the movie "The Year of Living Dangerously" the little
guy Billy Kwan, brilliantly played by Linda Lee, gives a news reporter
Guy Hamilton, played by Mel Gibson, a talk about Indonesian puppets
- the kind on sticks, which you can now sometime find in import
shops in this country. The figures as shown are shadows from behind
a screen. What you, see - thousands of protestors in the streets,
police repression, official statements and the like - the guide
explains, is the image; what is really going on behind the screen
you cannot see. "Look at the shadows, not at the puppet,"
Kwan tells Hamilton.
At the time of this writing former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi
Rafsanjani, an opponent of officially-reelected President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad is holed up in the religious center of Qum. Speculation
is that he is contemplating his next move as members of his family
including his daughter, Faezeh Hashemi are arrested held for several
hours and then released. What's that all about? Who knows?
It's one many mysteries inside mysteries made more illusory
by the regime's near complete media ban instituted while the police
and militia thugs beat and murder supporters of officially
defeated opposition presidential candidate Mir Hussein Mousavi.
As much as what is being played out behind and in front of the screen
is reminiscent of the screen in Jakarta in 1956, it also harkens
to other recent times in Iran itself. In the summer of 1981, after
the fall of the U.S. backed Shah, the new president Bani-Sadr, who
had been elected with 75 percent of the vote, was driven from office
as ultra-religious militia surrounded his office and shouted "Death
to the Second Shah."
Bani-Sadr had accompanied revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah
Khomeini home from his Parisian exile in 1979 and was elected president
today lives in exile in Paris where in an interview last week he
told Reuters, "This movement shows that the people want democracy
and the regime isn't democratic, so the movement won't stop. It
is going to continue in one way or another," he said. "The
conscience of this people has condemned the regime. That's quite
certain and anyone can see it."
Bani-Sadr told Reuters the demonstrations that followed the June
12th disputed election have spread beyond a movement in support
of Mousavi. "It's at the level of the national conscience and
in that sense, it resembles the movement at the time of the Shah."
Asked about the response of President Barak Obama to the events
in Iran, Bani-Sadr replied. "It was a good reaction. It doesn't
allow the regime to use outside intervention as a justification
for repression," he said, adding that former President George
W. Bush's hostile rhetoric had ensured "immobility" in
Iran. "It paralyzed Iranians. During the entire period of Mr.
Bush, there was no movement in Iran. After him, there is another
president, a new policy and there is movement in Iran." Asked
about the statements of French President Nicolas Sarkozy who had
denounced the election as a fraud, he said, "It would have
been much better if he had remained silent because a people needs
to be able to say 'I decide my own fate, it doesn't come from outside.'
Iranians are very sensitive about this point."
It's a point that one would think the people in Washington would
have appreciated after decades of U.S. interference in the oil-rich
country's affairs. It's also common sense and pollsters say
that most people in the U.S. support the Obama's public reaction
to the Iranian crisis. The other day CNN conducted an online
poll - people at home in front of the telly in the middle of the
day - and 70 percent of the respondents backed the White House stance.
But nothing has tempered the storm of protest directed at the President.
Obama has said openly that what he wanted to avoid was making himself
and the U.S. the subject of the Iranian political struggle. Good
thinking. What has happened, however, is that Iran has become the
subject of political struggle in the U.S. - or, rather a weapon
in the hand of those sought to destroy the Obama Presidency.
Make no mistake about it that's what the right wing and leading
people in the Republican Party are out to do. Talk show demagogue
and Republican leader Russ Limbaugh's wish that Obama crash was
only the opening shot. Policy differences are one thing but
what we have here is something else; these people are out to undermine
Obama (Without a doubt some of the tactics have had a decidedly
racist undertone). New York Times columnist Paul Krugman got is
right Monday: "The
Republicans, with a few possible exceptions, have decided to do
all they can to make the Obama administration a failure."
For over two weeks, from every platform they could commander, leading
spokespersons for the Republican Party have attacked the President
for being what one of them said was being "timid and
passive" in response to the events in Iran.
Noconservative Robert Kagan has written in the Washington Post that
Obama's "strategy toward Iran places him objectively on the
side of the government's efforts to return to normalcy as quickly
as possible, not in league with the opposition's efforts."
And rightwinger Charles Krauthammer has suggested the President
is giving "implicit support for this repressive, tyrannical
Often times, major media has played along making it appear as if
the big, crucial question is what the President has said or not
said. Although it has seen little reflection in most of the major
media in this country, the events in Iran have had a reflection
in the conflict in the broader Middle East, specifically as regards
the Palestinian- Israeli conflict.
"Ahmadinejad's victory will serve as further proof that diplomacy
with Iran is not an option, from the point of view of Israel and
its supporters in the US. Whether Obama will proceed with his positive
rhetoric towards Iran remains to be seen," wrote Ramzy Baroud
in the Palestine Chronicle. "Failure to do so, however, will
further undermine his country's interests in the Middle East, and
will prolong the atmosphere of animosity, espoused by a clique of
neoconservative hardliners throughout the years of the Bush administration."
Iran's Ahmadinejad is preferred in Israel," read a June 21
article in the Christian Science Monitor. Correspondent Joshua Mitnick
wrote that "even though Mr. Ahmadinejad has threatened the
Jewish state with destruction, many officials and analysts here
actually prefer the incumbent president because - short of the downfall
of Iran's theocratic system of government - he'll be easier to isolate.
Reformist leader Mr. Moussavi, by contrast, isn't expected to alter
Iran's drive for nuclear power, but he would win international sympathy."
"The incumbent president will be easier to isolate than reformist
leader Mr. Mousavi, say some leading Israeli policymakers."
Mitnick reported that "Mossad Chief Meir Dagan, Israel's
top spy, told a group of Israeli lawmakers, "If the reformist
candidate Mousavi had won, Israel would have had a more serious
problem, because it would need to explain to the world the danger
of the Iranian threat."
"If I were enfranchised in this election... I would vote for
Ahmadinejad," Middle East Forum president Daniel Pipes said
earlier this month. "I would prefer to have an enemy who's
forthright and obvious, who wakes people up with his outlandish
"This line of thought is echoed by many in Israel, where Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party have historically
had close ties with U.S. neo-conservatives," observed Daniel
Luban in an article for Inter Press Service titled, "US-IRAN:
Electoral Chaos Energises Neoconservative Hawks."
However, there is not full agreement in leading Israeli political
circles on this, wrote Mitnick. Israeli President Shimon Peres encouraged
Iranian protestors and "courageous" women who he said
were trying to "reclaim" their culture. He added that
it's more important to have regime change in Iran than an end to
the country's controversial nuclear program. "You never know
what will disappear in Iran first - their enriched uranium or their
poor government," said Peres. "I hope their poor government
will disappear first."
There is a direct contention between the attitude in Tel Aviv to
the crisis in Iran and U.S. policy. Ever since President Obama's
historic address at Cairo University, the rightwing leaders of the
Israeli government have been trying to change the subject. Time
and time again they have declared that rather than an agreement
with the Palestinians the important question in the region is the
Iranian nuclear enrichment process and have continued to threaten
a military attack on Iran. Obviously, a change in government in
Tehran would throw coldwater on any such intention- at least for
This reality has not been lost on the Israeli government's backers
in the U.S. According to the Israeli media, Senate majority leader
Harry Reid (D-Nev.) recently sent a letter to President Barack Obama
on his tough policy against Israel in a public letter he sent last
week disagreeing strong with the President's approach the Middle
East. "It is also vital [the Israeli-PA] process not take away
from your commitment to deal with the ongoing threat from Iran,"
Reid declared. "I believe that resolving the problem of Iran's
nuclear program will help facilitate the Arab-Israeli peace process."
Like the little guy said, there are a lot of forces at work here,
both on the screen, behind it and in the shadows. Someday, we will
have a better picture of what is going on. In the meantime, there
can be little question who deserves the admiration and support of
progressive movements and people worldwide. They are the women,
students, workers, shopkeepers and others waving green banners with
such courage. Somewhere down the line their democratic aspirations
will be realized.
Board member Carl Bloice is a writer in San Francisco, a member
of the National Coordinating Committee of
the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism
and formerly worked for a healthcare union. Click here
to contact Mr. Bloice.