Iranian opposition groups offer such roadmaps at all. The whole of their argument is based gossip and stereotypes and prejudices and accusations. Such techniques will not work with Iran and will fail even more since Iranians are getting more educated and enlightened. A look at press releases and the analysis of these opposition groups shows that there is no shred of statistics or proof. The only statistics ever showing up on their press is the number of executions in Iran and that also is not complete since no reference is made to Iran's drug problems mostly because of Afghanistan and that the majority of executions in Iran are drug related. Such disparity in analysis is politically fatal in long term. While Iranian state uses maximum logic it can the opposition groups are literally starving in logic. This should change. An Iranian scientist conducting research in Iran would take pride in his country advancing scientifically and surely he/she knows that the research grants for his/her projects are approved by the IRI. While the current government clearly comes out and says that they are going to quadruple Iran's research grants the opposition is eerily quite on the matter. So it is not strange if the scientist supports the current government than the opposition. The same goes around everything from village construction projects to Iran's national security. The greens in the past year have not been able to put forward one single project of economic or political significance even in the most theoretical terms let alone giving people a hope or a dream even. What they have been solely doing has been "opposing" at whatever cost. Just like a spoiled child who just "opposes" for the sake of it. Such immaturity has been paid by the greens in expensive political capital terms. They have mostly now been discredited and have no future in politics of Iran.

Smith Wordok / June 9, 2010 10:25 PM

@Smith Wordok,
Is that you Pouya? Did you change your name? Ay Kalak. ;) ;)

Ahvaz / June 9, 2010 11:01 PM

As always an excellent article Dr. Sahimi. Many thanks. A few observations for your files from inside of Iran:

Months after the protests there was almost zero new business agreements being entered into and few loans being granted by banks. About a month prior to Noruz the economy spluttered back to life and this coincided with a general understanding that the regime would not collapse and the Green Movement had ground to a halt.

It is doubtful if there will be very large crowds in the streets for the anniversary because the wait and see period is not yet over. Everybody knows this normalcy is only superficial and the silent majority will be heard when the right conditions come about.

A former Basij that I have known over the past eight years recently asked me to download the presidential debates because he said every Web site he had tried to do this from was blocked. After a long search I was able to download the debates and give him a copy. He says he has a friend that wants to edit the highlights and distribute it.

What is very interesting about this incident is that he is very upset that a program broadcast on government television stations is now considered taboo. Another interesting change is that all of the ordinary Iranians that I know that voted for Ahmadinejad now regret doing so. And almost all of them are seriously hurting economically, and my prediction is that the Second Green Movement is going to be rooted in the very dire economic conditions that ordinary Iranians are facing.

With meat costing $14 dollars a pound and dairy products and poultry becoming so expensive that workers are forced to radically reduce their consumption -- and with most fruit now a luxury item -- this regime is not going to be able to hold onto power no matter how barbaric it behaves if the crowd it faces is angry -- and hungry.

Ten years ago the only way that I saw regime change taking place was through its own incompetence and I think this is even more true today.

What the Green Movement needs to concentrate on is being ready to take over when the collapse takes place because not being ready will create a dangerous vacuum that can easily be filled by those only having their own interests in mind and not have the well being of Iranians as their first priority.

And in my opinion being ready to take over requires that as many Iranians as possible know how the democratic process works, and knows how to implement it, and has a clear understanding of what is meant by "the rule of law". If those three million Iranians that marched to Azadi acquired a very clear understanding of these two essential "tools" then it is inevitable that positive change will take place in Iran.

Mohammad Alireza / June 10, 2010 12:50 AM

Dr. Sahimi and other readers:

Rather than simply continue to talk of the "rigged election" with no real evidence to back up that allegation, why not read a thorough analysis of it. Maybe you'll still feel the same, but it will require some thought for you to do so.

EAB / June 10, 2010 5:55 AM

In the first sentence of my previous comment there is a typo, I meant "Green movement in another 1953 operation Ajax". Sorry for that. One more elaboration of my previous comment is that, the opposition groups should emulate opposition in United States or Europe. They should come out and announce their clear strategies for Iran. For example they can tell people the plans they have for the economy of Iran, job creation strategies, their plans for Iran's space program, their goals for Iran's foreign policy, their take on Iranian military and security, etc.
No I am not Puya.

Smith Wordok / June 10, 2010 9:52 AM


excellent points particularly when you said the Greens have been opposing for the sake of opposing itself. It is absolutely true that Mousavi failed to provide what he would do differently. In fact, if his statements are to be judged, he has been more radical and uncompromising on the nuclear issue than Ahmadinejad. But during the election, as he mumbeled during the debates, he never set a vision about what he would do. Dr. Sahimi's article only assumes that Mousavi would chanllenge the supreme leader. There is no such evidence (even though I like his article over all).

I disagree with you and agree with the overall thrust of the article in that something did change in Iran last year. That is why I distinguish between the Greens, a foreign influenced movement which is dead, and the genuine desires of a segment of the society which lives on, and can be the nucleus for a future change.

In the past, I have asserted that should the IR bring miningful change to the electoral process of Iran as it's been proposed by Larijani and Resaei, it would end the "fire beneath the ashes." The proposal to diminish the role of the GC remains on the table and is being debated in Iran. The system recongnizes that its institutions failed to reassure a significant protion of the society that their votes were counted. I believe they want to correct that, and it will only help Iran and its development.


