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Thursday, June 25, 2009
Good news, bad news

Not necessarily in that order. I prefer getting the bad news first, so I feel better at the end, because I'm such an upbeat person.

Neil MacFarquhar wrote in today's New York Times, that while there does seem to be some dissent among Iran's ruling clerics, President Ahmadinejad has been very savvy about loading the country's media, military, and security forces with people who are loyal to him.

Mr. Ahmadinejad has filled crucial ministries and other top posts with close friends and allies who have spread ideological and operational support for him nationwide. These analysts estimate that he has replaced 10,000 government employees to cement his loyalists through the bureaucracies, so that his allies run the organizations responsible for both the contested election returns and the official organs that have endorsed them.

“There is a whole political establishment that emerged with Ahmadinejad, which is now determined to hold on to power undemocratically,” said one American-based Iran analyst, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of his work in Iran. “Their ability to resist the outcome of the election means they have a broad base as a political establishment.”

Not to mention Ahmadinejad's unwavering support from the Supreme Leader...

Now for some good news.

The BBC's John Simpson, who had been in Iran until last Sunday when his visa expired, writes that President Ahmedinejad doesn't have unanimous military support:

For reasons best not explained, I’ve come to know a former member of the Revolutionary Guards really well. He’s done some pretty dreadful things in his life, from attacking women in the streets for not wearing the full Islamic gear to fighting alongside Islamic revolutionaries in countries abroad.

And yet now, in the tumult that has gripped Iran since its elections last week, he’s had a change of heart. He’s become a backer of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the reformist candidate who alleges fraud in the elections. He’s saved up the money to send his son to a private school abroad, and he loathes President Ahmadinejad. He’s not the only one.

I had to leave Iran last Sunday, when the authorities refused to renew my visa. But before I left, another former senior Revolutionary Guard came to our hotel to see us. “Remember me,” he pleaded. “Remember that I helped the BBC.” I realised that even a person so intimately linked to the Islamic Revolution thinks that something will soon change in Iran.

This is comforting, but only in a small way. I wrote in April of 2007 about some American generals, who, after retiring, found their voices in speaking out on the blunder that was Iraq. I castigated them for not speaking out when doing so could have prevented this entire misadventure, and to simply say what was obvious long after everyone else had realized it was no virtue.

In the Iraninan military officer's case, he has a hell of a lot more at stake than just being demoted or asked to retire, so I'm not going to start in. But I sure hope that he or she has at least had open and frank conversations with his troops, and that there is support for the opposition in Iran's military. No revolution can succeed if the military is united behind Ahmadinejad.

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posted at 3:23 PM

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