Yesterday, Hillary Mann Leverett appeared on Al Jazeera’s Riz Khan (click to view the program) to discuss recent developments in Iran. As should come as no surprise to our readers, Hillary offered a very trenchant analysis of Iranian politics and U.S. policy toward Iran. However, we are somewhat surprised that, when one of the other guests spoke with great enthusiasm about the “Green Movement” and the emergence of a real “opposition” in Iran that has gone beyond protesting the June 12 presidential election to wanting an entirely new political order, the producers showed film footage of crowds in the streets of Tehran in the first few days after the June 12 presidential election. This seems, to us, to be potentially misleading.
In fact, the number of people participating in the Ashura protests on December 27 was much smaller than either the crowds protesting in Tehran in the immediate aftermath of the June 12 election or the demonstrations organized to show public support for the Islamic Republic in June and, most recently, on December 30. To underscore this point, we attach a series of pictures below (we are grateful to Ben Katcher for his help in putting these up on our site). The photos on the left-hand side are images of the pro-Islamic Republic rally in Tehran on December 30. The images on the right-hand side are images from the Ashura protests on December 27.
As we predicted in June, the crowds initially protesting in Tehran (and, really, only in Tehran) after the presidential election quickly shrunk to a fraction of their original size. Since then, there have been occasional, one-off flare ups of unrest, as on December 27. But, as Hillary and I will discuss in greater detail in our next post, the Islamic Republic of Iran is not imploding, notwithstanding much Western commentary to the contrary.