I am sorry to dissappoint you as you are, once again, caught in one of your paranoid ideas. Fabricating your own facts in the best tradition of the Greens.

pouya / June 10, 2010 10:28 AM

I enjoyed reading Mohammad Alireza's piece. But I am concerned about one thing, that is the assertion "what the green movement needs to concentrate on...." is filling a vaccum "that can easily be filled by those only haveing their own interests.." and no that of the Iranian people. Well, there is where the Greens don't pass the smell test. They are by definition a foreign influenced group as long as no one can explain how the got named after the color green. Ignoring the elephant in the room is not the answer.

Pouya / June 10, 2010 10:45 AM

Eric A Brill (EAB):

Before you even posted your "analysis," you communicated it with me. You argued with me for a long time, and I presented to you so much evidence and credible arguments, but none, absolutely none, of them made it into your "analysis." That is because you - the great expert of Iranian politics from thousands of miles away (probably have never been to Iran) and a supporter of a most reactionary man, Ahmadinejad - had made up your mind! So, this is, AT BEST, a case of pot calling kettle black.


First of all, since you have such high standards, why don't you present your evidence of the Green Movement being foreign influenced? Even Ayatollah Khamenei has said that he does not believe that the leaders of the GM have any link with foreign powers. There is no question that foreign powers might want to influence the events in a country like Iran, but accusations of your sort - which, by the way, are repeated in Iran ONLY by the most reactionary, the most oppressive, and the most corrupt groups and figures that benefit directly from the present sorry state of affairs, but not even by a significant fraction of the fundamentalists - is totally repugnant in my view, given that some of the best children of the nation were killed, are in jail, were and are being tortured, raped, and sodomized .....

Secondly, I do not understand why you are so brazenly jubilant that the GM is "dead" (not that it is). You should have some self-control. You seem to be living in a fantasy world. Just read the 3rd and 2nd paragraphs from the bottom again, and try to open up your mind.

Third, it seems to me that in order for you to save face and not admit that you were wrong about the GM, you now say that it is "dead," but that there is a genuine indigeneous movement for change. Well, call it whatever you want. Make it colorless! It does not change anything. The Movement is here to stay.

Muhammad Sahimi / June 10, 2010 7:34 PM

I don't understand why Khamenei is so opposed to to the green movement and Mousavi in general. Regarless if the greens or Ahmadinejad win the struggle for "secular" power, is will still be the one in control of all government and cultural and military affairs. I guess he sees any change from the status quo as a threat to him. When in reality there is no real threat to his power.
That is a peculiar aspect of dictators who isolate themselves to maintain their power and prove themselves right that their utopian dreams are reality. They then become very paranoid. Convinced that their supporters are againsts them. This has been seen many, many times. Stalin, Hitler, Kim, etc., etc., etc.

Does the green movement have any chance of making small insignificant changes, while trying to buddy up to the real leaders of Iran? Absolutely not.

Instead of try to change the insignificant parts of the dictatorship in Iran, they should concentrate on who really holds the power. And that is not Ahmadinejad or his cohorts. It is the mullah's and their basij, and the revolutionary guard who hold power.
How does one rest control from these groups?.........By infiltrating them. The next time the Ayatolla calls out the Basij, if it is filled with reformists, the suppression will not happen.

muhammad billy bob / June 10, 2010 9:43 PM

One more thing that is increasing making green movement politically dead is its increasing support by movements like MKO which are highly despised by all Iranians. ( ). Green movement has already been hijacked by the enemies of Iran. Those who are supporting greens should know that once upon a time, MKO and BaniSadr had more support in Iran than greens have ever had. But they lost all of it just because those movements did not put the interests of Iran supreme in their calculations. Greens have made this mistake in the past one year and have paid for it dearly as more and more people have left their camps. Emotional radicalization of public works only for a few weeks and max a few months but then it loses its efficacy. Words like sodomizing and torture can galvanize people for the benefit of a few but only temporarily as soon the public realizes that either there is no proof or justification for those accusations or that those accusations and allegations exist in every country for example, the most notorious prisons famous for rape are not in Iran but in United States. So greens never went beyond a rhetoric handed to them by CIA. From their slogans to their political ideology they were being directed and handled by vested interests. So that is why they are losing their support by the day. As for Mr. Sahimi's argument with Mr. Eric, I want to suggest to Mr. Sahimi to write his proofs here on this site so that we the people of the world have a chance to compare the two and decide for ourselves who is right and rational. Right now I am on the side of Mr. Eric, since his analysis is more scientific than anything I have seen. Lets not forget these things have happened before whether in 1953 or see this one for yourself:

And at the end:
I think USA wants to blame its failure of Iran policy on others. The truth is no one including China and Russian hold much sway over Iran at all.The problem is, USA can not stop Iran's nuclear program just by bombing it from the air as has been indicated by department of defense. The reason for that is Iran is not Iraq or for that matter a back ward country. It worked with Iraq because Iraqis did not have an industrial base and scientists capable of indigenous scientific research. When Israel bombed Iraqi reactor, basically French pulled out of Iraq and that is why it was successful. Iraq could not build even a screw and had to import even assault rifles, so any thing bombed out as long as Iraq could not buy a replacement for it in international markets, was considered gone forever.

