Bush vs. Obama in Iran

The rallies in Iran have raised expectations in the West and confronted the Iranian government with its greatest challenge since 1979. They seem set to continue on a path of confrontation at least through Thursday. Yet who is the opposition? What drives these people to take to the streets? While the opposition to Ahmedinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Kameini might seem to be a complicated mix of interest groups expressing various discontents on matters of economic distress, international prestige, and various civil rights, they can really be boiled down to two groups: those that were influenced by President Bush’s invasion of Iraq, and those who were inspired by President Obama’s speech to the Muslim world in Cairo. 

Over and over, the chant “Bush was right!” echoes through the Persian public square. One young man, whose identity we are keeping anonymous, said “I was so inspired by the invasion of Iraq. If one man could want democracy so much he’d kill a hundred thousand people, then surely I can take to the streets!”

“No, Obama is our leader!” said a nearby man, revealing the fissure within the protesters, “When I heard him say in that speech that he didn’t hate Muslims, I said, ‘let’s go crazy and tear everything apart!’”

When a woman dressed in conservative hejab was asked about the viewpoints of  presidential candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi vs. those of President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad she said “Who cares about that? All I know is that Bush brought democracy to the Middle East! I used to distrust democracy, but when I saw how many explosions came with it, I knew it was for us!”

An older man wearing the trademark green armband of the opposition was asked about suspicious vote tallies. “Votes don’t matter. Empathy matters! Obama’s middle name is Hussein! The Iranian people LOVE people named Hussein!”

There is even a dispute about the symbolism of the color green, the trademark of the opposition, which Moussavi has latched onto. Some say it represents the environmentalism of Obama, others say it represents the purple fingers of true elections in the Middle East. Evidently the color purple translates as green in Farsi.

No one seems to care about the disappointments of the last four years, or the failures of the last reform minded candidate, President Mohammad Khatami to affect the sclerotic theocracy in Iran. All anyone wants to talk about is Bush and Obama.

If the protests are crushed in brutality reminiscent of the Chinese Tiananmen Square crackdown, then that will be a blow either to the philosophy of George W. Bush or of Barack Hussein Obama. But if the spirit of reform survives, it will be a vindication. One thing is clear: either the seeming fiasco in Iraq or a public relations speech has brought this country to the brink of a most dramatic conflict, and once again, it’s all about the United States of America.

–Dan Kilian
My Secret Life as an Iranian Proxy Server
Michael Score on Iran

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