Thursday, June 18, 2009

A letter from an Iranian-Jewish-American friend, Tabby-

Here in LA, I’ve been monitoring the events coming from Iran very closely, first for personal investment (I have family in Tehran), and second for SHEER AMAZEMENT at how events have unfolded. You are witnessing history!I know that it may seem like the usual…another fraudulent election in the Middle East, hijacked by the incumbent extremists. But what you are witnessing from Iran on television and the internet is nothing short of SPECTACULAR. I have become very emotional watching the scenes from Tehran, where I was born and where I would have also stood in the streets today. I’ll spare you my own political and regional analysis of what has been occurring in Iran since the June 12th elections, and I'll try to keep it light and airy, like perfectly cooked Persian rice. I will simply say that you are NOT witnessing history because of a potential regime change in Iran. A regime change, which would end the mullahs’ theocratic rule, will not be a by-product of the recent protests, strong as they are (some 5 million people taking to the streets, reportedly). I do not expect an orange or velvet or in Iran’s case, kabob revolution, from all of this. But I am no less EXCITED (yes, I put it in capitals!).Then why 'historic"? It has been amazing to see footage of so many Iranians, average people, young people like me who were born around or after the revolution, in the streets, not only demanding that their vote be counted and counted fairly, but shouting “Death to the Dictator” (Ahmadinejad). Upon seeing the news, my mother noted that she had not seen this type of public outpouring in the streets for thirty years, since the eve of the Revolution in 1979! Ironically, the youth of 1979 poured into the streets …the pictures on their thousands of signs was of none other than…the Ayatollah Khomeini, who ironically, is the antithesis of everything today’s protestors are fighting FOR (he died in the late 1980s). And so it is that the Iranians made their Persian bed in 1979 (welcoming the theocracy into the country), laid in it for 30 years (no sleep number mattresses for them), and have now decided to literally wake up and smell the jasmine tea (coffee is for the Turks). **Why are they so angry? Why do the protestors feel entitled? They are angry because their vote was seemingly neglected. All over the country, not only Tehran, but in Shiraz, Esfahan, and elsewhere, people have demanded a change, literally putting their lives at stake. In addition to feeling robbed of their vote, they cannot fathom how Ahmadinejad could have possibly been re-elected, and by such an ENORMOUS margin. The man who 4 years ago won on the promise of “putting the oil money on your dinner table” has handled one of the most mismanaged economies in the entire world. Inflation is at 30%! Just imagine how much that loaf of delicious pita an Iranian wishes to place at his dinner table costs now. Besides handling the economy with the expertise of a drunken goat, Ahmadinejad has also made the country less safe for the citizens, and they know this. Unfortunately, he has spoken for them for four years, whether they agree with him or not, denying the Holocaust, alienating regional neighbors such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, threatening Israel, the U.S. and the West, and wearing an unforgivably ugly jacket. **Who is the other guy?Moussavi, the “reformist” and “moderate” candidate, claims that he received 25 million votes (Iran’s population stands at 67 million), but that these were swept under the rug. The Interior Minister boldly rejects this claim, but he was appointed by none other than Ahmadinejad. Mousavi even claims that fraudulent final vote results showed that he did not secure the vote even in his own province! How is it possible, he demands? We must also understand that for Iranian leaders, the term “moderate/reformist” means something different than our term in the West. Tabby's Thought of the Day: Do you remember “The Princess Bride”? When they took Wesley to the healer (Billy Crystal), it was official that Wesley was “mostly dead,” instead of completely dead. So it is that a “moderate” Iranian leader is “mostly fanatic,” as opposed to completely fanatic (thanks, Mahmoud). Does the moderate candidate (Moussavi) support Iran having a nuclear weapons program? Yes. Does he spout anti-Israel violent rhetoric? Yes. The main differences, for our purposes, is that Moussavi, had he been elected, may have proven more willing to discuss the possibility of renewed talks, dialogue, and relations with the West. The key word here is “mostly.”It has been reported that over 8 people have been killed so far in the protests. Iranians have a very long memory. My grandmother may recount to you an experience that she had in April 1965, or any other date. These people have now become martyrs in the eyes of the Iranian people, to the chagrin of the regime. No one knows this better than the real man in command, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, who will address the nation on Friday and has just asked the ‘Guardian Council’ to review the final election results. The OSCE, it ain’t. The regime has banned all international coverage of the protests and election results. Why? It banned Facebook and Twitter. Ahmadinejad also has his share of supporters…they may clash more and more with those supporting Moussavi in the streets. Police have violently clashed with students at Tehran University…many will remember protests in 1979 at Tehran University SUPPORTING the mullahs (not me, I was not alive then, thank you). Moussavi has declared today a national day of mourning. If he makes it out of his public street speeches among hundreds of thousands (and a few sharpshooters) alive, I will drink to this “mostly fanatic” fanatic for having merely survived. And so we wait and watch with anticipation. Mostly likely, the protests will fizzle down, the West will condemn the election results, but something very important has occured...the wheels have been set into motion. What can the U.S. do to support Iranians seeking democracy? Will Israel sneak in a swift and clean attack of Iranian nuclear sites amidst the distraction of the domestic instability? If the protests continue and Iran finds itself with more dangerous political instability, a desperate regime would impact the entire region, perhaps even ordering proxies Hezbollah or Hamas to begin a new distracting war. But as mentioned, I am highly dubious of any notable regime change, including for individuals. People have been protesting all over the U.S. as well…Iranian Americans from Los Angeles to Philadelphia. I believe that at the end of the day, something snapped in the Iranian people last Friday, upon realizing that they may be faced with four more years of Ahmadinejad and even worse, 12% unemployment, 30% inflation, and nothing to show for their greatest natural resource…their youth…other than instability and misery for 30 years. In the end, the public outcry is more than “mostly” good. It’s phenomenal!

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