The battle is on

Mousavi attacks Khamenei

In the midst of the street fighting between a popular movement contesting the legitimacy of the current and of some possible future Iranian governments and that government's loyal security forces, Mir-Hossein Mousavi rejected the Ayatollah Khamenei's assertion that the Iranian people had fairly selected Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the recent election (see this, this and this). The significance of this event is rather clear, even to an outsider like me. As Juan Cole put it:

Mousavi has thrown down a gauntlet before the Supreme Leader and a battle has been joined. By the rules of the Khomeinist regime, only one of them can now survive. And perhaps neither will.

Khamenei surely would not have missed the import of Mousavi's rejoinder, for, as Robert Fisk stated:

What we are now seeing is a regime which is far more worried than the Supreme Leader suggested when he threatened the opposition so baldly on Friday. Having refused any serious political dialogue with Mousavi and his opposition comrades — a few district recounts will produce no real change in the result — the Iranian regime, led by a Supreme Leader who is frightened and a president who speaks like a child, is now involved in the battle for control of the streets of Iran. It is a conflict which will need the kind of miracle in which Khamenei and Ahmadinejad both believe to avoid violence.

But political violence has already come to Iran, and in Iran it will likely remain as long as both the regime and "the people" wish to select the seventh President of the Iranian republic. Violence is likely because a political system cannot long stand a situation in which there are two sovereigns, and it is just this dualism which is coming into being in Iran. When considered with this rule of thumb in mind, it appears that Khamenei's Friday prayer sermon offered the opposition within civil society and among the elite a stark and untenable choice: Make a revolution or accept a mortifying defeat. Revolutions are rarely peaceful. When they are peaceful, this is a byproduct of the negotiations and compromises achieved by the groups contending for power. They are violent whenever the old regime wishes to hold on to political power and has the means and the will to pursue this end.

As an outsider and an American to boot, I can only wish the Iranian people good luck in the difficult times ahead.

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