Friday, January 1, 2010

Disappearance of Mousavi and Karoubi Lifts Protest Movement

Tweet It!

The Times

The arrest or enforced disappearance of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi would be more likely to galvanise than neuter the Green movement of which they are merely the nominal leaders. The two men have lived with the fear of arrest since the disputed presidential election of June 12, when both were defeated by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a rigged ballot. They have been careful to give the regime no pretext for locking them up. They have always insisted on peaceful protest. They have encouraged the demonstrations but played no part in organising them. Mr Karoubi in particular has been outspoken in his criticism of the regime, but neither man has exposed himself to the charge of sedition by directly challenging the authority of the Supreme Leader, seeking to overturn the Islamic Republic’s system of government or currying support from Iran’s supposed enemies in the West.

Their absence would in no way make future demonstrations impossible, for the opposition is a largely spontaneous, grassroots movement with cells of dedicated activists but no real hierarchy. For its part, the regime has resisted the temptation to move against Mr Mousavi and Mr Karoubi despite considerable pressure from some hardliners. It has feared that the arrest of either man could bring millions of their followers on to the streets. To take that step now would be a grave miscalculation. It is the opposition that has the momentum. Its supporters would not only be enraged, but would see the regime’s action as a sign of desperation. They would be spurred on — not discouraged.