The problem with Iran is that they have a large population that is young and educated. Infact Iran's population is twice that of Iraq and Afghanistan combined, just as their land is twice as big as Iraq and Afghanistan combined. You can not bomb every thing in Iran since we do not know their exact locations as intel is bad from Iran. Also Iran has a large pool of engineers and scientists constantly at work. Actually Iran has the world's fastest growth rate in science and technology. That alone provides Iran with redundancy and multiple backup options for every kind of attack and sanctions. There are basically two different sanctions that work. Sanctions that prohibit a country's access to minerals, raw material and energy which is basically meaningless for Iran since Iran is one of the 10 most minerally rich and energy rich country of the world. They can live for centuries without any access to world markets. The other sanction prohibits a nation's access to technological products. Again Iran with its massive investment in education for the past 3 decades has already reached a self sustaining science and technology generation level that would make it possible for Iranian leaders to counter sanctions in long turn. Any product which is not made in Iran can be sanctioned for a few months or even for a couple of years but Iran has reached the technological level to research or reverse engineer the sanctioned product within months to a year max. And they are smart too. For example with gasoline sanctions which have not even yet taken effect, Iran has started an ambitious research and development program into refining technologies all the while converting its car fleets to CNG instead of gasoline. That has made Iran to have the world's fastest growing market for NGV's.
All this leaves USA only with one option and that is invading Iran. But with current state of affair in US military and economic affairs and the failure of US military in Afghanistan and Iraq, things do not look that great on that front either. Iran is much larger and much more scientifically superior than those countries. Their level of capabilities and sphere of influence across the middle east as well as among all the Shia's in the world make their power projection much broader than what US military is designed to cope with. Furthermore, any attack on Iran will mean massive damage to oil infra structure of Persian Gulf states since Iran has access to tens of thousands of ballistic missiles ready to go something Iraq or Afghanistan never had. In the aftermath of destruction of oil fields and facilities such as the vulnerable LNG facilities of Qatar, the energy prices will shoot up to perhaps unthinkable level of thousand dollar a barrel. Iranian mullahs know that their fate is not going to better than Saddam if Tehran falls so they would not go down alone, they would take with themselves half of the world's oil and gas fields. With current economic crisis and unpopularity of war in western countries, this would mean riots on streets of Europe and USA causing a threat to the current political order in the west. Still, there are other consequences, right now American military presence in Iraq or Afghanistan has alienated only the Sunni's and Shia's who are even more dedicated to their cause have kept peaceful. With attack on Iran the only Shia country in the world which is regarded by all Shia's as their center, something like what Israel is for Jews, Shia's all over the world will become radicalized against western countries. Also not to forget that Afghanistan is producing 93% of the world's illicit drugs amounting tomore than 100 billion dollars according to UN, most of these drugs would end up in Turkey and eventually Europe in such huge quantities that is enough to keep all Europeans on the dope. Right now it is not happening because there is an effective government in Iran which is stopping the shipments. Infact UN has applauded Iran on its drug interdiction programs, as Iranian police captures more opium and heroine in the world than the rest of the world combined. After Iranian invasion and since USA does not have enough troops to pacify Iranian resistance which is going to be even bigger than any USA has ever seen since Iranians are highly nationalist people, will make an invasion a failure too. Even if USA opts to nuke Iran out right, at the end USA will lose, since Iran will definitely become nuclear after that, not only Iran but all nations in the world will get the wrong lesson that they should go nuclear too because the use of nukes would be a shock for international politics and all governments will start feeling insecure. Imagine what kind of world that is going to be. After that USA is going to become highly un-popular and besides USA can not fight the whole world's wish if they want to become nuclear.
So what is the solution: only one solution USA has. Come to term with Iran. The more late USA does it, they are going to pay a higher price. If USA had come to some agreement with Iran in 2003, it had to pay a much lower price to Iranians than today. And a few years later the Iranian price might go so up that even USA might not be able to afford it. As the price of Iranians is going up exponentially. And by price I do not mean aid or foreign investment or trade. Iranians are not interested in that. They are highly nationalist and proud people who believe that they are special. By price I mean the sphere of influence, they want their own little empire. While in 2003, Iran might have been happy to have as its satellites just Syria and Lebanon, today that has widened to include Iraq and Persian Gulf. USA should accept it right now and cut its losses and stopping Iranian ambitions. Tomorrow Iran will demand much higher a price which might even include the whole of middle east and central Asia. Obama should not make the mistake of trying to belittle Iranians and containing them without direct negotiations since Iranians are going to get very humiliate and will redouble their efforts to push the boundaries of their empire. Iran's trick in success has not been its fanaticism but its huge investment in science and technology couple with a solid unique national religious identity which is attracting huge masses of Muslims as well disaffected anti-corporation westerners. Such kind of determined people and their leaders can not be stopped by empty threats and even invasions. Quite simply Iranians have played a very smart game, they have made any American " options on the table" so expensive that they know USA will never use those options as it would mean the end of USA as we know it today. Obama should stop arming anti-Iran groups like Jundalla and stop supporting the meaningless and now dead green movement which had been born on life support machine and would have never succeeded like the other color revolutions as Iran on the contrary has a solid plan and global ambitions unlike Georgia or countries like Georgia. The reason why Obama should not do it is because it will make any negotiation with Iran all more difficult. Obama should instead invite Ahmadinejad to a neutral third country for example Switzerland and hold direct discussions with him with followup discussions in Tehran and Washington, much the same way USA did with communist China. USA should not allow its long term survival and security be affected by Israel. That would be a mistake if USA put Israel before America. And Israelis should know that being a small country they are no match for Iran and they should put USA before themselves since without USA they are nothing. That is the reality. Their situation is pretty much that of Taiwan. Israel should give up its nukes and settle for a nuke free middle east, in return for American protection, just like the arrangement between China, Taiwan and USA. Peace for the world. Iran can not be contained by these gimmicks any longer. Iran is a rising power and should be respected as such.

