Iran analyst: Is Mousavi willing to risk “slaughter” in the streets?

Iran analyst: Is Mousavi willing to risk “slaughter” in the streets?

Carnegie Endowment Iran analyst Karim Sadjadpour sends along an update to his Q&A with CFR:

Q. In light of Khamenei’s firm speech Friday indicating he was not going to support a new election, what do you think will happen? Do you think the opposition will have to retreat?

First, it was expected that Khamenei’s first response would be very firm, that’s his modus operandi as a despot: Never compromise in the face of pressure, it only projects weakness and invites more pressure.

Khamenei is [a] shrewder politician than Ahmadinjedad. Whereas Ahmadinejad has a penchant for alienating even hardliners, Khamenei reached out and for now seemingly co-opted some of those that seemed to be previously be sitting on the fence, namely Speaker of the [P]arliament Ali Larijani and Mohsen Rezai, both of whom are tremendous opportunists.

The weight of the world now rests on the shoulders of Mir Hossein Mousavi. I expect that Khamenei’s people have privately sent signals to him that they’re ready for a bloodbath, they’re prepared to use overwhelming force to crush this, and is he willing to lead the people in the streets to slaughter?

Mousavi is not Khomeini, and Khamenei is not the Shah. Meaning, Khomeini would not hesitate to lead his followers to "martyrdom", and the Shah did not have the stomach for mass bloodshed. This time the religious zealots are the ones holding power.

The anger and the rage and sense of injustice people feel will not subside anytime soon, but if Mousavi concedes defeat he will demoralize millions of people. At the moment the demonstrations really have no other leadership. It’s become a symbiotic relationship, Mousavi feeds off people’s support, and the popular support allows Mousavi the political capital to remain defiant. So Mousavi truly has some agonizing decisions to make.

Rafsanjani’s role also remains critical. Can he co-opt disaffected revolutionary elites to undermine Khamenei? As Khamenei said, they’ve known each other for 52 years, when they were young apostles of Ayatollah Khomeini. I expect that Khamenei’s people have told Rafsanjani that if he continues to agitate against Khamenei behind the scenes, he and his family will be either imprisoned or killed, and that the people of Iran are unlikely to weep for the corrupt Rafsanjani family.

Whatever happens, and I know I shouldn’t be saying this as an analyst, but my eyes well when I think of the tremendous bravery and fortitude of the Iranian people. They deserve a much better regime than the one they have.