Iran’s Numbered Days

Some countries are no better than publicity-crazed celebrities. Britney Spears has a breakdown one day just so she can make a comeback the next. As a global example, North Korea claimed in April to have put a satellite into orbit with a Taepodong-2 missile. Of course, anyone who saw part of the very same missile fall into the Sea of Japan must be lying. And any radar tracking the missile must have been malfunctioning.

After much criticism over the missile launch, North Korea left the disarmament talks held with five other countries. It then promptly threw a temper tantrum on July 4 by launching seven short-range missiles, which also ended up in the Sea of Japan. Finally realizing that the rest of the world was ignoring its celebrity-style fit, North Korea announced with the coming of the New Year that it would try to behave this year. Washington and Pyongyang are now in agreement that negotiations should continue.

Other countries behave more like completely delusional celebrities. Even while breaking down internally, they still struggle to cut one-sided movie deals with directors and producers much bigger and stronger than they are. For Iran, the slight difference is that negotiations involve one-sided nuclear arms treaties instead of movie deals.

Iran’s nuclear ambitions have long drawn the media’s attention. Many countries believe that Iran is seeking to develop a nuclear weapon, but Iran maintains that it would use nuclear power purely for energy. Of course, throughout this process, Iranian President Ahmadinejad has assured the world that one of his dearest ambitions is to wipe Israel off the map; not really inspiring confidence in his reassurances of peacefully using nuclear power.

In standard tantrum form, Iran rejected a United Nations proposal to trade enriched uranium for nuclear fuel with an end-of-the-year deadline to show progress in talks. Iran instead demanded that by the end of this January, the West must agree to either sell nuclear fuel to Iran or trade its enriched uranium in smaller batches. In other words, they want to hold on to as much enriched uranium as they can for as long a time as they can. The reasonable question is, if they do not want nuclear weapons, why are they so fond of their enriched uranium?

These tactics are not surprising. What is surprising is how Iran is able to make these ridiculous, contradictory claims and demands while trying to quell what is fast becoming a revolution. When protests began last summer over claims of election fraud, the government was quick to assure its country that more than 100 percent voter turnout in some districts was perfectly normal. When that didn’t work, they tried tear gas and beatings in the streets.

Protests died down and boiled up periodically, but an important shift quickly took place, and this shift is the reason that a new Iran will soon replace the one we recognize. When the government turned to violence and suppressed the freedoms of speech and assembly, they also changed the focus of the protests. At first, the protests were relatively peaceful acts aimed at the election results. However, they soon became focused on the very foundations of what governs Iran.

In 1979, Iranians toppled the U.S.-backed shah and established the Islamic Republic of Iran. For many Iranians, this is a source of great pride and a solid refusal to be manipulated by the powers of the West. To this day, Ahmadinejad blames the West for anything and everything that goes wrong in Iran, hoping to play upon the historic dislike of the West’s meddling in Iranian affairs. Yet the government that was established by the Islamic Revolution is now the one being attacked by the protesters.

Protesters regularly insult and chant against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, something that was previously unheard of. Khamenei, as Supreme Leader, has the final say in all matters of the state and has served since the 1989 death of Khomeini, the leader of the Revolution. Mir Hossein Mosavi, the leader of the current unrest and one of the candidates who ran in the June elections, has recently announced that he would willingly become a martyr for this cause.

At this point, and against such dedicated and open opposition, Iran cannot hope to survive for much longer. The government could have quelled the protesters in the beginning by taking their concerns seriously. For example, if an independent body trusted by the people conducted a review of the election results, the protests would most likely have ended.

But the protests are no longer about the election results. The discontent now is about being beaten in the street by the group of people who are supposed to protect you. It is about having your rights crushed and your concerns ignored by those who are supposed to listen. It is about a new generation of young adults who will not tolerate such suppression. The issue is no longer a fraudulent election; it is a broken system of government. Every time the government strikes back at these protests, the resolve of the protesters will only strengthen.

Already, the government has recognized that they could very well have a revolution on their hands. At one subway station, anything green was confiscated because green has become the color of the protesters. The protesters have gotten smarter too. They are choosing days of significance for Iran to plan their massive gatherings, and the next one is the anniversary of the very Islamic Revolution that established the current government.

Keep your eyes peeled because I predict that massive protests will again break out. And they will keep breaking out until the protestors achieve their ultimate goal: the toppling of the current regime. I look forward to the day when these protesters succeed, and the Iranian people earn the liberty and freedoms that they are fighting for. I also would not complain if the new government does not have such an affinity for enriched uranium.