Smith Wordok / June 10, 2010 11:00 PM

Dr. Sahimi

As I have said many many times, and you have chosen to ignore it, I distinguish between Greens and that segment of the society that is unhappy. As I have recognized on mutiple occasions, even im my above writing to Smith, there was somthing genuine about last year and it persists as the "fire beneath the ashes." I don't know how many times that has to be repeated. I also have said that Iran is no longer the same because of last year, and that something will come out of this situation. It seems to me that those who are hung on the "greens" are living in their own fantacy. Is it not them who proclaimed a revolution on the aniversary of IR? Was that not You and alike? That was true fantacy, and as the new aniversary emerges new fantacies are also coming with it. I tried not to criticize your piace in my earlier writings because as I have said before, I agree with the main thrust of your piece. I still do. And that we have discussed these issues before, and there is no point on going on with them from my part. I find your use of words such as "fundamentalist...reactionary...repugnant" and their association with me as unfortunate. But be it as it may, you choose your words and I stay away from personalization. But I will note this, that everytime Greens fail to answer questions or pass the logic test, they resort to bringing up "rape" and "sotomy" to shut up the opposing view point. That is sad.
Again, I stay true to my statements, I have nothing against change and welcome it for Iran, and hopefully a secular one. But I agree with Smith, and many others that you may prefer to associate with "sotomy and rape," that Greens did not pass the national smell test. And as long as you and others fail to explain the simple question, in a world full of color revolutions sponsored by hegemonical powers, where the color Green came from, some of us will refrain to fully endorse such a movement while hope for better days for Iran. You might find that position "repugnant" but I think it is a logical one. One other question that fails the smell test is what was Mousavi's vision? What would he do differently? what makes you think he would stand up to Khomeini when he has repeatedly said he is devoted to supreme leader. When did he say otherwise?
Criticism must be tolerated, I reject to characterization of my statements and opinion. I don't deny the brutality that many have sustained, but why should that make me a fan of the Greens. They give me nothing to support. Like Smith says, they provide no vision. Why would I support that? Why don't you consider that a legitimate concern and perhaps that is why they are dead as originally thought of, by you and others. However, I say there is a possibility of something new, a regeneration of something more mature and meaningfull. That's where I differ with Smith, that there is genuine dissatisfaction in Iran, the Greens failed to take advantage of.

I hope the above does not make me "repugnant."

Pouya / June 11, 2010 6:44 AM

Smith Wordok,

Thanks for the clarification that you are not Pouya. I did not mean an insult with my question.
You two may not be the same person, but you are definitely drinking the same koolaid.

Your first sentence calling the green movement " another 1953 operation Ajax that failed" was all I needed to hear. It smells of Ahmadinejad's U KNO What.

Your statement ..."Words like sodomizing and torture can galvanize people for the benefit of a few but only temporarily as soon the public realizes that either there is no proof or justification for those accusations or that those accusations and allegations exist in every country for example".....

is rediculous, disguisting and a slap in the face of the victims; (why am I not surprized! )

You should be ashamed of yourself.

Ahvaz / June 11, 2010 7:21 AM

Dr. Sahimi,

I belatedly came to respect you, very highly, for your writings on the nuclear issue in Iran. Those have been the most useful I have come across. Upon reading them, I felt a bit guilty for having made negative comments about you on the Race for Iran website. I promptly stopped doing so, and posted comments that I'd been far too hasty in my judgment.

I still feel that way - about the nuclear issue. But not about the "stolen election" issue. All I have seen are baseless allegations. I must take exception to your insistence that you provided "evidence" to me in our email exchanges. I recall no evidence at all. It may have struck you that I'd accepted some of those allegations as fact, but that reflected only my (too rare) attempts to be polite during our email exchanges.

As I feel about many very bright people who are well-versed on some aspect or other of the various Iran-related issues bandied about on blogs, I respectfully suggest that you remember what makes you excellent at what you do best: your recognition that assertions must be backed by sound arguments and evidence. I am afraid you lose sight of that when you venture into the 2009 election controversy.

I think you and others on this site should venture over to for some spirited debate.

EAB / June 11, 2010 10:20 AM

Dr. Sahimi,

I'm not sure on what basis you call the green movement "alive and well." Alive, maybe. Well. I'm not so sure. Ofcourse you have more knowledge of what goes on within the green movement than I do as an outsider.

However, it seems that the green movement has no real leaders and no solid vision. Mousavi and Karoubi, as much as they would like us to believe, do not represent the green movement. They want some changes within the frame works of a system that is flawed. The green movement and I think the majority of the people in Iran don't want the existing system at all.

I just heard today that Mr. Mousavi and Karoubi called off the demonstrations for saturday, citing security reasons and that the people will be in danger of getting hurt.

Hello? If the people really want a regime change in Iran then they will have to pay for it with blood and tears. Even in the most peaceful demonstrations people are hurt, killed and arrested.

But if the people of Iran are content with the current situation and don't mind living under this opressive and brutal regime, then Mousavi, Karoubi and the green movement should hang their shoes and go home.

There will never be any significant reforms within the frame works of this regime, since it is not designed to be.

My advise to the green movement and the people of Iran would be have some "ghayrat". But than again, it is easy for me to say that, sitting in my cozy appartment in SO Ca.

