February 24, 2011
When protests erupted on the Iranian streets in 2009, President Obama adopted a deliberately cautious tone. Mindful of the fact that he was simultaneously trying to convince the regime to abandon its nuclear program—and afraid that his open support would make an indigenous revolt seem like a tool of foreign influence—the president condemned the use of violence against the Green Movement, but stopped short of backing their heartfelt calls for freedom and democracy.
A Note of Warning and Encouragement for Egyptians
January 30, 2011
After days of unrest, after declaring martial law in some of the country’s main cities, the authoritarian leader gave a much anticipated television speech. His tone was repentant. He promised change and reform. The people wanted democracy and he promised to bend to their wishes. For a long time, the United States had been advising him to open his political system—but had been seen publicly as his chief supporter. The U.S.
Truths in Tehran
December 16, 2010
Most of the talk about Iran and the Wikileaks documents has centered around the revelation—hardly a surprise—that Arab states are wary of Iran’s nuclear program. This is indeed an important story: The depth of the fear from Egypt, Oman, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia is striking (in one document we learn that, in 2009, Saudi Arabia promised Morocco discounted oil if it joined in the effort to contain Iran).
April 30, 2010
The last few months have seen a disquieting lull in news of political dissent from Iran. On the surface, at least, Ahmadinejad’s government seems to have outlasted the furor that erupted in the wake of last June’s election. Does this mean that the Green Movement is dead? Not necessarily.
The Mousavi Mission
February 17, 2010
Traditional Iranian husbands, the sort found in the highest ranks of the Islamic Republic, sometimes refer to their wives as “the house.” For them, this is not just an expression of their understanding of gender relations. It is viewed as a necessary euphemism, vital protection for a woman’s honor. The mere uttering of her name, after all, might compromise her chastity. It is telling, therefore, that Mir Hossein Mousavi courted and eventually married Zahra Rahnavard.
February 02, 2010
Is the Green Movement finished? That is what the Iranian government wants the world to believe. And it has recently been trumpeting a few pieces of evidence to make its case. First came a statement by Mir Hossein Mousavi on New Year’s Eve, which offered five conditions for ending the current impasse.
The Greening of Islam
January 13, 2010
The Green Movement is a revolt against theocracy. Most of its adherents are young Iranians with little or no religious motivation. Yet, an iconic figure of the revolt was the nation’s highest-ranking cleric, Grand Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri; and, last month, Ashura, a holy day celebrating martyrdom, occasioned some of the movement’s most massive protests. Perhaps the fact that the movement has acquired a Shia veneer shouldn’t be terribly surprising.
The State of the Opposition is Strong
January 08, 2010
A couple of days after June’s stolen election in Iran, Flynt Leverett and I were both guests on “The Charlie Rose Show.” Mr. Leverett was waxing eloquent about how Ahmadinejad could have actually won the election. His supposed evidence was a May poll, conducted by phone from Turkey, before the presidential campaign had even begun. Apparently he did not read the entire report of the poll, merely a summary, published in a Washington Post editorial. Much of the full report contradicted his conclusions.
December 21, 2009
Ayatollah Hosseinali Montazeri, the highest ranking Shiite cleric in Iran and a leading voice of dissent for more than two decades, died Saturday of what his family said was a lingering heart ailment. His memorial is shaping up as yet another occasion for the Iranian people to show their resentment of the current regime. Thousands of people are traveling to Qom, where he lived and died, to attend the funeral.
The Great Satan Myth
December 08, 2009
The Iranian regime has never found itself more vulnerable. And, with this vulnerability, it has never leaned more heavily on its own narrative of history.