Friday, 3 July 2009
RIP Oscar Cardoso (1948-2009)
Argentinian journalist Oscar Cardoso died suddenly on Wednesday. The following is a translation of his last column.....
It is a strange sensation trying to decipher what is happening in Iran. There is information available coming from Tehran and other parts of the country but there is not enough. These days are different from the times of Enver Hoxha's Albania, which was hermetically sealed from the outside world. As the Chinese--who have increased restrictions on the internet this week-- have found, there is no way to fully restrict the flow in and out of a country. Now it is Iran's theocracy which is finding that its walls and barriers are transparent.
However, what a restrictive regime can do is severely limit the flow of information which allows us to confirm whether or not this demonstration happened, if the repression caused this much number of casualties, if the authorities are carrying out a crackdown etc.. Sometimes it is harder to navigate in poor light than in total darkness.
The Tianamen Square massacre of July 1989 led the Chinese regime to attempt to put a policeman or soldier next to every telephone with the capability to receive and send faxes. This was done using the fact that, by law, every fax machine had to be registered with the government. It was not a great success, but it is true that what happened in those days of social turmoil could only be fully narrated after the conflict had died down.
In Iran, the protests sparked by the alleged electoral fraud in the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continue, although the scant information coming out of the capital talks of a sharp fall in the number of protesters in Tehran and the disappearance of rebellion from other cities.
This fading away of protest has its cause: The death of a protestor and the call for "relentless and cruel" justice coming from some of the most conservative clerics have certainly eroded some of the initial bravado of the protesters.
The dissidents do not have a structure, nor a real leader. The figurehead is the losing presidential candidate, Hosein Mousavi, a conservative with little charisma who came to the fore only because he had the courage to face up to the regime. This gives him prestige but it does not necessarily enable him to lead a complex opposition in a climate of repression.
Will any other parellels between the social rebellions in China and Iran arise as time goes by? Some of those in the know think so. Like in China, the dissidents in Iran will eventually have to retreat until they are in the condition to confront the regime with actions, not only words. Like the Chinese, the Iranians will discover that their central objective-- a more democratic regime-- will be beyond their reach.
Perhaps the similarities will continue if the regime realises that, with a population where more than 50% are 26 years old or younger, a central element of pacification should be inclusive social and economic reform. All of this, at least for now, is speculative. The high unemployment rate is one of the factors that has contributed to Ahmadinejad's loss of popularity. It is also one of the reasons tha more than 60% of the votes for incumbent are considered suspicious.
What is perfectly clear is that events in Iran have hit a nerve in the West. Proof of this is how the theme of rebellion has found its way to the top of the agenda of the USA and Europe.
Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, visited Barack Obama in Washington yesterday in a meeting made more important by various events. Obama wants a larger military contribution from Germany in Afghanistan and Berlin-- which has a temporary contingent of 300 already in place-- does not want to commit any further.
At the same time, Merkel does not think that Obama is doing enough the deal with the global financial and economic crisis and feels disappointed by Washington's rejection of her proposed initiative to create an international financial supervisory organisation.
Now, these issues will be splashed by the start of the Iranian flood. After 8 years of George W. Bush and his systematic demonisation of Iran, Europeans want Washington to understand reality: the central preoccupation of the Iranian theocracy is the survival of the Islamic Revolution. This survival is in the hands of the Iranian people, not in the cabinet discussions of Washington and London.
Perhaps it is all out of Obama's control. An important segment of the military, defence and diplomatic structure-- which still dances to the drum of Bush-- believes that it is necessary to take advantage of Iran's current problems in order to deliver a decisive blow. We all know how this ended up in Afghanistan and Iraq............
Oscar Cardoso was an Argentinian foreign correspondent and columnist.
Translated by Czarny Kot 03/07/09 Source: clarin.com (Arg.)