AG / June 11, 2010 11:35 AM


Your only "evidence" of the Green Movement being foreign influenced is that there have been so-called color revolutions in other countries? And, who carried out the national test that the Greens did not pass? I still do not see any evidence in your response, other than repeating the same.

People like me do not have a particular attachment to the GM or its leaders. But, as a well-known opposition member in the Diaspora said, "Without the Green Movement we have nothing." Like I said, call it whatever you like - clearly, you are guilty of the same thing that you accuse me of, namely, being attached to the GM, but you are also attached to nti-GM and are willing to say whatever it takes to make a point -but there is a movement, a strong one, and will bring change.


I explained why I believe the GM is alive and well in the 3rd and 2nd paragraph from the bottom of the article. The very fact that the ruling elite does not allow any demonstration speaks volumes.

Most importantly, the existence and strength of a movement is not just in the number of street demonstrations that it can organize. The anti-apartheid ANC could not organize a single demonstration due to the repressive brutal regime. Yet, it overthrew it.

Whatever Mousavi, Karroubi and people like them believe in, the fact remains that they are confronting the ruling elite head on. Please read a good article by Akbar Ganji about the issue. You can find in in Gooya.


Thank you for your response. I suppose evidence is in the eyes of beholder. Your approach in your article was formal, legalistic, and sort of bin counting, which is not surprising because you are used to the system in the States. On the other hand, people like me who know Iran and the complexities of its political system only too well know that your approach and reasoning do not practically count.

Aside from everything else, I repeat 4 pieces of evidence for everyone to read:

1. RAJANEWS, the site that is run by the wife of Ahmadinejad's spokesman, accused Ali Larijani, the Speaker of the Majles, of calling Mousavi in the evening of the election, congratulating him for his victory and, hence, giving away "state secret." Larijani never denied it. He is loyal to Ayatollah Khamenei. What was the "state secret?"

2. A well-known fundamentalist Majles deputy and supporter of Ahmadinejad said angrily in a debate about the election a few days before it that, "wait until you see the 24 million votes of Ahmadinejad!" How did he know?

3. All the reformist leaders who were arrested a day or two after the election, before the huge demonstrations of June 15 took place, had been shown arrest warrants dated several days BEFORE the election. Why? What was predicted to happen several days before the election that had prompted the hardliners to issue the arrest warrants?

4. A personal story (that I told you Eric, and is totally consistent with what the Majles deputy said): On the Wednesday before the election I received an e-mail from a former Ph.D. student of mine who now teaches at a university in Tehran. She said that on that day she and her students had a great debate about whom to vote for in the class. She said that at the end of the class, a Basiji student approached her and said, "Dr..... these debates are fine, but we have been told that Dr. Ahmadinejad will win with 24 million votes." How did he know that, and who had told him? Remember that Basij played a crucial role in 2005.

Muhammad Sahimi / June 11, 2010 7:41 PM

Incidentally, since many of you probably haven't seen this, I think it's appropriate that I add to my earlier apologetic remarks the following apology to Dr. Sahimi that I posted about a month ago on a Race for Iran website thread. I try my best to avoid personal attacks. At times, like most of us, I slip up, but I do my best to make amends later when I have slipped up, as I tried to here with respect to Dr. Sahimi:

"[A Race for Iran poster] mentioned on another thread Muhammad Sahimi’s multi-part article (which actually expanded to six parts from his originally planned three). I’ve enjoyed it too, and have learned a lot from it. Since I’ve been critical of Prof. Sahimi on other matters (his view on the election), I think I owe it to to him, a second time, to mention how impressive I’ve found his writing and thinking on the nuclear issue. Clearly I was basing my judgment on far too narrow a set of criteria."

EAB / June 11, 2010 11:39 PM

Professor Sahimi, you should avoid making remarks such as "At least in Iran, the question of the leadership is a non-issue." How do you know? Are you in touch w/ the entire younger generation of Iranians? I guarantee you there are tens of thousands if not millions of young men and women who consider themselves "green", have no sympathy for the MKO or Monarchists, and question whether Mousavi and Karroubi--who, incidentally, told people NOT to go to the streets on the biggest protest day, June 15--are the most capable and credible leaders. This is not to say they dislike Mouasvi and Karroubi, they may respect their courage but at the same time not be confident that they can lead Iran to a brighter future.

I am a "child of the revolution" who lived in Iran for 10 years and still keep in close contact w/ people. You should avoid dismissing those who don't share your analysis as extreme monarchists or MKO members.

To Mr. Brill, I think you are a racist. You don't believe that Iranians want democracy, you believe we are a backward people who, despite our lack of myriad freedoms, love being ruled by a holocaust denier whose administration has further wrecked the economy and continues to abuse us. "Iranians are different people than you and I honey," you probably explain to your wife. "They don't want freedom, they like to be abused. It's part of their culture"

The fact that you spend all of your time on a website of two people who'd never set foot in Iran until they were invited by the Iranian government after the elections tells me you're not interested in really probing the truth, you're simply a racist polemicist with too much time on your hand.

Saman / June 12, 2010 1:59 AM

Dr. Sahimi

You just repeated my point exactly. The difference is that you insist to call it Green, that is essentiall what has gotten you rattled up. Otherwise our point of view does not differ that much. I said Green is dead, but there is "fire beneath the ashes." And that has you going, which means you are upset that I say Green is dead. So, you are playing color politics.

Let's get some facts corrected.

