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Monday, June 16, 2003
Another one bites the dust?
One out of three members of the Axis of Evil (*) is gone; another one appears to be crumbling. I'm not an expert on reading Tehranian tea leaves, but I've got to imagine that this can't be a good sign for the regime:
Police arrested dozens of pro-clergy militants who smashed their way into university dormitories and beat up sleeping students in a wave of violence aimed at putting down protests against Iran's Islamic government.


Saturday's arrests appeared to be an attempt by Iran's ruling hard-line clerics to rein in their militant supporters, reflecting fears that the violence might only stoke the past week's anti-government protests, which were the largest in months.
These "militants" are simply thugs employed by the mullahs to suppress dissent; that they would be arrested says to me either that there's significant dissension in the ranks in the upper levels of the Iranian regime, or that the regime is worried enough about the current situation that they feel the need to try to mollify angry protestors by making this gesture. Either way, it's a good sign for the United States and the Iranian public, and a bad sign for the government.

Something else which hasn't been remarked upon much: credit (or blame) for encouraging the protests has gone to various satellite television channels:
Khamenei has accused arch-enemy the United States of orchestrating the unrest. Many protestors seeking to join the fray were answering calls from US-based Iranian opposition-run Persian language satellite television channels -- notably the Los Angeles-based pro-monarchist NITV.
NITV describes itself as "an independent 24 hour Persian TV station" which is "not affiliated with any political or government organization" (emphasis in original). The extent to which NITV's influence has been significant I cannot say, of course, but to the extent that it is true, it's very interesting. Many people have criticized the American government's propaganda efforts in the Middle East for being ineffectual; NITV, on the other hand, is a privately-owned affair. Yet another example of the private sector accomplishing what the government cannot?

(*) In the interests of accuracy, I should note that President Bush never said that Iran, Iraq, and North Korea made up the Axis of Evil. He never said that there were three "members" at all. What Bush said was that countries such as Iran, Iraq, and North Korea make up an Axis of Evil. Subtle but important difference.

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