He’s been driving all around Tehran with no interference, and seeing extraordinary scenes. Here are some snips:
I’ve just been witnessing a confrontation, in dusk and into the night, between about 15,000 supporters of Ahmadinejad – supposedly the president of Iran – who are desperate to down the supporters of Mr Mousavi, who thinks he should be the president of Iran.
There were about 10,000 Mousavi men and women on the streets, with approximately 500 Iranian special forces, trying to keep them apart.
It was interesting that the special forces – who normally take the side of Ahmadinejad’s Basij militia – were there with clubs and sticks in their camouflage trousers and their purity white shirts and on this occasion the Iranian military kept them away from Mousavi’s men and women.
In fact at one point, Mousavi’s supporters were shouting ‘thank you, thank you’ to the soldiers.
One woman went up to the special forces men, who normally are very brutal with Mr Mousavi’s supporters, and said ‘can you protect us from the Basij?’ He said ‘with God’s help’.
It was quite extraordinary because it looked as if the military authorities in Tehran have either taken a decision not to go on supporting the very brutal militia – which is always associated with the presidency here – or individual soldiers have made up their own mind that they’re tired of being associated with the kind of brutality that left seven dead yesterday – buried, by the way secretly by the police – and indeed the seven or eight students who were killed on the university campus 24 hours earlier.
Quite a lot of policeman are beginning to smile towards the demonstrators of Mr Mousavi, who are insisting there must be a new election because Mr Ahmadinejad wasn’t really elected. Quite an extraordinary scene.
There were a lot of stones thrown and quite a lot of bitter fighting, hand-to-hand but at the end of the day the special forces did keep them apart.
I haven’t ever seen the Iranian security authorities behaving fairly before and it’s quite impressive.
It seems to me that scenes like this would not be taking place, and could not have taken place, if the Obama administration had responded to the election results the way right-wingers like William Kristol and John McCain (and Clifford May from National Review on CNN a couple of days ago) had wanted him to.
Fisk makes the additional point that the street demonstrations and the anger over the election results has nothing to do with Iranians’ support for the Islamic Republic in general:
[The protest] is absolutely not against the Islamic republic or the Islamic revolution.
It’s clearly an Islamic protest against specifically the personality, the manner, the language of Ahmadinejad. They absolutely despise him but they do not hate or dislike the Islamic republic that they live in.
I’m guessing that if Obama had taken the heavy-handed approach the interventionists on the right had wanted him to take, Iranians might very well have been rallying around Ahmadinejad rather than openly and vehemently protesting the election results.
ADDED: Juan Cole posts an on-the-scene report from an academic colleague (ital is Cole’s; bold at the end is mine):
Report on Tuesday’s Demonstration for Mousavi in Tehran from an eyewitness. Again, I was sent this by an academic, but will not give the name to avoid any repercussions for the individual.
Today, under slate skies and despite official warnings that the permit to march had been denied, against rumors that orders had been given to shoot to kill, they came. They came by the tens if not hundreds of thousands, marching east to west along the many kilometers of Enqelab Street to Azadi, or Freedom Square. “It would be dishonorable, na mardi, to not go,” a young couple explained. “We have to go.” Another man asks who is going, what is going on? He is told that the “Mousavi-chiha” are marching starting at 4. He laughs, “Mousavi-chiha nadarim, hame ye Iran hastand!” We don’t have Mousavi supporters, it’s now all of Iran…