1-People in Iran, for those of you who never go there, got email messages and text messages slamming Ahmadinejad, even using profaninty, beginning January of 2009. this was in a massive scale. January is long before the campaign begun and even longer before the public cared who this idiot Mousavi was.

2-Nobody voted for Mousavi, everyone voted against Ahmadinejad. It means if you talked to Mousavi voters they all said Mousavi was just a symbol and an idiot.

3-Mousavi's campaign did not come up with the color green slogan and campaign. He embraced it from his faultering campaign. As an idiot, he did not think where did the color green come from, he just embaraced as he was blind with greed. Has everyone forgotten that he tried to become Green leader and failed time and time again. Because it was imported and he just grabbed it. It was not his campaign idea.

4-The Green parafenelia-decorative hats, mass literature in texts, emails, at a national level only proved it was coming from international sources. Then why would shutting down internet for a few days shut down the entire communication of an indiginous movement? because it was foreign and it capitalized on public dissatisfaction. The one I am calling the "Fire under the ashes."

5-Even CNN showed only one (of many) "Persian" organizations in LA, was sending 10 000 fountain pens equiped with tiny cameras to Iran, everyday, 2 weeks before the election day. That takes organization. A massive one.

Evidence? the evidence is that a segment of the public is dissatisfied and voted for Mousavi in a major way, it shoock the authorities. But the public in Iran, unlike the one in diaspora, realized a catch was in place, as the article in NATION suggested, that they were being used and since they had no love for Mousavi, they sat home. Greens died. Plan unfolded. But that does not mean the dissatisfaction went away. To the contrary, the past year is likely to have increased it due to government action we have all witness and Dr. Sahimi has pointed them out. I believe if election were held today, Ahamdinejad would not be even able to get the numbers the Greens originally said he truly deserved. Many have been turned off. But that is also true about Obama today.

Live with the facts folks. It's liberating, then you can think of solutions that serve a nation that needs it desperately.

Thanks for the civil conversation.

Pouya / June 12, 2010 5:31 AM

Dear Pouya-
It would be great if you could write for Tehran Bureau. I found your thoughts VERY insightful. This site is unfortunately being dominated by Mr. Sahimi, who has a lot of information but is an undisciplined writer and analyst who cannot stand to be challenged and shamelessly attacks people like Abbas Milani out of jealousy.

Afshin / June 12, 2010 6:47 PM

Afshin, or it might be out of the fact that Milani "shamelessly" promotes sanctions on his own countrymen and Professor Sahimi simply POINTS out the hypocrisy of it all. I say Milani should go to Iran, work at a factory for a year and THEN spew out that disgusting, "scholarly" rhetoric of his.

Houshang / June 12, 2010 9:37 PM


People like you seem to believe that if I respond to criticisms of people like Pouya, I am attacking them, or cannot stand criticism. To the contrary, I am actually one of very very very few writers who comes back to his piece, reads the comments, and tries to respond to the best of his knowledge. But, I have certain beliefs and principles. I do not set them aside with the slightest comment to the contrary. So, do not expect me to change my mind each time I am criticized. I will, provided that I am convinced.

Your comment regarding me and Dr. Milani is, with due respect to you, a cheap shot. I have posted only 3 articles during the entire time that I have been writing political articles in which I have "named names." One was on TB, in which I criticised Dr. Milani respectfully, because it seemed to me that he was supporting certain economic sanctions, which I do not. I respect Dr. Milani for his scholarly work [and, by the way, his views of Mousavi mirror mine]. But, that does not imply that whatever he says or does is agreeable to people like me.

In addition, people like Dr. Milani and I are in two different categories. I write because I feel it is my duty. I do not receive a penny for all the hard work that I do, nor do I expect anything [the editor of TB can tell you that], and believe me, writing a credible article takes hard work. Before you jump up, let me clarify what I mean by credible: A credible article is not one that everyone likes and agrees with. It is one that has firm foundations in reality, and documents every important statement.

And, there are many other people who write for TB, not just me. If by "dominating" you mean my articles are read more and commented on more, well, perhaps I am doing something right. But, I invite you to write your own thoughts coherently and submit to the TB.


Unfortunately, you do not seem to get my point, which was that, your views have changed ever since you posted a comment here for the first time. Now, you seem to agree with at least some of my views (which was not the case in the past), but due to your antipathy towards Mousavi [for whatever reason], you try to present your new views in another way. That is just fine by people like me. It is not a question of Mousavi or Karroubi, or who invented the color of Green [a smart man like you should not reduce the level of discussion to such irrelevant levels], but about people against a dictatorship, regardless of color.

Despite your considerable intelect, you repeat a tired and worn out slogan and a sweeping one at that: NO ONE voted for Mousavi, but against Ahmadinejad. This is, of course, not the view that you had up until recently. Up until a few weeks ago, you were even offended that I refer to Ahmadinejad as AN.

But, let us say that your sweeping statement is true. So what? We all agree that this is no longer about the election. Mousavi's actions over the last year have shown that he is sincerely after reforming and changing the system.

You also make an absurd comment about why people are not demonstrating, or staying home. They are not because the brutality and violence that were used against them, the number of people who were killed, those who were tortured, raped, sodomized, and executed, etc.


I never claimed that Mousavi is loved, or accepted by everyone. Far from it. And you are completely correct that many do not like him, or do not accept him. But, then again, there is no leader that is accepted by everyone. Even Ahmadinejad says, "I got 24 million votes," meaning that the other 26 million eligible voters did not vote for him. My point is that, at this point in time Mousavi and Karroubi are recognized as the leaders of the opposition. You do not agree? That is just fine with me.

