Khamenei laid down the law Friday, and when the unrest in Tehran didn't end, the protesters, in Khamenei's words, became "responsible for the consequences and chaos."
In simple English, Mousavi's followers - and please, let's not call them 'pro-democracy or pro-reform' - are being bloodily beaten into submission by Iran's security forces.
CNN is talking about at least 19 dead, which is probably low, since the basij and the Pasderan have obviously been instructed to break this violently and quickly. Hundreds have been arrested and beaten.
Most of the unrest is occurring in the area above, at and adjacent to Tehran University. Two major areas for the protests, Enghelab and Azadi squares have reportedly been blocked off by the basij and Iranian riot police, which has had the effect of splitting Mousavi's followers into smaller groups in the surrounding streets that can be more readily dealt with.
Mousavi himself has said he's 'ready to be martyred', which tells us that he and his patron Rafsanjani are going for all the marbles of power here and have declined Khamenei's offer to live and let live. Essentially, this has become a mini-civil war but with the guns all on one side.
Hard news is difficult to come by, since foreign reporters are under strict controls and forbidden to leave their offices.
It's worth mentioning that virtually all of the protesting is centered in Tehran, and almost all of that is in the upper crust areas around the university. My sources tell me that the rest of the country is relatively quiet. Key indicators as to how things will end is whether the protests spread outside of Tehran to the countryside and whetehr the security forces get involved or simply stand aside, as they did in 1979. The indications I have from my sources so far indicate that the protests are still largely confined to Tehran, and the Pasdaran and basij are still firmly in the Khameneist camp.
President Obama was obviously under some pressure to say something, and he finally did:
The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.
As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion.
Martin Luther King once said - "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." I believe that. The international community believes that. And right now, we are bearing witness to the Iranian peoples’ belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness.
This was an absolutely silly move on Obama's part, but par for the course. it's backed up by no concrete action except the president's cutting off funds to actual Iranian dissidents.
What the One has accomplished is to set up a no-win situation for America. If the current Iranian regime hangs on, as is likely, he's seen as meddling and encouraging unrest so they're going to be even less likely to want to deal with him, and he's provided Khamenei and Ahmadinejad with the spectre of the Great Satan to use to excite the always hyperactive Iranian conspiracy mentality in their followers. If the regime fails and Rafsanjani and Mousavi take over, he did nothing to help the winners. Simply brilliant.
At the risk of being seen as heartless, I have to emphasize that right now, this is a battle between two factions for power, and not a war between a ruthless dictatorship and some democracy loving protesters. There are no 'good guys' here to root for.
Don't be deceived. This is the same sort of scam used to justify 'moderate' Fatah versus 'hardline' Hamas, even though both of them essentially have the same goals and ideology.
Both Rafasjani and Mousavi are hardliners from way back, and both played decisive parts in Khomeni's 1979 Islamic Revolution and the US hostage crisis. Mousavi was instrumental in creating Hezbollah when he was Prime Minister, and one of the first acts of Hezbollah under his patronage was the murder of 240 American Marines in Lebanon. The fact that the protesters color is green, the color of militant Islam( it's the color of the Hamas flag and the Saudi flag, among others) is one clue. And Mousavi's followers are not howling `Allahu Akbar' from their rooftops in North Tehran because it sounds nifty.
On issues that actually matter to the West like Iran's nukes, Iran's interference in Iraq and Afghanistan, genocidal threats against Israel or supporting Islamist terrorism, there is virtually no difference on any issues that matter to the West between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi. Khamenei and Rafasjani have political enmity going back decades, when Rafasjani was bypassed by Khomeini as his successor as Supreme Leader in favor of Khamenei. It's simply a matter of who's out and who's in.
While some of Mousavi's followers might actually be pro-Democracy, their viewpoint is not likely to be the one that prevails. A great many Iranians who supported the ouster of the Shah in 1979 learned that the hard way, when the revolution was co-opted by the Ayatollah Khomeini and his hardliners into something very different than they imagined. And Rafasjani and Mousavi were a willing part of that.
One group that isn't fooled, of course, is the Israelis. They've known who Mousavi is for quite some time.
While any protest movement against the regime is a positive step, this particular oneis unlikely to end up as something beneficials to American ideals of freedom and justice or to world peace. That kind of democratic revolt is a long way off, if it's even possible given the current state of Iranian society.
The end to this could come pretty quickly. If Khamenei and Ahmadinejad win, as they likely will, Rafsanjani, the head of one of the wealthiest clans in Iran and an ex-president is probably too big for them to dispose of outright. But I predict that Mousavi, far from being 'martyred' will likely make his way into exile in Europe like others who've fallen out with the regime, like Banisadr, the Iranian president the Mullahs 'impeached'.