Watch the Ball

Keep hope alive.

Ultimate power in Iran’s convoluted governing structure is held by the aptly titled Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. He’s the one who twice blessed the fantasy election tally over the weekend, before trying to buy some time by asking the Guardian Council — half of whose members he appoints — to have another look at it.

But Khamenei’s power is not unchecked, at least while Iran’s rulers are still playing by the rules they set for themselves. The 86-member Assembly of Experts, led by Khamenei’s rival Ayatollah Rafsanjani, has the formal authority to remove him and name his successor.

Rafsanjani, who openly supported Mir Hossein Mousavi prior to Friday’s vote, has been publicly quiet since. Educated guesses have him doing some vote-counting of his own among the Assembly, assessing how much power he has to confront Khamenei.

Of course, it’s not just two old men in a slap fight. Khamenei also controls the Revolutionary Guard, which last week warned against a “velvet revolution” among Mousavi’s supporters. Or, for all we know, the Revolutionary Guard — which has the guns and the money — controls him.

The question is whether Khamenei is willing to sacrifice his legitimacy for authority. What now has the stirrings of revolution was just a conventional election a few days ago, leaving all the ruling pieces in place. Khamenei can still use that Guardian Council “investigation” to discover — mirabile dictu! — that Mousavi won after all, and put up with an old rival having a limited voice in the government.

The consequences of the alternatives are unknowable. We’re seeing a violent crackdown, but so far it seems to have been conducted not by the Revolutionary Guard proper, but the Basij, a volunteer militia controlled by the Guard, and Ansar Hezbollah, jackbooted religious zealots. (Monday’s murders of seven protesters stemmed from a skirmish outside a Basij building.)

Tehran is on the brink, and with the bodies starting to pile up, the government has little time to pull back and save itself. Watch for additional smoke signals from Khamenei, watch for any sign from Rafsanjani, watch if the Revolutionary Guard is unleashed.

Because if the folks who pull the strings don’t get real smart real fast, you really will be watching a revolution.

Continuing Coverage:

Andrew Sullivan

niacINsight [National Iranian American Council]

Tehran Bureau [Independent Iran news]

The Lede [NYT]

Photo: The Lede


Khamenei can still use that Guardian Council “investigation” to discover — mirabile dictu! — that Mousavi won after all, and put up with an old rival having a limited voice in the government.

This sounds about right. Now that things are tilting…tilting out of skew, this result would seem to be the best way to right things. Anyway they can control Mousavi to some degree in that position.

[Edit] However neither of us are meglomaniacs. That could be a big flaw in your reasoning.

Reading comments from the various neo-con dipshits including Kristol Meh, one would think they might be happy about this. Surprise!

Probably upset they can’t cheerlead to unleash the cockroaches of war on Iran. Instead everything gets turned upside down by electoral rigging.

The government will do whatever it has to do to hold on to power, and that includes keeping the Crazy Man in power. And the government doesn’t care how many have to die to accomplish its ends. Same as any government.

This morning Joe Scarborough was trying to argue that the events in Iran are in part due to Bush’s invasion of Iraq and the neocon project in the Middle East generally.

Once again showing that the Right has no shame and will take credit for anything good that happens anywhere.

Happy Bloomsday to anyone who actually waded all the way through Ulysses – I never got past about the third chapter.


One reviewer recently called Joyce’s Ulysses “a terrorist attack on the English language.”

@Original Andrew: It’s easier to get through if you imagine that Joyce was on acid when he wrote it.

@Original Andrew: “a terrorist attack on the English language.”

Segue! Palin in re Letterman Apology II — The Reckoning:

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is accepting comedian David Letterman’s apology over the controversial joke directed at her daughter, but says she hopes “men who ‘joke’ about public displays of sexual exploitation of girls will soon evolve.”

“Letterman certainly has the right to ‘joke’ about whatever he wants to, and thankfully we have the right to express our reaction,” Palin said in a statement. “And this is all thanks to our U.S. Military women and men putting their lives on the line for us to secure America’s Right to Free Speech – in this case, may that right be used to promote equality and respect.”


