Here are the key points from Iran over the last 3-4 days: First, in line with my basic sermon these many years, if you study the videos you will see many many women in the front ranks. They have every reason to be there, as the Islamic Republic (like so many Islamic regimes) is built on the sludge of misogyny.
Second, many of the evil Basij goons wore masks. This is new, and it indicates fear that they will be identified and hunted down. The conflict is ever more violent: On several occasions, crowds attacked security forces, even dragging them out of cars — and then, cursing them, letting them run away.
Third, in another ominous development for the regime, people from the southern (lower-class) neighborhoods of Tehran joined in. The revolt is now very broad based. But it is not yet powerful enough for the Bazaaris to join: Today the Tehran Bazaar was open for business.
Fourth, the regime has been stripped of religious legitimacy by its own panic-driven brutality. By invading mosques and hosseiniyas, by assaulting family members of leading clerics (Grand Ayatollah Sanei is under house arrest), and by ordering murder on Ashura, the supreme leader has violated a whole series of previously sacrosanct rules. I will be surprised if we do not soon hear from Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Sistani.
Finally, there is still no national strike of the sort that paralyzed the shah’s regime 31 years ago. But this may come: There were Twitter reports yesterday saying that Mousavi was calling for a strike on January 7.
There is now a state of emergency throughout the country (although some cities are still in open revolt), and many angry calls for the arrest of Mousavi and Karroubi, which would surely provoke more massive demonstrations and perhaps even the use of weapons by the people (even today, Molotov cocktails were thrown at security forces in central Tehran). If this were a normal regime, I’d expect a cooling-down period; but it isn’t a normal regime, so it’s unpredictable.
Meanwhile, the Western world clicks its collective tongue and criticizes “the violence” and the lack of respect for rights of free speech and assembly, as if that were the point. Not a single Western “leader” has found the nerve and the common sense to denounce the regime and call for regime change. Indeed, President Obama couldn’t drag himself away from the beach and the basketball court on Oahu to say anything at all. Nor could our secretary of state. Or Robert Gates, for that matter, whose men and women are being blown up in Iraq and Afghanistan, courtesy of the mullahs.
(For a longer discussion of the unrest in Iran, go here.)