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Iran: A Gut Reaction to Mousavi's "Martyrdom v. Compromise" Statement

MOUSAVI5Over the last 24 hours, what has been almost as striking is Mir Hossein Mousavi's post-Ashura statement is the division in responses to it. Some activists and observers have seen the letter, with its references to "martyrdom", as a declaration of Mousavi's defiance and willingness to take that defiance to a final showdown with the Iranian regime; others, looking at the five steps proposed by Mousavi for a resolution of conflict, have seen the statement --- for better or worse --- as a proposal for compromise, accepting and indeed affirming the current Iranian system.

For me, the division arises because Mousavi's letter is actually two statements directed to two different audiences, seeking their recognition and possibly acceptance:

Iran Document: Mousavi’s “5 Stages to Resolution” Statement (1 January)
The Latest from Iran (2 January): The Ripples of the Mousavi Statement

Statement Number 1 is to the activists of the Green movement: "I am with you. I am with you to the end against the injustices and betrayals of this regime."

Statement Number 2 is to the regime: "I do not want to have to go to the end with the opposition. I do not want to do so because this will bring more bloodshed and tear apart the Islamic Republic. So let us move towards an agreement that will restore what is best about our system."

Thus, the first part --- indeed the majority --- of the statement is an eloquent, passionate, at times fiery pronouncement (perhaps significantly, written within a few days of the death of Mousavi's nephew in the Ashura demonstration) that Mousavi stands with the Green movement in its fight. At no point, interestingly, does he claim to lead the movement. Indeed, there is the striking remark that he, as well as Mehdi Karroubi and Mohammad Khatami, refrained from a call for Ashura demonstrations, but still the movement turned out in force last Sunday.

Because Mousavi does not claim to lead the movement, he does not have to deal with the issue of what that movement's demands have moved beyond a "reform" of the Islamic Republic. Instead, he moves to the second part of the statement, a pragmatic, point-by-point description of measures which is cool both in tone and in language --- let us ease the rushing river that both threatens to overwhelm us and stagnates under the burden of conflict.

Those measures are far from new. Indeed, once the conflict moved beyond the question of the results of the Presidential election and to the illegitimate, unjust declarations, threats, and punishment of the Government, they were set out by both Mehdi Karroubi and Mousavi in the autumn. Respect for the Constitution, freeing of political prisoners with compensation for them and their families, acknowledgement of errors, corruptions, and violations by Government officials: these are the steps of restitution and reconciliation within the system.

Well, the tension between the first part and second part seems evident: as an EA reader concisely pointed out this morning, "[The issue is] if these reformist circles still adhere to reforms within the system, or if they have recognized them being impossible in the velayat-e faqih [system of ultimate clerical authority]" of the Islamic Republic."

Put even more bluntly, what happens if Mousavi's 5-point plan is rejected by the Government? The one way out may be the ultimate scapegoating, with the dismissal of President Ahmadinejad both as implicit recognition of the electoral manipulations and explicit condemnation of the corruptions --- political, economic, and ideological; note Mousavi's attention to Iran's economic issues and foriegn policy --- of the Government. Surely, however, that moment passed once the Supreme Leader anointed Ahmadinejad's second term in August.

So what happens when Mousavi is met not by negotiation but by silence or even by more threats? Does he indeed declare that he is with the Green movement to the end --- an end which means not "unity" but more conflict? Does he really declare that not only Ahmadinejad and his inner circle but the Supreme Leader and his have had their last chance?

Does he still stand alongside the factions in the Green movement, not as leader but as "one of them"?

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Reader Comments (11)

Scott, this is an intriguing analysis. Thanks for pointing out what should have obvious about it.

January 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterhawaiianbear

Iranian reformist analysts interprete Moussavi's statement indirectly as a dissociation from radical protesters on Ashura, putting the blame for the Ashura killings on AN and KH. Hardliner Hamid Ressaie in contrast tries to represent him as responsable, stressing the importance of this issue. Yesterday IRNA repeated the false news that Moussavi and Karroubi fled the capital, promptly rejected by Kaleme:
A peaceful solution is certainly not intended by this regime.

This dual-use statement clearly marks his retreat from the Greens and may be a decisive turning-point, announcing a differentiation within the movement, which could lead to an outspoken rejection of the actual system.
Other commentators like Hamid Farkhondeh encourage the Greens to continue their non-violent protests, warning them to adopt the same radical position as in 1979 and the cult of martyrs:
Sazegara adopted the same strategy in his yesterday's video message, which further points to a possible split.

January 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterArshama

I read the statement in part as a kind of Living Will. e.g. I hope that nothing happens to me and that we can resolve the sources of conflict along the lines of the five points, but if something does happen, I want to history to record where I stand on this matter, and to note that I did everything in my power to bring a peaceful resolution to this crisis. I did my part to adhere to a peaceful path within the Constitution and within the system.

The last line seems to be almost a nod in the direction of velayat-e faqih -- a direct address to Khamenei himself as the Chief Executive. Otherwise how else would the 5 points be enacted without "the need for treaties, negotiations, and political deals"? Mousavi articulates that the 5 points are sanctioned by the Constitution, so perhaps he's nodding in the direction of a check on the authority with respect to the Constitution, but he's deferring to the Executive judgment in the enactment of those points. Maybe I'm reading too much into the statement, but the last paragraph did catch my attention.

