Yesterday Iranians on Twitter posted messages of intent to march at 4 p.m. today in support of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the principal pro-reform opponent of Ahmadinejad. (Current local time is about 6:47 p.m.) The Iranian government declared any such protests illegal, but AP reports that the marches took place anyway:
Tens of thousands of supporters of pro-reform leader Mir Hossein Mousavi are streaming through the center of Tehran in a boisterous protest against election results that declared President Mamoud Ahmadinejad the winner.
The crowd — many wearing the trademark green color of Mousavi’s campaign — was headed toward the capital’s huge Freedom Square in the largest display of opposition unity since Friday’s elections ended with Mousavi claiming widespread fraud.
Surprisingly, the evidence of dissent-crushing we saw over the weekend does not yet appear to have materialized. Here is a photo.
Don’t make the mistake of underestimating the importance of Dinnerjacket’s coup. It is conventional wisdom that the election was irrelevant because the true levers of power are operated by Khamenei. Maybe and maybe not. This interview with a dissident and former government leader suggests that Dinnerjacket uses Khamenei as his puppet and not the other way around. The source of his power: his relationship with the Revolutionary Guard, which controls the flow of information to the Supreme Leader:
A: After the last election , after Ahmadinejad was first elected, there were many questions raised about Ahmadinejad’s effort to isolate the Leader. We talked openly about this. . . .
Q: And what do you mean by “isolating” the Leader?
A: By monitoring and controlling the flow of information to him. Unfortunately, God will not reveal information to him directly. Where does he get his information, his data? The system works in such a way that information is very powerful. And Ahmadinejad controls the ministry of the interior, the ministry of information, the ministry of intelligence.
(H/t Allahpundit.) Further evidence of this thesis emerges today, in pieces suggesting that Khamenei’s speech blessing Ahmadinejad’s “victory” was written for him. None of this is conclusive, of course, but it should give pause to those who assume without further analysis that Ahmadinejad is a powerless figurehead.
It should also cause some to question the significance of Khamenei’s decision to ask for a probe of allegations of vote fraud. The Supreme Leader already blessed the result as a “divine assessment” — Mousavi’s supporters say before the votes were counted. Having screwed up the charade so badly, it may well be that Ahmadinejad is ordering the probe to give some perceived after-the-fact legitimacy to the election that he rigged so obviously.
The upshot of all this, as described by the author of the analysis of Khamenei’s speech:
Mr. Ahmadinejad’s victory has the merit of clarifying the situation within the Islamic Republic. The choice is now between a repressive regime based on a bizarre and obscurantist ideology and the prospect of real change and democratization. There is no halfway house.
Ah well. Obama will know what to do.