Published on Asia Times online, by Pepe Escobar, February 17, 2011.
What has just happened in Iran?
There’s no question the military dictatorship of the mullahtariat – that conglomerate uniting President Mahmud Ahmadinejad’s faction, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his clerical circle, and the military/business complex ruled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) – very much followed to the minute the extraordinary chain of events in Egypt.
And then suddenly they are confronted by a potential remix of Tahrir Square right in their own backyard (Azadi Square in Tehran).
What to do? They could not possibly relax their iron grip on the rules of their game; so to deal with their own protests, they resorted to the usual package of tactics – pre-emptive detention and repression, but stopping short of a bloodbath.
Thus, since early last week at least 30 Iranian activists and journalists got that knock on the door in the dead of night and then “disappeared”. A threatening wave of text messages warned people not to attend the rallies. Internet speed was reduced to a crawl and search engines blocked from searching the words “25 Bahman”, the date of February 14 according to the Iranian calendar.
This Monday saw hordes of anti-riot police and Bassiji militia on motorbikes riding two-by-two clutching clubs; an orgy of tear gas and paint ball guns; state media tarnishing the mostly young protesters as “seditionists”, “spies” and “counter-revolutionaries” who should be crushed; and at least 1,500 people arrested and transferred to sinister Evin prison, plus two confirmed dead. Shades of Mubarakism, anyone? … //
… That old regime change hard-on:
And that brings us to Washington’s reaction to what has just happened in Iran – and is happening all across the Maghreb-Middle East arc.
For Washington, it’s all about their Iranian obsession – and never about those scores of US client states from the Maghreb to the Middle East.
Protests were also brutally suppressed in absolute monarchy Bahrain – home of the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, with the US Navy spending $580 million to double its real estate holdings; Yemen – a failed state where 40% of its 23 million people live on less than $2 a day and 35% face severe hunger; and Algeria, a brutal military dictatorship. Not to mention Jordan’s merry King Abdullah and “Queen Youtube” Rania, an absolute monarchy with a brutal secret service keeping in check tribal leaders and a mass of Palestinian residents (tribal leaders are increasingly trashing Rania’s life in the fast lane).
Bahrain is absolutely crucial. The Shi’ite theocracy in Tehran obviously encourages Shi’ites against a Sunni monarchy, while Saudis are literally freaking out, thinking of their Shi’ite-majority eastern provinces, where the oil is. Saudi troops may have already been deployed across the 20-minute causeway that links both countries. And Bahrain is not Qatar or the United Arab Emirates – able to shower petrodollars to buy the silence of anyone politically inclined (anyway they’re trying hard).
To deal with all this Washington – not exactly at ease with revolutionary Egypt – seems to have developed a new narrative. Iran’s regime is all-out “evil”, while Mubarak’s was “stable” and relatively OK.
United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton immediately accused the “awful” Iranian government of “hypocrisy” and then wished the Green movement “and the brave people in the streets across cities in Iran the same opportunity that they saw their Egyptian counterparts seize in the last week”.
Is this the same Clinton who initially supported “stable” Mubarak against the Egyptian street? And while she’s so revved up, why does she not wish the brave people in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Morocco, Algeria, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Libya “the same opportunity that they saw their Egyptian counterparts seize in the last week”?
Someone should urgently haul Olivier Roy to Washington so he may teach them one or two things about the post-Islamist generation. (full long text).
(Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). He may be reached here).