THE ROVING EYE Poetic justice of a green revolution
By Pepe Escobar
From the moment cool, calm, collected Iranian presidential candidate Mir
Hossein Mousavi went all rhetorical guns blazing against President Mahmud
Ahmadinejad in a debate on national TV, not only Iran but the West seem to have
woken up and joined the fun.
As Mousavi put it: "He [Ahmadinejad] says, 'why do you call me a dictator'?
Well, I did not say that you are a dictator, but your methods definitely lead
Mousavi is the man of the moment. A former Iranian prime minister between 1981
and 1989 - the critical years of the Iran-Iraq war - and adviser to former
president Mohammad Khatami of "dialogue of civilizations" fame, he's an
architect, an abstract painter, a former newspaper editor, and a very good
wonder Khatami himself renounced his new bid for the presidency to the benefit
of Mousavi, whom he judges much better equipped. Mousavi now has a clear shot
at winning the most important election in the 30 years of the Islamic
Revolution in voting on Friday.
No less than 23 million Iranians are Internet surfers - that's 30% of the
people in a very young country, where 60% are younger than 30. Ahmadinejad has
his own personal blog, which features quite a few - usually angry - American
entries. His campaign videos are on YouTube - from defending his (appalling)
economic record to denouncing Zionism.
But this does not even come close to green power. Iranians on Facebook decided
to go green. Psychedelic green. The color of Islam, the color of Mousavi and,
for many, the color of hope.
The whole color scheme in this election spells poetic justice.
It was basically conditioned by the order in which the presidential candidates
went on TV. Ahmadinejad drew red; and Mousavi drew green. As for the "poetic
justice" green revolution, it has been driven by an ultra-energized,
tech-savvy, and very young grassroots base, crisscrossing every variable, urban
and rural, rich and poor, all ethnic minorities, the female vote, and even the
hardcore Basij youth militias.
Iran's election - echoes of the "Great Satan", as the United States is often
labeled - is also about red states and blue states. Red states, rather the
poor, rural provinces, go red - Ahmadinejad's color. Blue states - where the
big urban centers are Tehran, Shiraz, Tabriz and Isfahan, go green, Mousavi's
color. Those boycotting the election go blue. And that's crucial, because this
is an election that will be decided above all by non-voters.
What's clear by the exhilarating noise in Tehran and across the blogosphere is
that Mousavi is the sound of the new generation. The techno beat, live and
virtual, of course is not ayatollah-sanctioned; it comes courtesy of the vast
Iranian diaspora, from Dubai to Paris to Los Angeles.
To make it even more exciting, the party goes on amid the usual, non-stop
Western corporate media hysteria over a "rogue" Iran about to go nuclear, and
the usual Islamophobes, Likudniks and assorted neo-conservative suspects all
voting, en masse, for Ahmadinejad. As the incumbent, Ahmadinejad still had more
TV time and was ubiquitous in the rural Iranian provinces.
Mousavi is definitely also synonymous with girl power. They are young,
beautiful, educated, love their make-up, and make the mullahs and ayatollahs -
who brand them as decadent "feminists" - tremble with fear. Their role model is
none other than Zahra Rahnavard, Mousavi's wife, 61, a political scientist and
sculptor who had to tell the ultra-excited world's media she was not Iran's
version of Michelle Obama.
But attention is required. Mousavi is not an uber-reformist. He's a pragmatic,
moderate conservative. Interestingly enough, he is an Azeri, not a Persian. Of
course, if he's come that far it's because the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei - who, by the way, is also Azeri - let him. Or is it?
As the Tehran Bureau political blog points out, it's important to remember that
the father of the revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in the 1980s, used
Mousavi as prime minister to control Khamenei as president. Now there are no
more prime ministers as Khamenei abolished the post. Incidentally, the Supreme
Leader, where the buck really stops in Iran, has already cast his vote when he
said, "Those who in the presidential debate claimed Iran has lost its standing
among other countries in the world [under Ahmadinejad] are wrong."
Any resemblance in all this green party to the US-engineered color revolutions
in Eurasia? No way. Mousavi's campaign director has said, explicitly, "Our
symbol represents Islam, and not velvet - a subtle reference to the 1989 velvet
revolution in the former Czechoslovakia.
And it gets better. In one of its official clips, the Mousavi campaign even
used a famous song of the revolutionary left, those who were fighting the US
puppet, the Shah of Iran, during the 1970s.
Would Mousavi in power be a game-changer? Most definitely. He wants a national
mandate. He's in favor of smart diplomacy and a detente with the West. The
nuclear program - a matter of Iranian national pride - stays; the Bushehr
nuclear plant, built by the Russians, starts operating in September.
With Mousavi in power it will be very difficult to brand Iran as radical or
rogue. The anti-Iran "coalition of the willing" that Washington, from George W
Bush to Barack Obama, wants in the Middle East - Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt,
the Gulf petromonarchies - will stand naked. What do they fear, these Sunni
dictatorships? They fear Iran's brand of Shi'ite democracy - imperfect as it
may be. They fear something like the green revolution taking place in the
streets of Cairo, Riyadh, Amman and Dubai.
The fight will be very hard. Employees of the Iranian Interior Ministry - which
supervises the election - have warned that ultra-reactionary Ayatollah Mesbah
Yazdi, aka "the Crocodile", Ahmadinejad's apocalyptic spiritual mentor, has
issued a fatwa to ... turn the vote upside down. And the regime can always use
the young - and very well-armed - Basij militias, the new generation of the
revolution, to intimidate voters before the second round of voting.
The plot thickens. Ahmadinejad may have lost the support of the Iranian
Republican Guards Corps - according to insistent rumors in Tehran. Should that
be the case, even if he won he would be absolutely toothless. And a secret
state poll suggesting Mousavi will win the first round by a landslide may - or
may not - be true. Many in Tehran do not forget the regime's back-door deals
that led to Ahmadinejad's victory in 2005.
Ahmadinejad has been soundly blasted by his utter incompetence in economic
matters, his appalling foreign policy and the lack of civil liberties in Iran.
But he was never more dangerous then when he was lying about inflation and
unemployment in the Iranian TV debates, always with a straight face - a face
the poor and disenfranchised in Iran identify as "one of us".
But millions of young, urban, educated - and unemployed - Iranians would rather
dream of "poetic justice". The promise would be fulfilled if Ahmadinejad in the
end were defeated by an electronic intifada. Fight the power - with green