Iran: The Race for a Scapegoat

It looks like the Iranian regime has found its strategy fordealing with the opposition: decapitate the organizational leadershipthrough targeted, “quiet” arrests, while co-opting the visibleleadership through open-ended “dialogue.”

This is where thingsget very tricky for Moussavi to navigate. If he rejects the GuardianCouncil’s overtures out of hand, he is essentially rejecting theregime’s institutional legitimacy, thereby pushing him over the edgefrom protest into revolution and giving the regime a credible reason toshut him and his demonstrations down. But if he engages too earnestly,he runs the risk of losing momentum for the movement, with littlerecourse if the ruling ultimately turns out unfavorable, as expected.

Isuspect the next arm-wrestling match will be over whether thedemonstrations will be allowed to continue while the Council officiallyinvestigates the charges of fraud. The regime will in all likelihoodkeep its powder dry in the hopes that things die down by Monday. Atthat point, it’s hard to see how it can tolerate continued protestswithout sacrificing an unsustainable loss of legitimacy, especiallywith an ongoing, official “investigation” into the opposition’sgrievances to point to, and even more so if the protests have died downby then.

The opposition, for its part, has to build on itsmomentum, and extend it beyond Tehran, through the weekend. Any sign ofdwindling support will be used to portray the unrest as the work of asmall core of subversive “counter-revolutionaries.”

Essentially,the race is on to find a scapegoat. If the opposition “wins,” thatscapegoat will be blamed for the fraud (which I’m still not convincednecessarily changed the actual winner of the election). If the regime “wins,” the scapegoat will be blamed for the subsequent unrest. For asystemically stable outcome to emerge, both sides must maintain a strictbalance of power until a mutually acceptable scapegoat can besacrificed to re-establish cohesion.

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