Squaring the Culture

"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

06/15/2009 (8:52 am)

Iran: The Junta Emerges?

Two days into the protests over Iran’s elections, some analysts suggest that we’re seeing a transition from a theocracy to a secular police state in Iran.

According to Middle East news source Media Line, Reform candidate Moussavi, a former Prime Minister, claims he was contacted by Interior Ministry officials late Friday night telling him that he had won the election. The Interior Ministry officially announced the winner as Ahmadinejad on Saturday, by a margin of 63% to 34%. Many Moussavi supporters did not believe the the official count, apparently bolstered by independent reports filtering out of the Interior Ministry, and took to the streets in protest. The government cracked down, apparently aided by Arabic-speaking riot police (the official language of Iran is Farsi) because the Iranian police will not attack Iranian citizens.

Meanwhile, it appears as though the election result has been officially endorsed by exactly one of the Mullahs leading Iran, the Ayatollah Khamenei. According to Kevin Sullivan of Real Clear World:

Iran hawks prefer to label the Iranian police state as simply “The Mullahs,” but the legitimate clerics in this dispute are the ones standing with Mir-Hossein Mousavi against ONE Mullah and his secular police apparatus. If the election has been rigged in such a fashion, then what you are in fact seeing is the dropping of religious pretense in the “Islamic” Republic of Iran. This is a secular police state in action.

Iranian-Israeli analyst Meir Javedanfar provides this useful analysis of Khamenei’s attempts to shift the Iranian government from theocratic to secular footing, and Andrew Sullivan — yes, that Andrew Sullivan — adds this translation of a Farsi news report from one of his readers:

Grand Ayatollah Sanei in Iran has declared Ahmadinejad’s presidency illegitimate and cooperating with his government against Islam. There are strong rumors that his house and office are surrounded by the police and his website is filtered. He had previously issued a fatwa, against rigging of the elections in any form or shape, calling it a mortal sin.

News reports are scattered because the government of Iran has blocked as many outside communications as they can. Independent foreign correspondent Michael Totten has been live-blogging the scene in Tehran, and his reports are indispensable to understanding the unrest in that city.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has officially taken a “wait and see” attitude toward the Iranian election. Obama supporters in a few locations have taken the opportunity to air their fantasies about the Bush administration (see here and here), apparently unaware that President Bush won two elections legally and then stepped down peaceably without incident.

The Washington Post claims that its own public opinion polls in Iran match the results of the election, throwing those westerners claiming fraud into confusion.

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