After Egypt, All Eyes Turn to Iran

Police use tear gas and electric prods to control opposition rallies in Tehran

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Iranian protesters were attacked with electric prods and tear gas by police as crowds of demonstrators swelled to the tens of thousands in Tehran Monday. The protests were the biggest in Iran in a year, The Wall Street Journal's Farnaz Fassihi reports, and made greater demands than the rallies in 2009 and early 2010 in response to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's reelection. This time, people want not just Ahmadinejad gone, but also Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The Iranian government has tried to align itself with the pan-Arab protests that have brought down Tunisia's Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak. But even the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood doesn't want Iran on its side--its spokesman rejected Khamenei's statement that Egypt's uprising was like Iran's 1979 revolution. Opposition leaders Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi called for the protests, but were blocked from leaving their homes by security forces. Here's what you need to know about the latest developments:

Elephant in the Room:

On Monday, Turkish President Abdullah Gul held a joint press conference with Ahmadinejad. Gul cautioned,  "We see that sometimes when the leaders and heads of countries do not pay attention to the nations' demands, the people themselves take action." But he didn't mention the people protesting at that moment in Tehran.

Anonymous Goes After Iran:

Anonymous, the group that has attacked Scientology as well as Visa when it blocked donations to WikiLeaks, launched denial of service attacks on Iranian government sites, preventing many high-profile pages from loading.

But Opposition Leaders and Protesters Want Different Things:

Mousavi and Karroubi are members of Iran's political elite, Time's Tony Karon explains, and they want to fix the Islamic Republic instead of overthrowing it. "That may be a popular goal, but it's not one for which many of the green movement's mostly middle-class followers are willing to risk their lives." Nevertheless, a protest how-to circulated among Iranian Facebook users; it shared tips from Tunisian activists on wearing hoodies and carrying lemon juice to deal with tear gas.

Iran Blames Israel and the U.S. for Protests:

The speaker of Iran's parliament told state radio that the U.S., U.K. and Israel helped the opposition leaders, and lawmakers called for those leaders' execution. Thats not an idle threat, CNN reports, as last month, Iran executed 66 people, three of them political prisoners.

Meanwhile, a Spanish diplomat was held for four hours without charges in Tehran after walking near the protests.

Meanwhile, Assassinations of Nuclear Scientists Continue:

Several Iranian nuclear scientists have been assasinated in recent months, Financial Times' Roula Khalaf and James Blitz report. Who's killing them? It's unclear. "Iran has pointed the finger at its enemies in the US and Israel, claiming the assassinations are part of a broader campaign to derail their nuclear programme. ... But in the west, another possible explanation has been offered: perhaps the Iranian regime instigated the killings, taking revenge on men whom it had started to regard as suspect and politically dubious?"

Obama Seems to Support Egyptian, but Not Iranian, Revolution?

The American Spectator's Aaron Goldstein says Obama supported the Egyptian protesters but didn't do anything to help Iranians in 2009. "Now it's true that President Obama never used the term 'regime change.' Yet by calling for free and fair elections in Egypt, for all intents this is exactly what he was proposing. Well, there was an 'election' held in Iran in 2009 that was neither free nor fair. But did President Obama demand of the Mullahs and of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that there be an orderly transition? He made no such demand of the Iranian regime. ... Should protests in Iran should grow as they did in Egypt and if the Iranian regime meets these protests with an escalation of violence, then President Obama cannot sit on the sidelines and let members of his Cabinet do the talking."

Let's Brainstorm: What Should the U.S. Be Doing?

At conservative hub Hot Air, Allahpundit writes:

I read somewhere today that Mubarak’s downfall supposedly teaches the lesson that we’re better off making nice with rogue states like Iran, since then at least we have some leverage in restraining their military when people turn out in the streets. Is that right? Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, who’ve had no problem unleashing thugs against demonstrators before, will supposedly hold off in the face of an existential threat simply because Obama will be grumpy if they don’t? The real lesson of Mubarak’s downfall that’s being learned by leaders around the region, I’m afraid, is that if you don’t unleash the goons, you’re apt to get a knock on the door from your own military one morning and put out to pasture at Sharm el-Sheikh. The mullahs cracked down in 2009 and they’re still in power; Mubarak didn’t and now he’s yesterday’s news.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.