She deftly folded The Troops into this mess, didn’t she? I could come back with a “don’t ask, don’t tell” rant, right into the “[promoting] equality and respect” bit. But the bigger point here is that Sarah Plain and Dumb is just boring.

(P.S.: Notwithstanding two apologies, SarahPAC types are still going to picket the Late Show tonight. Of course they are.)

@SanFranLefty: I’m saving it to read when I’m dead.

The world has truly turned upside down:

The Obama policy of extending an open hand to Iran is working and ought not be abandoned because of the grim events in Tehran.
For the Iranian theocracy has just administered a body blow to its legitimacy in the eyes of the Iranian people and the world.

Some lefty, homo, communist blogger? No! The opening paragraph from Pat Buchanan’s column at Town Hall. (Which I found via Sully, as it would never occur to me to go there myself).

@chicago bureau: How about cats who commit statutory rape with younger girls? I am disgusted with Letterman for rolling over for that person.

@chicago bureau: Maybe if she weren’t trotting her knocked up daughter around for public consumption and to preach about abstinence only (sponsored by a company that designs sleazy shoes for pre-teen wanna-be prostitots), then I’d take her concern seriously. Keep flapping that mouth, Talibunny.

@Mistress Cynica: Huh? HUH??

@chicago bureau: Notwithstanding two apologies, SarahPAC types are still going to picket the Late Show tonight.

Well, Team Sarah seems to have also accepted the apology:

It is OUR hope that David Letterman has seen first hand how the laughter ends when comedy routines become nothing more than thinly-disguised ideological grandstanding designed around the humiliation of others for cheap laughs.

Haven’t had coffee yet, so I’ll leave it there.

@nojo: What a wuss to apologize. That’s him put in his place for all the world to see. Time to retire, praps?

@Benedick: Honestly, Letterman’s been tired for at least ten years. Even more honestly, he peaked at NBC.

@RZ: That could be a big flaw in your reasoning.

Naw, it’s accounted for. I didn’t say declaring Mousavi the winner was likely. But you allow for all options until some are precluded.


Ding ding ding. But this would seem to be a deep rift, no?

In that case, all bets are off. They said Mousavi was under house arrest before, but he was not.

Can the elder (revolutionary) generation stifle a (huge) young one?


Just so. But the Letterman thing, man I wrote about that, its sick what she has done.

All over the internet, irritating and repetitive comments…

I truly believe she has turned even more people against her.


BTW, thanks for the link, I just noticed it.

The sun has come out and has burned off the last traces of rain from the grass. Fruit is swelling on the trees and all the dog shit has been thrown off into the woods. I shall now take off my shoes and skip about in the slightly too-long grass (mower had a psychotic incident over the weekend and couldn’t come) savoring the feeling of being alive this lovely mid-June afternoon. And I shall read no more news and will not think on Iran or Sarah Palin (not sure which scares me more) for as long as possible.

@RZ: They said Mousavi was under house arrest before, but he was not.

I think that was a presumption regarding his silence over the weekend — not sure the government announced it as such. So much of what we can distill as news right now consists of educated guesses. It’s like writing history from documentary sources: a whole lotta “apparently” going on.

Can the elder (revolutionary) generation stifle a (huge) young one?

No. At least, not over time, not today. China can bury Tiananmen so anyone born after is only vaguely aware of it, if at all, but that’s the difference between 1989 and 2009: The Internet happened between.

But how that plays out in Iran — presuming the week blows over — is impossible to know. At a minimum, the government has blown any pretense to legitimacy it may have enjoyed. And by all accounts that pretense has been important, if not as important as sheer iron-fisted authority.

But unless they plan on throttling the Internet for the next ten years, at some point regular access to Facebook and such will return. And then the consequences will start to emerge.

@Benedick: You the man. I would go trout fishing to further clear my head.

@Benedick: @redmanlaw: This is why the Good Lord created patios.

@RZ: Palin only plays to her audience — taking on, and even defeating, a late-night host doesn’t earn her any cred outside her base.

Which is why we love her so: With each shrill — and yes, I’m using that word deliberately — outburst, she further isolates herself from the mainstream. You can’t even play Dave in the anti-Hollywood culture war: He’s from Indiana.

@nojo: . . . and why our alien brethren gave us hammock-making technology in addition to velcro.

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