A reader writes:
I just returned from a week-long trip to Tehran and wanted to share some observations. Most people I met felt strongly that the movement generated before and after the June election is badly in need of a leader. Interestingly Mousavi is seen as too politically naive and unwilling to risk a violent backlash. Karoubi, while hugely popular is also not viewed as someone who has the charisma necessary to mobilize a cohesive opposition. Remarkably everyone anticipates the next mass demonstration to be on November 4th, "students day" which commemorates the day the students occupied the US embassy and the start of the US hostage crisis.
They know this without any announcement from Mousavi or Karoubi. That is, the people are anticipating when to act. Also, there is general consensus that Ashura day (January 7) will be a landmark day in Iran. Ashura marks the death of Imam Hussein whose martyrdome on Ashura marks the begining of Shia Islam. The official color of Ashura is green and massive street demonstrations are common. It would be interesting to see how Ahmadi and the Sepah will react this upcoming Ashura to people in green chanting anti-government slogans on "martyrdome day". I heard from a few that Iran will be a different place after Ashura day, January 7th 2010.
My reader's first paragraph somewhat contradicts the second. It seems to me that the the strength of the movement is the spontaneous popular co-optation of the Revolution's own landmarks. It is that cooptation that will be more effective in the long run than a charismatic leader who could be demonized by Khamenei. Yes, they will need a broker at some point. But the green revolution was more effective for not being led by a single person but galvanized by many.