Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Neda, Obama, Iran -- and Israel

Joan Walsh in this morning's Salon gets it mostly right.

Salon.com | Neda, Obama, Iran -- and the rest of us

The neocon fools who've been hollering for Obama to intervene more strongly with the Iranian regime need to sit down and shut up. And the world at large would do well to stand up for Neda Agha-Soltan and the other Iranians (so many of them, as Walsh notes, women) who're putting their lives on the line - or have already lost them.

However, Walsh also cautions against over-identifying with Neda, who, she notes, was not especially political, just a philosophy student who loved to sing. In my opinion, perhaps all the more reason to identify with her. According to the LA Times report, she and some friends were simply driving in Tehran, were held up by the traffic, and got out to see what was happening - when she was struck by the bullet that killed her. She apparently aspired to become a tour guide, perhaps someone who some day might have introduced some American or European traveler to the grandeur and sophistication of iran's history and culture. All that potential, now obliterated, in an instant.

The "defeated" candidate Mir-Hossein Moussavi has called for a national mourning of Neda's death. The regime has spoken out strongly against any such thing, and will likely bring out its enforcers to squelch any demonstrations. It remains to be seen if the protestors will persist, but their cause may have been struck a very debilitating, perhaps lethal blow by Israeli prime minister Netanyahu and president Shimon Peres. Both of them have come out strongly against the Iranian Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and the "victorious" presidential candidate (and still president) Mahmud Ahmadinejad, and have insisted that the relationship between Iran and Israel might indeed improve with a regime change. As my friend Barbara A. also pointed out to me, evidence of support from the "Zionist" entity may well be the kiss of death for Moussavi's movement. And I have to wonder if Netanyahu knew that all along. Even if Moussavi had won (or somehow emerges atop the pile when all this is over), Iran would likely have continued its uranium-enrichment program, which in time would have left it more capable of producing a nuclear weapon if the leadership decided to move in that direction. But it would be much more difficult for Netanyahu to issue jeremiads about a new Holocaust and the new Nazis in Tehran when the public face of the regime is a reformist and artist and not a hard-liner who looks forward to the Mahdi's imminent return.

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