January 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJP

[...] Lucas analysiert die Bedeutung von Moussawis gestrigem Statement. Veröffentlicht in Hintergrund. Kommentar schreiben [...]

Can I also point out that last June he announced he was "ready for martyrdom"

January 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCanuckistan

Mousavi does not have any legitimacy to demand (or suggest) reforms in a dictatorship which has nurtured dubious people like him for decades. He had run for the system. Otherwise he would not have been allowed to. His biggest mistake was that he had declared the election as fraudulent while ballots were still being counted. Mousavi should have known that the system would not shy away from fabricating the result if A. would have been in danger to loose. He probably never was. The whole election has always been a charade. Clearly Mousavi and Karroubi have incited the protests. The West has only then become interested in these individuals. It is in fact supporting them, maybe even by money. Mousavi has never been the leader of a movement. Iran, a clerical dictatorship, has long developed into a police state, sad to say. They won't consider Mousavi's suggestions.

January 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFahad

I think Mousavi has become a very clever politician and is now, more than ever, looking after Number 1. He knows, of course, that there is no way the Regime will accept his demands. It is also clear, to all but some in the Western World - who are obsessed with their view that the Iranian opposition need to have a "Leader" figure - Mousavi, Karubi et al are now following the young people and NOT leading them.

Mousavi is playing both sides off against the middle here. He declares, para-phrasing, I am willing to die, but is he? He needs to state, in my opinion, that he is prepared to see a truly secular state in Iran. One where the Regime's obsession with Islamic law is gone. And one where a true democracy can therefore once again thrive. Without a secular state, where people can choose to believe in no God if that is their wish, no true democracy stands a chance.

These young people are putting their lives on the line day in and day out - we are all seeing this. What we aren't seeing, with all due respect to these "nominal leaders" is them. At times, we see rhetoric from their sites but we sometimes don't see them from days at a time.

But each and every day we see footage of students defying the state. And many of these kids are still missing. Yes older people have stood up to be counted too. But in the main its people under the age of 30 who are the future of the country of Iran and they have my unswerving admiration, gratitude for what they are doing for us, the World, and 100% commitment to stand by them in their fight.

January 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTricia Sutherland

[...] Josh Shahryar offers his views, complementing but also differing from those of EA’s Scott Lucas, on the post-Ashura declaration of Mir Hossein [...]

In my opinion, Mousavi is trying hard to end this but, at the same time he is trying to save the existing government. 30 years ago he was instrumental in bringing this government to power and truly believes in it. He is preaching reform in that he wants the government to respect the people's rights as was invisioned in the beginning and written into the constitution.

From what I have read since the election the corruption has reached too deep for this to ever happen. Those in power have made too much and will never willingly give up what they have stolen from the people. They know if the government is "reformed" they will lose everything. The people will justly demand an accounting and the regime will come up sorely wanting. Those in power now are fighting for their lives. Mousavi, Karroubi, and Rafsanjani are still insiders even though they have lost favor with the powers that be. They could never lead the SOG. Which leads to another problem. Who is really leading the SOG?

I know, everyone answers the people are the leaders but what does this mean? I can understand everyone having a vote and every vote counting but their has to be some form of government ready to step in when ( not if, when) the regime falls. I pray the people have something planned that can step in and govern until the new form has been finalized. Someone has to be ready to step forward to represent the people. Without this there will be chaos. I see some from outside Iran making moves toward taking over leadership but they represent forms that have already been tried and failed. The people are going to have to come up with someone they can all agree on and it should be soon.

January 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterperry1949

nobody can deny the fact that mousavi, karoubi , khatami and hashemi all want islamic republic. they want changes in the system and not a system change. if and if mousavi was elected president would he challenge SL? or would be a toothless paper tiger like khatami? so what i am saying is that it started with election fraud but now people demand more. i re-read the statement and let me tell you the more i read it the more i dislike it.
there is no word of election fraud or re-election, releasing of all prisoners? will amir entezam and people like him be released too? with other words is it ALL political prisoners? in farsi version there is no mentioning of ALL prisoners although in english version it says" the release of all prisoners", i think it is an honest mistake.
i can go on and on and on and on ( does he reject or accept the election results? goverment should be liable to the parliament and the judiciary system: so actually larijanis and the rest of SL goons and if i understood it correctly they are compleltey controlled by SL so basically it comes back to the main issue : power of SL).
he is offering SL peace by adjusting his demands and he is doing it not as a election candidate but as movement's leader and by doing so in the same time he is claiming the movement as well (pretty clever if you ask me).
now I wonder if the regime really thinks mousavi can hold back the crowd? what if they accept his offer and by doing so mousavi calms things down, would this be a major set back for freedom movement? and i wonder how will he go down the history pages, as a hero or as a collaborator?
I don't know but time will reveal.
personally i am very interested to see when hashemi gets in the picture.

January 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteronlymeandmyideas

[...] his overture was ignored, and for now the atmosphere remains hostile — and the leaks [...]

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