I repeat what I have said in the past many many times: People like me do not have a brotherhood pact with anyone. People like me support those who support people's aspirations and demands. THAT IS THE CRITERION. It is in this context and based on such a criterion that I support Mousavi, Karroubi, Khatami, Dr. Rahnavard, etc.


Thank you.

Muhammad Sahimi / June 12, 2010 9:41 PM

You are leaving out quite a few reasons why the "green" movement is faltering.

The major factor is that the movement is not proposing any substantive changes to the rule of the Ayatollahs. No real changes in the laws of the country, no real changes to the status quo. No one is going to risk life and livelihood for more of the same.

muhammad billy bob / June 12, 2010 9:52 PM

Dr. Sahimi,

Watch these same people who poo poo a movement for its choice of color, show up in full green head to toe outit, complete with green hat, green tie and green socks, once they "smell the kabab" as we say in Iran.

On the other hand the same kids who are risking life and limb fighting despotism now, had their parents fight the last one, and they themselves would fight the future ones if need be.

(P.s. Very proud of our brave boys and girls in Iran on Saturday. Action shows so much more than words.)

Ahvaz / June 14, 2010 8:33 AM

Muhammad Billy Bob

Your point is well taken. But i like to remind you and other readers that months ago I suggested that the best way is to push for change from within. And I suggested two main issues that would change the landscape of Iranian politics:
1-Election transparency and the role of GC in it.
2-Women's rights, in the context of the IR.

Dr. Sahimi

Your point is well taken. It is repeatedly in my writings that I agree with the thrust of your article and I said it was well written even if one does not entirely agree with it. And I left it as that, originally. Therefore you would be right, and I concede that I do have some agreements with you. In another comment, to another reader, I wrote Dr. Sahimi convinced me that Ahmadinejad's retoric has not been helpful in many instance, giving you credit even if you did not read it (Perhaps it was in comments to another article).
Even in my last comment I said I agree with what you have said on the brutality used in Iran. I also agree with your comments above, "I am one of the very very few writers who comes back to his piece...," and it makes it a more lively discussion, if I may add.

Also it is not helpful to confound issues. I didn't get insulted because you called Ahmadinejad AN, I concede I did not like it and I said it was not becoming of you. And you kindly agreed. It is correct that I don't see everything Ahmadinejad has done as negative, and I have pointed out where he has done right. I have also said, and this will make many agree, I believe Ahmadinejad won the election fair and square, and I stand firmly on that. But it would be a mistake to confound matters by concluding that just because one holds those supportive opinions then that individual must support the post election fiasco. I do not spouse such opinion, and I have never said otherwise. It would also be a mistake to believe that just because someone does not support the Greens, that individual opposes Iran's bright future. As I have said, many times, last years events have changed Iran and have shaken the regime. Perhaps you are right that in my dismissiveness of the Greens I have failed to appreciate the movemen itself. The question is where do we go from here?

At this point, because people are hung up on the Greens, it is important to point out what happened in order to move positively forward. It is important to learn what went wrong. Contrary to your opinion, and I believe that you fail to appreciate the importance of it, it does matter where the color Green came from. It does matter whether it came from Mousavi's campaign or a foreign source, because it would explain fundamentally why it failed. If something is indiginous to Iran then it is bound to linger on. Let us distinguish between two things: the people who supported change, and the Green Phenomenon (as I like to call it). This is a distinction you appear not to be making. Let me explain to everyone: The Green Phenomenon was a campaign ploy, a full political campaign strategy that worked. It contained decorative parafenelia, emails, texts, and even (something I neglected to mention before) full Satellite TV campaign supporting Mousavi in stations from Al-Arabia to Al-Jazeera to BBC to Radio Israel to VOA and to any and all Gulf Arab networks. They all sang the same song, they all predicted Mousavi's victory, and they all said anything other than his victory would be a clear election fraud before a single vote was casted. It worked, and it worked well.

What failed was a lack of truly attractive candidate. One that had a vision. One that had 42000 monitors on the ground counting the votes with the election officials themselves, and failed to mention a single instance where his vote was contrary to the official vote. Because his representatives signature was on every ballot box counted, certifying the vote. It would have been a quick embarassment and career ending blow had Mousavi even attempted to be specific. This is why he did not even file for a complaint as it was constitutionally demanded within 3 days post election, as required. He was ordered by the Supreme Leader to file such complaint, in the infamous fidayprayer cermon, 9 days later. In another words, he was given a break. This is the moment of crucial importance. This is where men are made. This is where Mousavi let everyone and a nation down. Instead of continuing to complain of nonsense, he could have ceased the moment, ceased the crowds gathered under the banner of Green Phenomenon, and asked for election transparency, for removal of the GC from the election process, and removed himself from contending the Presidency. I guarantee you he would be president in 3 years from now. But because he had no real connection to the Green Phenomenon, and lacking vision, a simple text and email jamming by the IRGC ended everything that was the Green Phenomenon. Mousavi's lack of vision and stupidity ended everything else.

