Monday, June 29, 2009

Back on the Street

After a week of relative quiet and less (and less reliable) news, Tehranis again took to the street yesterday. Yesterday’s demonstration occurred under the guise of an officially sanctioned memorial celebration for Mohammed Beheshti, a leader of the 1979 Revolution killed in a bombing on June 28, 1981.

Last week, Karroubi, the true reformist candidate in this year’s Iranian election, called off a mourning demonstration to honor protestors killed thus far that was set for Wednesday. Karoubi called of the demonstration because he was unable to secure a permit from the government. Apparently, the government refused to issue any demonstration permits to any opposition forces last week.

Karroubi’s willingness to play by Khamenei’s rules strikes a sour note. It seems to me that though the goals of the opposition are still ill-defined and are like disparate if not divergent, Khamenei’s legitimacy was uniformly in question. By submitting to permit requirements-and therefore giving up the street to the regime-Karroubi seemed to simultaneously be confirming legitimacy on the regime and ceding the regime the opposition’s best venue for direct action.

It is as unthinkable to me that the regime would allow any demonstration permits to be issued, as it is that the regime would have let the street demonstration gain a toe-hold after the June 12 election.

But the regime did issue such a permit. And the result, of course, were thousands of Tehranis once again in the street, ostensibly paying tribute to Beheshti, but in fact waving green and holding up V-signs as they continued expressing their outrage at the stolen election. I find it extraordinarily difficult to imagine that Khamenai’s regime will issue any further demonstration permits-but then again, I didn’t think it would issue one for yesterday’s demonstration, either.

Without the street, the opposition’s tactics are severely restricted. The most effective tactic that remains is the strike. Mousavi issued a plain threat to the regime that should he be arrested, the nation should strike. It appears that he is reluctant to play the strike card before or until he is arrested. It is also unclear if the opposition has sufficiently broad-based support to conduct targeted, industry-specific strikes.

The street is the best forum for the opposition to make its strength and determination felt; it provides a means of disseminating information rapidly that does not rely on technology; it is also the best tactic to gain sympathy from factions of the Iranian Armed Forces and the IRGC. Two components necessary to this revolution’s success.

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