15 JULY 2009


Except for a limited number of informed columnists like Thomas Friedman and Roger Cohen, U.S. media reporting on recent events in Iran has been dangerously uninformed. It mainly fabricated its headline along the way. With Ahmadinejad as clearly the bad guy, any of his opponents were painted in the best light. Sometimes it seemed almost farcical when a N.Y. Times correspondent covering developments from Cairo (Cairo, which does not even have a diplomatic relationship with Teheran!), assured everyone that there was a "possible silver lining" in the reelection of the current President, quoting an obscure Egyptian "expert on international affairs," that with less money to spend there will be less Iranian meddling with neighbours' affairs. A few days later, the "newspaper of record" blatantly stated that it was by then covering action in the streets of Iran from...TORONTO, Canada! Apparently, the editors did not feel that their credibility would be eroded with such long distance binoculors. Another equally obscure Jordanian "expert" is quoted thus: "When you are waiting so much for something that makes you happy, you hold your breath, you make less noise in order not to affect the outcome." That's a view fit to print?!

Another N.Y. Times reporter from Washington D.C., Helen Cooper, together with Mark Lander hail Mir Mousavi as "the symbol of freedom and democracy." Granted, Ms. Cooper was an aspiring teenager in the mid-eighties when Mousavi was the dogmatic totalitarian prime minister whose directives were essential in initiating a wave of kidnapping Americans, killing the U.S. ambassador in Kuwait, and establishing Hezbollah, through the effective efforts of Iran's ambassador in Damascus, Ali Mohteshimi. The bombing of U.S. (and French) marines' headquarters in Beirut happened around the same time.

That is not to say that people cannot change, or that Mousavi could be a very convenient cover for an anti-Nejad campaign. But making him a "symbol" of freedom is too much, particularly to families and friends of bereaved victims.

Naturally, big powers are interested in influencing events in Iran to advance their interests if and when they can. The U.S. President wisely adopted a measured approach while denouncing human rights violations against peaceful demonstrators. Beyond that, it is important to closely observe what is happening amongst the varied powers holding together the current regime.

The showdown occurred as the authority of the "Baseej," the national guard, was growing beyond limits acceptable to two other main components: the religious community and the business community known as the "Bazaar." While Ayatollah Khamenei provided religious cover to the Baseej, important leaders amongst the other two groups started feeling that he was allowing the Baseej more and more leeway to encroach on the turf of others. A very serious bone of contention relates to increased business initiatives by the Baseej; establishing investment and trading companies with a political angle that caused formidable competition to the business of the Bazaar.

Former President Rafsanjani is an obvious symbol of the discreet understanding that prevailed amongst basic forces. When candidate Ahmadinejad attacked Rafsanjani as corrupt during the presidential campaign, it was not just a ploy to reach out to the poor masses, but an indication that the Baseej felt strong and bold enough to throw the challenge. A long private meeting between the former President and the "Supreme Guide" proved inconclusive.

It is common knowledge in Teheran that Mir-Hossein Mousavi's campaign was "lubricated" by the Rafsanjani team, especially his sons. Rafsanjani's formidable daughter seemed more prominent as she linked effectively with Mousavi's wife, who is a distinguished professor and highly regarded activist.

When dealing with masses of people, powerful groups can stimulate, organize, or mobilize, but they cannot control the outcome. Intended signals sometimes turn into watersheds.

The rebellious masses that filled the streets of Teheran and elsewhere worldwide turned an internal struggle for power into an open popular rebellion. Wagons were drawn by the militant national guards as the Ayatollah chose the Friday prayers to openly endorse their candidate as the winner. As an indication that the Baseej took matters very seriously, an "opposition" candidate, presumed by some Western media to be another symbol of freedom and democracy, Mohsen Rezai, withdrew his objection to the outcome of the election. After all, he was once the LEADER of the national guards.

With so much international pressure making its internal impact on the bewildered regime, it was time for the experienced "Shark" to explore the art of the deal. Recent statements by Sayed Rafsanjani have to be carefully deciphered to ascertain the extent of a new arrangement or renewed conflict. A belated endorsement of election results by the well-informed Ali Larijani, current Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, indicated a desire for a "time-off." At any rate, one of the main internal victims is the formally unquestioned authority of Ayatollah Khamenei.

A promising new element brought about by the winds of change is the impact of YOUTH armed by untamable communication tools.

As to the glaring gaps in coverage by foreign, particularly U.S., media, it is worthwhile stressing that the real heroes in this episode are not the politicians, whether exploited or exploiting. The real heroes are the WOMEN of Iran: Neda Agha-Soltan, whose picture bleeding to death galvanized world public opinion, is the true hero of the great Iranian people. Professor Zahra Rahnavard, wife of candidate Mousavi, who stood up to armed elements, refusing to give up or give in is a hero. Thousands of unknown women who advanced to the vanguard, who yelled at men not to run away, who shamed armed thugs while defending their dignity, who drew international attention while asking where did their vote go. Women of Iran are fighting for their basic freedom rights. As New York Times' Roger Cohen pointed out: "Iran of yesterday is gone, the Iran of tomorrow is not yet born." We would add that any Iran of tomorrow could only be delivered by WOMEN.