President Obama is taking a lot of heat from Republicans and conservatives for not being more critical of the Iranian government as protesters face violence from security forces in Tehran.
Citing sources in the administration, the New York Times reports Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would like him to take a stronger stand.
Hamid Dabashi is the author of "Iran: A People Interrupted." He is Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York. His Web site is www.hamiddabashi.com/
By Hamid Dabashi
Special to CNN
(CNN) - In a short essay that Abbas Amanat, a scholar of 19th-century Iran at Yale University, was asked to write for The New York Times on the current crisis in Iran, he asserted that what we are witnessing is "the rise of a new middle class whose demands stand in contrast to the radicalism of the incumbent President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad and the core conservative values of the clerical elite, which no doubt has the backing of a religiously conservative sector of the population."
This learned position of a leading scholar very much sums up the common wisdom that Iranian expatriate academics are offering an excited public mesmerized by the massive demonstrations they witness on their television sets or computer screens and eager to have someone make sense of them.
In part because of these hurried interpretations, the movement that is unfolding in front of our eyes is seen as basically a middle-class uprising against a retrograde theocracy that is banking on backward, conservative and uneducated masses who do not know any better. While the illiterate and "uncouth" masses provide the populist basis of Ahmadinejad's support, the middle class is demanding an open-market civil society.
More election protests are expected today in Iran. Some say the massive show of support for the opposition candidate signals a revolution in the making.
Hamid Dabashi, a professor of Iranian studies at Columbia University, doesn’t quite see it that way. He spoke to John Roberts on CNN’s “American Morning” Monday.
John Roberts: Let me ask you first of all, the declaration from the Guardian Council that yes it appears there were some voting irregularities; some three-million more votes were cast than people eligible to vote, but at the same time they say it wouldn't affect the overall outcome of the election. What effect do you think that will have on the demonstrators today?
Dabashi: Well it simply acknowledges that there are certain irregularities as Mr. Moussavi and other opposition candidates have indicated. To what degree this will satisfy Moussavi’s camp and other oppositional figures remains to be seen. In his Friday sermon, Mr. Khamenei in effect prejudiced the decision of the Guardian Council by siding completely with Ahmadinejad and saying that his position is very close to me. So I don't believe whatever the conclusion of this particular round of calculations by the Guardian Council might be is going to have much effect on the demonstrations…
These scenes you're seeing coming from Iran…it is important for your audience to know the reason you see these scenes of confusion and chaos is these people have been denied their constitutional right for peaceful protest. Under Article 27 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, Iranians are entitled to peaceful protests and not even under the condition of so-called national security are they to be denied their constitutional rights. So it is really the custodians of the Islamic Republic who are in violation of their constitutional right rather than the other way around.
An Iranian student protester in Tehran made a passionate plea for help from the world community this morning in a phone call to CNN’s “American Morning.”
For safety reasons, CNN can only identify the student by his first name, Mohammad. He's been a part of the protests and a target of the violence there. Below is an edited transcript of the interview.
John Roberts: What is the scene like on the streets? Are there more demonstrators out there on the streets? Or is it much quieter than it has been in recent days?
Mohammad: Hello. Actually I participated in Saturday's demonstrations in parts of Tehran. What I saw, I saw thousands of security officers that tried to break up the crowd. They used canisters and batons and water cannons against us. They attacked us. And we also in response attacked them. We attacked them by throwing stones. And we built trenches in the streets and actually defended too.
Roberts: So there was quite a large confrontation going on there over the weekend. But can you tell us what the scene is like on the streets today?
Mohammad: Today was a long day in Tehran. And yesterday there weren't any organized rallies in Tehran. Because we take orders from our leader Mr. Karroubi and Mr. Mir Hossein Moussavi. The connections, the communication is very difficult, more than even you can imagine in Tehran. But I myself haven't received any orders from our leaders yet. But as soon as I get any order, I will participate in any demonstration that they tell us.