More rallies planned in Tehran today

And another Robert Fisk update. Foreign press are banned from covering the events (except from their hotel rooms) but The Independent’s Robert Fisk was in the crowds again yesterday as the two groups met en masse, separated by only a few hundred police. For years, Fisk has covered the Middle East hot spots and is one of the more fearless members of the press. Ordering him to stay inside never seems to work with him. The Independent:

The fate of Iran rested last night in a grubby north Tehran highway interchange called Vanak Square where – after days of violence – supporters of the official President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at last confronted the screaming, angry Iranians who have decided that Mirhossein Mousavi should be the president of their country. Unbelievably – and I am a witness because I stood beside them – just 400 Iranian special forces police were keeping these two armies apart. There were stones and tear gas but for the first time in this epic crisis the cops promised to protect both sides.

“Please, please, keep the Basiji from us,” one middle-aged lady pleaded with a special forces officer in flak jacket and helmet as the Islamic Republic’s thug-like militia appeared in their camouflage trousers and purity-white shirts only a few metres away. The cop smiled at her. “With God’s help,” he said. Two other policemen were lifted shoulder-high. “Tashakor, tashakor,” – “thank you, thank you” – the crowd roared at them.

This was phenomenal. The armed special forces of the Islamic Republic, hitherto always allies of the Basiji, were prepared for once, it seemed, to protect all Iranians, not just Ahmadinejad’s henchmen. The precedent for this sudden neutrality is known to everyone – it was when the Shah’s army refused to fire on the millions of demonstrators demanding his overthrow in 1979.

Yet this is not a revolution to overthrow the Islamic Republic. Both sets of demonstrators were shouting “Allahu Akbar” – “God is Great” – at Vanak Square last night. But if the Iranian security forces are now taking the middle ground, then Ahmadinejad is truly in trouble.

As the fume-filled dusk fell over the north Tehran streets, the crowds grew wilder. I listened to a heavily bearded Basiji officer exorting his men to assault the 10,000 Mousavi men and women on the other side of the police line. “We must defend our country now, just as we did in the Iran-Iraq war,” he shouted above the uproar. But the Ahmadinejad man trying to calm him down, shouted back: “We are all fellow citizens! Let’s not have a tragedy. We must have unity.”


An American in Paris, France. BA in History & Political Science from Ohio State. Provided consulting services to US software startups, launching new business overseas that have both IPO’d and sold to well-known global software companies. Currently launching a new cloud-based startup. Full bio here.

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