I spoke with a friend of mine yesterday, an Iranian ex-pat, about the events in Iran. In the past he has been very sad about Iran and its prospects, it may be in his character to be pessimistic, so keep that in mind.
But he did offer an interesting perspective, one you don't get from reading Ledeen (in the National Review) or any other source that I have seen. He has always been suspicious of the "reformer" president Khatami. As far as he was concerned Khatami was another Mullah. A wolf in sheeps clothing. Khatami was of the theocratic establishment and would never fight to necessary fight. Having seen the intensely different perspectives from the West of the Soviet world, I discount individual personal accounts much less than media accounts.
Now it appears his overall sentiments have been on target with regard to Khatami. Khatami has been progressively criticized by the Student movement for not pushing harder for reform. And now it seems there has been a somewhat official split
TEHRAN -- President Mohammad Khatami of Iran confirmed Wednesday his separation from the bulk of the students, who used to be his main power base, when he announced that he would not attend the Students Day, which falls on 7 December.
Mr. Khatami did not provide any reason for his abstention to attend the Students Day and address the students, as he used to do in the past five years, but observers said the "divorce" had taken place months ago, with its origin going as far back as the students uprising of July 1999 when Mr. Khatami sided with the leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, who had ordered the revolutionary guards and the Basij volunteers to crush the students demonstrations.
"The students have abandoned not only the President, but also the whole of the reformists, leaving them to their fate", commented Mr. Qasem Sho’leh Sa’di, a former outspoken MM (Member of the Majles) and a prominent lawyer.
As Mr. Khatami was making the surprise announcement during an impromptu press conference at the end of the cabinet meeting, Tehran Governor announced that he would not authorise the students to stage demonstrations in the streets of the capital.
"Students left Mr. Khatami after they realised that they could no longer trust neither him or the official reformists, whom they consider a liability, a source of the present uncertain situation in Iran", Mr. Sho’leh Sa’di told the Persian service of Radio France Internationale (RFI).
The situation has four actors. The "hard-line", "reformers", "students", and "public". The "hard-line" and "reformers" are spawned from the theocracy and the struggle against the Shah. They are of the same generation. The "hard-line" is in the top seats of power, the "reformers" are in the lower seats of power. The "students" have no official power, but they are organized. The "public" is the least committed of the other three (by definition).
The "reformers" had been allied with the "students" and trying to attain the higher seats of power. They have not been successful. Ultimately, they have failed because their perspective is not that different from the "hard-line" and they are not willing to take the necessary risks of confronting the "hard-line". The predictions and complaints that Khatami was not interested in reform, but only paid lip-service to it seems to have been correct.
The recent death sentence of Dr H. Aghajari by the "hard-line" is another manifestation of the struggle between "hard-line" and "reformers". Apparently, Aghajari was one of the students that took part in the US Embassy hostage taking (I have tried to get some link that validates this claim, but with no success). So now the alliances in the struggle seem to be changing. The "students" and "reformers" are no longer allies and it seems the "reformers" are moving back towards the "hard-line". The "reformers" really cannot survive alone, and when the pressure starts to build you would expect their ties to be stronger to the "hard-line" than the "students".
The "students" have some serious advantages though, demographics. Personally I am very hesitant to use demographics as an indicator of anything, but almost half of Iran's population is less than 35. It is not clear how much of this population allies itself with the "students", but there is probably a generational magnet. If the "hard-line" and "reformers" are able to break the back of the "students", how long before the "students" rise again?
UPDATE: I have been misunderstanding Mike Ledeen's points. Reading his latest
shows his perspective is in synch with the ex-pat.
Aghajari is a marginal figure in this struggle, as is another of Friedman's heroes, the so-called President Khatami. Like Khatami, Aghajari is a hero of opportunity for the demonstrators, a vessel into which the rage of the Iranian people has been poured, but who is certainly not a leader of the revolution.
The revolution is being led by students, workers, intellectuals, and military officers and soldiers who can no longer bear the misery of the Iranian people, the corruption and hypocrisy of the Iranian leaders, and the awful degradation of the country. The battle for the minds and souls of the Iranian people has already been won by the opponents of the regime. The battle now underway — the battle that should be concerning our own leaders and intellectuals — is for the streets and institutions of the country.