It seems a fitting end to a remarkable week. On September 18, Iranian reform advocates mounted the largest protest in Tehran since July, drawing a crowd that reportedly numbered at least in the hundreds of thousands (on-scene reporting has estimates in the millions). Blog updates can be followed here, here, and here. The regime organized a counter-protest, so the crowd size would have been split between regime supporters and the opposition. Today is “Qods Day,” or “Jerusalem Day,” in Iran, an occasion on which the regime expresses support for the Palestinian Arabs and Ahmadinejad has, since 2005, routinely featured Holocaust denial in his address to the nation.
The events in Iran are a reminder of some salient truths. One is that President Obama has decided to lift diplomatic pressure on Iran just at the point when Tehran’s theocratic regime is especially vulnerable to a courageous movement of national reform. Obama’s acceptance of negotiations with Iran, on Iran’s terms and without preconditions, serves mainly to give the mullahs breathing room. His decision to dismiss the threat that Iran will develop long-range missiles and to concentrate American missile-defense efforts on the existing shorter-range threat has the same effect. A regime the IAEA now says is capable of producing a nuclear weapon, the same regime that has for decades sponsored homicidal terror against Israel and Lebanon and that this summer has been torturing and executing its own people for the crimes of free speech and protest—this is the regime Obama is letting off the hook with his policy posture.
Equally telling is the reminder of revolutionary Iran’s emphasis on Jerusalem Day. The name of the day matters; it is not Palestine Day or even Anti-Zionist Entity Day but Jerusalem Day. Iran’s mullahs have not relinquished their revolutionary Islamic doctrine, and it is as much eschatological as political. They invoke “Jerusalem” because, for them, it is not an abstract ideological symbol but a geo-strategic and religious prize.
Yet a new chant heard from Iranian reform protesters today presents an extraordinary counterpoint to that regime posture. It is being translated as “Neither Gaza nor Lebanon, my life for Iran!” The live blogs have links to video of the opposition protesters chanting it repeatedly. This chant provides illuminating evidence that Iran’s people understand perfectly their regime’s policies and intentions—and that they oppose them.
The heartfelt urgency of Iran’s protesters is oddly reminiscent of America’s Tea Party protests from last weekend. American protesters also understand and oppose the intentions of their leader. One has a sense this week that Obama joins Ahmadinejad and the Iranian mullahs in being pursued relentlessly by the truth. The exposure of his domestic policies by his people’s diligent homework seems of a piece with the exposure of his missile-defense policy by the ironically timed IAEA report. The Iranian protestors’ focus on framing and opposing specific regime policies has the same aspect of unvarnished honesty, set as a counterpoint to obfuscation and mendacity. That this week of strangely fateful exposure to the truth should culminate in Jerusalem Day in Iran, and in the Jewish New Year among the world’s Jews, lends it an additional poignancy.