Iran and America: Obama and the “velvet coup”

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his army commanders have, in their response to the street-protests that erupted across the country after the controversial presidential election of 12 June 2009, employed a routine accusation against the United States: that it had initiated a “velvet revolution” in the country.

All the evidence suggests that the popular demonstrations were a spontaneous reaction to what was widely perceived to be a fraudulent result. Indeed, it is more plausible that the United States unwillingly helped to achieve the reverse of what Ayatollah Khamenei (and other hardline leaders) charged it with: namely, facilitating the regime’s effort to steal the elections and launch a “velvet coup d’état”.

The primary responsibility for what has happened in Iran since the election lies with the hardline core of the Iranian regime. But the ability of the Islamic Republic’s rulers to consolidate their power has – it is clear in retrospect – been aided by the sense of safety it had acquired from possible attack by the US.

A key difference

The election of Barack Obama, after which the new president consistently indicated the United States’s willingness to negotiate, to a great degree relieved the regime of its fears of an assault (at least from America). In his Persian nowrooz (new-year) message he addressed the regime as “the Islamic Republic of Iran”, implicitly… >>>

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