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New martyrs mean trouble for Iran

It's too early to declare a "tipping point" in Iran, but some observers are beginning to feel the opposition is a serious and enduring challenge to the government.

Last modified: 28 Dec 2009 06:44
Photo by AFP

Juan Cole sees yet more trouble ahead in Iran, and more problems for the administration:

For the regime to create a member of the Mousavi family as a martyr on Ashura was most unwise. Shiite Islam even more than traditional Catholicism thrives on the blood of martyrs. [...] Junior or middle-ranking Ayatollahs favorable to the ideas of Montazeri show up in a number of these reports about protests in provincial cities, suggesting a generational split in the clerical corps and trouble for Khamenei ahead.

The Enduring America blog maintains a comprehensive (if a little messy) near-real-time listing of the developments in Iran, and the blog's "keeper", Scott Lucas, teases 5 key points from the Ashura riots, including,

For first time, I can see Government (not just President) falling and Supreme Leader having to compromise to save position.
 

Stephen Walt at Foreign Policy surmises:

The outcome of this sort of challenge is inherently difficult to forecast, as it is nearly impossible to know ex ante when a critical “tipping point” might be reached. At a minimum, the regime has clearly gotten significantly weaker since the contested election last summer.

At Tehran Bureau, Meir Javedanfar says

the protests now seem to carry the potential to turn into a full-scale civil disobedience campaign, not unlike the first intifada the Palestinians initiated against Israel in 1987.

And Andrew Sullivan asks are some Basij defecting?

It's obviously too early to declare a "tipping point", but certainly overseas observers are inching towards the conclusion that the reform movement has not only maintained its momentum but has evolved, and now presents a  much more serious and enduring challenge to the regime.