Just when one might have thought that reality was slowly sinking in regarding the Green movement’s lack of political traction in Iran, political and media elites in the United States have decided, in the wake of recent developments in Egypt, to dust off all of their factually ungrounded and intellectually irresponsible narratives. Still reeling from the loss of a longstanding U.S. ally to the new wave of “people power” in the Arab world, the American establishment seems determined to even the score, by having displays of mass discontent bring down a U.S. adversary in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Giddy at the prospect of renewed demonstrations in Iran, the U.S. State Department turned on its first Farsi-language Twitter feed yesterday. U.S. media coverage of today’s events in Tehran—whatever they were—was truly appalling. Scott Peterson of the Christian Science Monitor—who, after the Islamic Republic’s 2009 presidential election, wrote some of the most journalistically irresponsible stories filed from Iran during that period—was back at it today, with a completely un-sourced report of “tens of thousands of protesters” on the streets of Tehran, see here. The New York Times acknowledged at least that “the size of the protests in Iran was unclear”, see here. But, unfortunately, its reporters could not resist writing that “witness accounts and news reports from inside the country suggested that perhaps 20,000 to 30,000 demonstrators in several cities defied strong warnings and took to the streets”—even though the only actual source cited in the story is “a former member of Parliament now living in exile in the United States”. Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic has treated readers of his blog with several installments of a multi-part, “Iran Ignites” post.
Against this, we would call readers’ attention to the appearance of University of Tehran Professor Seyed Mohammad Marandi on Russia Today, see here, citing no more than “a few hundred rioters” in downtown Tehran. This figure seems far more in keeping with the actual video evidence from Iran today. We would also highlight this piece of commentary from Daniel Larison at Eunomia, see here.
As Mohammad’s commentary suggests, the United States is in an increasingly “desperate” situation in the Middle East. President Obama and his administration are coming under increasing criticism from some quarters for having “abandoned” Mubarak while they do little to bring down the “real dictatorship” under the Islamic Republic.
Today, Obama’s National Security Advisor, Tom Donilon, issued an official, White House letterhead statement, declaring as a matter of U.S. policy that Iran must allow protests of whatever sort the Obama Administration wishes to encourage. In the coming days and weeks, the Obama Administration will try to “get something going” in Iran. The administration will fail, and the spectacle will not be edifying.
–Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett