The latest chapter in this belittling of the opposition comes from Mahiar Bahari, the Iranian-Canadian journalist who has been writing and speaking about his post-election detention. We noted last week his curious, rather muddled attitude in a Washington Post opinion piece towards protest and the Iranian people. Now this comes out of the second part of his CNN interview, filmed almost two weeks ago but aired yesterday:
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Unfortunately...we cannot really talk about an opposition movement in Iran because the Green Movement in Iran is just a collection of different groups coming together against the Government. Some of them are monarchists, some of them are Communists, some of them are terrorists.
The majority of course wanted a peaceful reform in the Government, but since the Government crackdown which started in June, people just started questioning themselves, "What should be the next step?" At the moment, the slogans are political and cultural, but soon these slogans will be economic. Factory workers [who] were not paid will...join the opposition movement. Farmers who cannot sell their crop will join the opposition movement and then we will see a serious change in Iran....
Soon there will be a more united opposition movement. The danger really is both the opposition and the Government is becoming more militarised. The terrorists both within the regime and the opposition are taking over. As we saw in Baluchistan, there was a suicide attack....I'm sure we'll see more of it....
I think Obama is on the right track right now. I think the world community has to stop a nuclear Iran by any means possible, but most importantly through smart sanctions. But the Obama Administration also has to respect the Iranian people, I think, through smart sanctions and through keeping the dialogue open with the Iranian Government but at the same time talking about human rights abuses in Iran, helping the human rights organisations in Iran, talking about freedom of expression, helping the alternative media.
So, to break this down 1) the US Government cannot really put any faith in the current Iranian opposition; 2) at some point in the (distant?) future Washington can look upon a "more united" movement; 3) in the meantime, the fear of disorder outweighs the hope for change; 4) which, put on top of a nuclear-first policy, means a priority on dialogue with the Ahmadinejad Government while maintaining some supportive general rhetoric about the "Iranian people".
Engagement with the internal situation in Iran, as opposed to engagement with the Iranian Government, will consist of some steps to target elements in the regime through sanctions and to assist dissenting groups with communications.
I suspect readers will raise eyebrows and possibly voices over some of Bahari's analysis. In particular, he not only portrays "terrorism" in the opposition movement but somehow connects post-election protest to the activities of the Baluch insurgent group Jundallah and suicide bombings. His contrasting hope seems to be that a mass repository of factory workers and farmers will save the movement from itself, offering the cohesion that is now lacking.
That's not the immediate point, however. Bahari is very well-connected and well-respected in Washington and that significance has been elevated by his recent detention. So I would think that his line of reasoning will resonate with, and possibly be shared by, key members of the Obama Administration.
The problem for the US Government is that, combined with the difficulties in the nuclear talks, that --- in contrast to Bahari's articulate description of his detention --- that doesn't lead to clarity but even more muddle.