Iran Turmoil Continues

COMMENTARY Middle East

Iran Turmoil Continues

Jun 17th, 2009 2 min read
COMMENTARY BY
James Phillips

Senior Research Fellow, The Heritage Foundation

James Phillips is a senior research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs at The Heritage Foundation.

Despite President Ahmadinejad’s dismissive and arrogant attitude toward the “weeds” that have sprung up to reject his alleged election victory, massive crowds of Iranians continued their protests against his regime for a fifth straight day.

The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has backpedaled away from his initial blessing of the election results as a “divine assessment” and now has promised a partial vote recount in an effort to defuse the crisis. This maneuver, which undoubtedly is a subterfuge to drain away support for opposition rallies, is unlikely to result in a fair and free recount of the votes. Presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi therefore has criticized it as inadequate and called for further demonstrations. Today he called for a day of mourning to mark the deaths of at least seven demonstrators who were killed by security forces on Monday.

In addition to cracking down on the Iranian people, the regime is expanding its systematic efforts to muzzle the media, both foreign and domestic. The foreign press, which were allowed into Iran to cover the elections, are now being denounced for inciting riots and are being forced out of the country.

Iranian reporters are being warned to restrict their coverage, and some reportedly have been detained by internal security forces.

With the state-controlled media providing only slanted coverage of recent events, Iranians increasingly have turned to text messaging, cell phones, and social networking websites to communicate and organize demonstrations. The U.S. State Department reportedly asked that Twitter not shut its system down for regularly scheduled maintenance to avoid pulling the rug out from under Iranian activists. While the Iranian government has attempted to block Facebook and other social networking sites, Twitter is more difficult to block.

Regardless of the ultimate results of Iran’s current crisis, the country has been radically changed from what it was a week ago. The protests have weakened Ahmadinejad’s power, and even if he does come out on top in the end, he has been further exposed as the bombastic front man for a regime despised by its own people.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal