Sunday, June 14, 2009

Was There Just a Coup in Iran?

Ahmadinejad's vote tally is extremely suspicious, says Juan Cole: the numbers claim, for example, that he won Tehran by over 50%, even though he is unpopular in Iran's urban centers. There are numerous other dubious results, including Ahmadinejad's eerily similar margins of victory among Iran's provinces, provinces which have historically displayed very different voting patterns. The uniformity of their results, and the myriad other strange happenings, lead Cole to conclude that "this post-election situation looks to me like a crime scene."

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that over 100 reformists have apparently been arrested, and Mir- Hossein Mousavi's supporters say he is under house arrest. Mobile phones, Facebook, and foreign news sources have all been blocked. Twitter still seems to be working, and Mousavi's supporters are using it to organize. The Huffington Post quotes a reader whose neighbor's brother, living in Tehran, says "the rooftops of nighttime Tehran are filled with people shouting 'Allah O Akbar' in protest of the government and election results. The last time he remembers this happening is in 1979 during the Revolution. Says the sound of tens of thousands on the rooftops is deafening right now."

Gary Sick, the former National Security Council member, summarizes the developments - including the barricarding of the Ministry of Interior and the deployment of huge numbers of security forces into the streets of Tehran - and concludes, "All of this had the appearance of a well orchestrated strike intended to take its opponents by surprise – the classic definition of a coup. Curiously, this was not a coup of an outside group against the ruling elite; it was a coup of the ruling elite against its own people."

There's still much that remains unclear, and because of the restrictions on foreign media, news organizations are relying heavily on firsthand dispatches - which are spotty because of the restrictions on Internet access and mobile phone service. The most significant question will probably be answered in the next few days: is the popular outrage strong and well-coordinated enough to lead to even greater violence or an attempt to overthrow the government?

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