Sunday, June 21, 2009

Peter Beaumont: Iran's More Complicated Than Good And Evil

That's the basic message of Peter Beaumont writing in the UK's Observer:

In the case of events in Iran in the last two weeks, the reaction has been drearily familiar. For the dissenting left, confronted by what looks suspiciously like another "colour revolution" - after the "rose revolution" in Georgia and the "orange revolution" in Ukraine, which received support from the pro-democracy groups - the response has been to back the "anti-imperialist" Ahmadinejad, friend of the poor and foe of Zionism, as the likely victor. More victim of an attempted coup than responsible for a coup in office, it is a version of events that, through the necessity of bolstering his case, has tended to airbrush out the more unpalatable features of Ahmadinejad's Iran.

That critique has been more than matched by an equal barrage of opinion, often by those more familiar with Tel Aviv or Tallahassee than Tehran, who have bought wholeheartedly into a "freedom" narrative that seeks to interpret the mass demonstrations of those supporting Mir Hossein Mousavi in an equally simplistic fashion - as representative of the aspirations of all of Iran.

It is a version with its own lacunae. Investing so much in the reformist opposition, and beguiled by a particular version that emanates from north Tehran's unrepresentative suburbs, it fails to acknowledge either the nature of Mousavi's agenda - a self-described "fundamentalist reformist" who is far less radical than they assume - or the reality of the huge support both for Ahmadinejad in his constituency and the Islamic revolution.

I think we should resist the urge to try to make what's happening in Iran right now as our own personal revolution -- you know, sort of imposing our own thoughts and desires onto the demonstrators and the ruling government. What's happening there is a lot more complicated than a struggle between good and evil, democracy and authoritarianism. That's something that'll be very important to remember in the coming weeks if you want to really understand what is, in the end, a very deep-rooted and complicated nation.