- By Blake Hounshell
Blake Hounshell is managing editor at Foreign Policy, having formerly been Web editor. Hounshell oversees ForeignPolicy.com and has commissioned and edited numerous cover stories for the print magazine, including National Magazine Award finalist "Why Do They Hate Us?" by Mona Eltahawy. He also edits The Cable, FP's first foray into daily original reporting, and was editor of Colum Lynch's Turtle Bay, which in 2011 won a National Magazine award for best reporting in a digital format.
Blake joined Foreign Policy in 2006 after living in Cairo, where he studied Arabic, missed his Steelers finally win one for the thumb, and worked for the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Blake was a 2011 finalist for the Livingston Awards prize for young journalists for his reporting on the Arab uprisings, and his Twitter feed was named one of Time magazine's "140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011." Under his leadership, in 2008, Passport, FP's flagship blog, won Media Industry Newsletter's "Best of the Web" award in the blog category. Along with Elizabeth Dickinson, he edited Southern Tiger: Chile's Fight for a Democratic and Prosperous Future, the memoirs of former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.
A graduate of Yale University, Blake speaks mangled Arabic and French, is an avid runner, and lives in Washington with his wife, musician Sandy Choi, and their toddler, David. Follow him on Twitter @blakehounshell.
Thursday is shaping up to be another huge day of demonstrations and counter-demonstrations in Iran, with pro- and anti-Ahmadinejad factions looking to demonstrate their ability to bring people into the streets for 22 Bahman, the anniversary of the founding of the Islamic Republic. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called on the nation to "give all arrogant [Western] powers a punch in the mouth" by showing their support for the revolution and, presumably, him. The credibility of both sides is at stake.
Of course, the regime in Tehran is taking no chances — arresting protest leaders, shutting down Gmail Wednesday, and restricting text-messaging services in the hopes of keeping the opposition from organizing and getting the word out. Already there are signs that reaching people within Iran is more difficult than usual. And Al Arabiya reports that foreign journalists — many of whom are back in the country for the first time since last summer — will be allowed to cover Ahmadinejad’s speech only, and not the rallies themselves.
These are not the actions of a confident government.
And yet, there are still few reliable reports suggesting that the regime is fracturing. I’ve seen unsourced assertions saying so, as well as unverifiable accounts traced back to the National Resistance Council of Iran, a group dominated by the odious Mujahedin-e Khalq. (A great example of unduly credulous reporting is Richard Spencer describing the NCRI as an "umbrella opposition group in exile.") And key swing players like Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani haven’t stuck their necks out too far to support the greens (more here).
Be on the lookout for real evidence that elements of the regime — policemen, militia members, etc. — are refusing to crack heads. My suspicion is that it’s still too early for us to see that sort of fragmentation on a large scale; Iran’s economy is going to need to get much worse before Ahmadinejad’s lower-class base starts to turn on the regime in significant numbers. But I’m happy to be proven wrong.