Was 22 Bahman a failure for the opposition? Well, if your only metric was the taking over of Azadi Square and having some fantastical vision of the regime’s collapse, then yes, it was a failure. But the fact is, every previous protest to date has had Azadi Square as its main target, and in each case, it has eluded them, and no one has called them failures by any means. True, this day in particular would have been “the mother of all days” to take the Square, but the reality was, that the Square could never have been taken over completely, at best it could be shared, as everyone is fully aware that the regime always packs their events with thousands of government employees (families) and buses in thousands more from rural villages (with enticements of course).
As evidenced in this video (courtesy of GeoEye) on 22 Bahman at 10:47 am, you can see the extent to which the regime had to stoop in order to put on their propaganda parade. No one could have expected they would literally charter hundreds upon hundreds of busloads of people from rural villages. Correction: 2,500 buses see here
Here, they give away free food (among other enticements) to their supporters
The goal that was set by the opposition was to have a mass presence in the square and prevent the regime from using 22 Bahman as a propaganda tool, as well as embarrass them. In that sense, they failed to a large extent, but not for the lack of trying, as many did make it to Azadi Square and made their presence known with chants and slogans during Ahmadinejad’s speech which caused the government controlled media to cut off the live feed several times. We will never know just how big their presence was, as they had one large tactical error, an identifier. They could not enter the square with any green symbols or signs, which made it very difficult to positively identify fellow protestors. Couple that with a massive amount of security, plainclothed and uniformed, rendered it impossible to congregate in large numbers. Tehran was unofficially under a state of martial law.
On the main roads leading to Azadi Square, there was massive security. They kept people on the sidewalks in a very orderly and controlled manner.
Although here, just off the main routes you can see the protestors made their presence known.
The opposition did come out en masse, in Tehran, Esfahan, Shiraz, Mashhad, Ahvaz, and many other cities. However, they were met by a well conceived and well organized plan by the regime forces, which prevented them from creating a large core, in which to build upon and gain momentum. Unlike previous protests, whereby the security forces were commanded and orchestrated by provincial leadership, 22 Bahman’s security was under the control of the central command, headed by General Jafari. Jafari was appointed Commander of the Revolutionary Guard in 2005, primarily, because of his expertise in assymmetric warfare, as the regime was seriously concerned about the growing dissatisfaction among the populace.
Yes, the opposition was out manuevered and blunted for the day, but one must take into account the superiority of the regime in every facet of the struggle, and most importantly, the opposition is a peaceful non-violent movement. The regime had more than a month to analyze their deficiencies from the Ashura debacle and adjust their strategy. They have all the tools, and all the power of the state at their disposal. And, the fact that 22 Bahman is the regime’s sacred annual propaganda orgy, they utilized all of them. They may have succeeded on this day to add a clip of video to their propaganda portfolio, but did they succeeded in crushing, or even wilting the spirit of the opposition. Not a chance! To the contrary, the violence that they chose to engage in on 22 Bahman, along with the mass arrests, the disruptions of the internet, cell phone, SMS, text messaging threats, show trials, executions, intimidations, presence of security forces on the streets in the run-up to 22 Bahman will only encourage more dissatisfaction and anger against the regime and harden the resolve of the opposition.
This is a clip from Ashura, when the protestors engaged and captured security forces. There were many incidents where the regime forces took it on the chin this day. The regime was determined not to have a repeat of these events on their big day.
With the lack of true leadership, organization and mass communication at their disposal, the opposition will have to rely more heavily on their diversity, fluidity and creativity, while thinking outside the box. That is, up to this point the movement is predictable insofar as their quazi-organized protests. They have been announced a month or more in advance and the protest routes (primarily the same each time) and destination (Azadi) are announced openly, which gives the regime ample time to prepare counter measures. The opposition will have to adapt to the ever evolving dynamics on the ground, just as the regime has. They might consider coordinating with different labor groups which are constantly in protest across the country, they will have to seriously lay the groundwork for provincial and national strikes, and protest more often and in differing locations to catch the forces off guard.
The country is for all intensive purposes, a military dictatorship. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has been relegated to a mere figurehead. Sepah (Revolutionary Guard) has almost completely taken control of the government, armed forces and has become an economic powerhouse. They are in control of the judiciary, intelligence ministry, large faction of the majlis, many/if not most of the governers and mayors, and they control the media as well. Under the leadership of General Jafari, they have completely integrated the Revolutionary Guard and the Basij and the police forces are under central command now. They control a large portion of the cash flow from oil, they own major banking institutions, construction firms, and have a presence in every major bazaar throughout Iran.
It has been eight months since the election (selection), and the regime has not budged an inch, to the contrary, they have only hardened in their stance. The day of decision for the opposition leaders has been long overdue, and we believe that time has come. They are going to have to decide to keep up with there futile fight to integrate reform into the system, or fully join with the majority of Iranians, at the very least, in calling for a referendum on the Islamic Republic. If they choose the latter, they will be embraced by the population. However, if they continue with their reform platform, they perhaps might be pushed aside, and new leadership sought. They, Mousavi and Karroubi are in consultations as of this moment, and are preparing some new strategies which they will announce soon. We hope they will see the light and realize that there is only one path ahead, that of an Iranian Republic, and stop asking the children to sacrifice themselves for naught.
Opposition chants, “Referendum, Referendum!”
While a disappointment to many, 22 Bahman was not a failure, nor even a setback, it was merely a learning curve. An experience that will have to be analyzed, corrected and countered. The major shortcoming of the opposition was preparing an alternate plan. Going forward they will not only need to have alternate plans, they will have to be creative, including diversionary tactics, location changes, early evening protests (as nighttime will profoundly hamper security effectiveness) and so on. The regime had poured a massive amount of resources into 22 Bahman, of which they will not be able to sustain. They can sit around on their sofra’s, sip tea and congratulate themselves for their efforts on this day, but the reality is that they are at war with their own citizenry, and that war is far from over.
Filed under: 22بهمن, iran election, Iran News, Iranian protests, IRGC, Karroubi, Majlis, revolution, Revolutionary Guards, میرحسین موسوی خامنه Mousavi, ایران iran, 22 bahman 88, ashura, Isfahan, Karroubi, Khamenei, Reformists, tehran, میرحسین موسوی خامنه Mousavi