I don't agree with this nonsense that the regime's brutality ended an entire movement. Perhaps people are too young to remember, but I remember the Shah's regime was far more brutal. People forget that parents never spoke to their children about politics when Shah ruled, for the fear they would repeat those thoughts at school and that would bring the SAVAK home. Let me tell you a personal story. When Shah placed the military curfew (is this the correct spelling?), I remember one of my cousins running from street to street in the dark, hidding in doorways, waiting for the soldier convoys to pass, just to get a piece of paper, content of which were not known to him, to another hideout. That was the revolution, and he was a teenage messenger, whose parents thought he was sleep. You think a lack of email services would stop that sort of commitment? It was only a year and half later, under the IR regime, that we went to the morgue to pick up my 2 cousins (16 and 18 years of age) who were executed 40 days earlier. So, I somewhat understand the suffering in Iran, which is why I give no excuse to Mousavi for his shortcomings. I believe the regime should only be changed from within because it is the only correct way for Iran. And Mousavi missed a golden opportunity. But two issues remain as critical to the future of Iran:

1-Election transparency (a true desire by Iranians), and
2-Women's rights (a cause that would mobilize 50% of the population). As I have said before, even God can't stop women.

combine the two and watch the positive results.

Pouya / June 14, 2010 11:51 AM


while I agree with some of your last analysis, I have some issues with the some other parts of it.

Believing USA only has an option to invade is a mistake. What is really frightening is the fact that they realize they don't have that option, but may think a "robust bombing campaign" may do the trick. Including the use of buncker busters which is euphemism for tactical nuclear warheads to destroy deep bunckers. This is why Obama changed US nuclear strategy in order to leave Iran as a nuclear target he no longer needs congressional approval to use such weapons. This is where we are entering a very dangerous zone. Ofcourse, after they bomb it, that's when they will realize they have no choice but to go in. The point is, right now,they may arguing that they don't need to invade Iran, no matter how wrong that conclusion may be. This would lead to destruction of Iran, even if the regime survives.

I have long believed the lessons drawn by the pentagon about the second world war was not that death and destruction are bad things. Rather, they concluded that after complete anialation of an entire nation they can be turned into an ally and that all will be forgotten in due time. That has eliminated, for US planners, any inhibition of use of maximal force, as we have seen in Iraq. And I believe we will soon see that with Iran but to a grander scale.

Do not underestimate US Airforce's ability to turn Iran into a rubble despite Iran's size and population.

Pouya / June 14, 2010 12:19 PM


I agree that the way to change the regime is from within. However, I think our idea of within is quite different. The true powers of the Islamic republic will not allow even the slightest reform in womens rights, let alone anything they see as a threat to their power.

The way to influence the regime is to inflitrate it. The numberous groups that the regime relies on to supress the rights of others are quite open. The opposition should join the Basij, the guard, etc...

Secondly, bunker buster bombs have no nuclear component whatsoever. They are conventional bombs designed to penetrate large concrete structures then explode. The pentagon does not make policy in any way. Iraq is a very good example of this. It was the politicians who never served a minute in the U.S. armed forces who decided on that little adventure. The leaders in the pentagon tried in vain to dissuade them. And, as you know, there are completely different politicans making policy today.

Thirdly, maximal force was not used in Iraq. Rumsfeld and his ilk tried to accomplish Iraq on the cheap. Constantly arguing for less troops, less U.S. force.

The people you refer to as taking lessons from WWII are not from the pentagon. Those are the political "think tanks" American century, and heritage foundation,etc. Policy think tanks that are definately on the outs with the current policy makers. And they really had the perfect situation for them 7 years ago, something that's not likely to happen again.

Yes, the USAF could easily turn Iran into rubble. But, it is the leaders of the USAF, and the US army who know very well you have to do something after it's rubble. Afterall, these are the people who've fought in Vietnam, Iraq one and two, Afghanistan. The people who talked the idiots in the previous administration were none of these things.

Muhammad Billy bob / June 15, 2010 5:24 AM

Mahammad Billy Bob

I hope you're right. But I am pesimistic, sorry. Even if you believe maximal force was not used in Iraq, that nation was turned into a rubble, and that by itself is too much. I hope you are right that the same will not happen to Iran, but as I said I have lost faith. I see the Obama administration as the third term of the previous President. I hope time will prove you right.


thank you.

pouya / June 19, 2010 4:19 AM


Please don't be so pessimistic. There is no faith required. It is purely rational, and logical.

I'm no fan of Obama and his administration. But, the Bush administration was so idiotic, so myopically focused in it's Iraq policy. This was the "perfect storm" for such events to take place. The administration came into office looking for an excuse to attack Iraq, the administration came into office with people who have never even considered military operations. Then they were given the perfect cover for such an attack.9/11. Without any of these unlikely occurances, Iraq would not have been invaded. The sheer odds of such things happenning again are so rare that it's not logical to believe they would happen. It is very unlikely that there will be an administration that comes into office with the desire to attack Iran, but if there is, It is very unlikely that this administration will disregard all professional advice from those whose business it is to think of such events.
But even if it is so unlikely that these 2 unlikely events occurred, it is even more extremely unlikey that there would be any event that allows the administration to convince the U.S. populace that such an attack is neccessary.

It's just not going to happen. There are many other factors, including U.S. troop deployment strength, lack of forward operational bases among others that prove, it's not going to happen. I'd believe that a UFO would land on earth, before I'd believe that the U.S. would launch a full scale (let alone a nuclear)invasion of Iran.

The one thing that is possible is that the U.S. would use drone aircraft to bomb specific targets. And this could last for years, just as in Pakistan. The Iranian regime does not have an effective defense against such attacks.But the good news for the Iranian people is that such attacks would be very localized with much less non-combatant casualities.

muhammad billy bob / June 21, 2010 12:40 AM