The World From Berlin 'The Regime Will Not Get Away Completely Unscathed'

The international community has been remarkably reserved in its response to the mass protests in Iran this week. German editorialists on Tuesday debate what Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's decision to hold a partial recount might signify and the best response to deadly attempts by the regime to stamp out the demos.

Responding to massive protests in the country, the worst seen in Iran since the toppling of the Shah three decades ago, the country's top legislative body, the Guardian Council, said Tuesday it would allow a partial recounting of ballots cast in Friday's presidential election. However, the body rejected efforts by opposition politicians to have the results anulled.

The demos, which saw hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets in Tehran, followed the landslide re-election on Friday of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- who is backed by the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamanei. The opposition claims the election was fraudulent and is demanding a new vote.

At least seven people died on Monday night on the violent fringe of what were otherwise largely peaceful demonstrations.

Khamenei on Monday ordered a review of the elections that will take 10 days for the Guardian Council to complete. Although he initially endorsed the results, Khamenei has bowed to pressure to take a closer look at the ballots.

The European Union has called on Iran to fully investigate the opposition's claims of election fraud -- calls that triggered a rebuke from Tehran. Iranian news agency ISNA reports that after seeing their own ambassadors summoned to the foreign ministries in a handful of European nations, the Iranians on Tuesday called in a senior diplomat for the Czech Republic, the country that currently represents the EU as its six-month rotating presidency, and protested over "interventionist and insulting" statements from Europe about the election.

On Tuesday, Tehran banned the foreign media from reporting directly on the protests taking shape in the Iranian capital, making it difficult to assess the scope of continuing demonstrations.

The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes:

"Apparently Iranian revolutionary leader Ali Khamenei has finally realized the severity of the situation and is trying to contain the damage. He met with challenger Mousavi and appears to have informed him that a continuation of the protests could threaten the whole system -- of which Mousavi is of course also a part. He also sought to console him by telling him that the Guardian Council would review the elections."

"By doing so, Khamenei is trying, initially, to shift responsibility for the election to the Guardian Council and responsibility for the consequences of the protests onto Mousavi. He also wants to buy time. The 10 days that the Guardian Council needs for the review are long and, during this time, he hopes to succeed in getting the situation under control."

"Yet everyone in Iran knows that Khamenei is responsible for the election debacle. Without his command, the elections never would have been fraudulent. And everyone knows that the Guardian Council, whose members are nominated by him, is his lackey."

"But whether or not the turmoil will continue or even escalate further depends in no small part on Mousavi and other opposition leaders like Mohammad Khatami and Hashemi Rafsanjani. If they allow themselves, as is so often the case, to be bullied by Khamenei and military leaders -- who together hold the most important power in the country -- and back down, it would be a tragic disappointment for every person who voted for Mousavi."

"But the regime will not get away completely unscathed. A state that so obviously ignores the opinions of millions of its citizens will sooner or later wind up in the dust bin of history."

The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

"Maybe this uprising in the big cities, especially in Tehran, will be beaten down just like the student revolt 10 years ago. Or maybe the Islamic Republic has entered a phase of political agitation -- one in which the relationship between spiritual leaders and the civilian leaders controlled by the security apparatus will be be reexamined, with the trade-dependent economic elite revolting against the leaders of the 'have-nots.' And the cultural and intellectual elites in the cities -- not least Iranian women -- will no longer allow themselves be bullied by representatives of an unenlightened, ultra-pious populism."

"As correct as it may be to condemn the violent attacks on Mousavi's supporters, the outside world would be poorly advised to try to influence Iran's domestic debate rate now."

"Nevertheless, one thing the last few days have proven is that Iran is a sham democracy -- and that many Iranians want more than a farce election."

The conservative Die Welt writes:

"Old revolutionaries know when revolutions threaten to reach their critical mass. On the third day of the turmoil, Iranian revolutionary leader Khamenei deemed it necessary to order a review of the election results -- in an attempt to ease pressure on the country's leadership. The decision hasn't helped much. Hundreds of thousands of people went to Tehran on Monday afternoon in order to attend a rally for opposition leader Mousavi and to push for a repeat election. Iranians have not shown this much civil courage in the 30 years since Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's revolution."

"Most of the observers expected the protests to dissolve without any consequences. But those who are thirsty for greater freedom and democracy in Iran don't want to give up that quickly. The fact that they already have 95 percent control over the Iranian people wasn't enough for the rulers -- they wanted total control. Many Iranians are no longer willing to put up with that."

"The hardliners around Khamenei and Ahmadinejad didn't want to take any chances during the nuclear conflict. That's why they tried to use manipulation and violence to avoid a run-off vote between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi. In doing so, they lost the last pretense of legitimacy. In the end, that could be more dangerous for the regime than a possible victory for challenger Mousavi."

The Financial Times Deutschland writes:

"Nobody could have assumed that Western governments would react with a call to revolution in response to the violent oppression of regime opponents in Iran. But the international reactions to the apparently fraudulent presidential elections and the following attacks on protestors have been astoundingly quiet."

"Outside of expressing apprehension, reactions from the EU and the USA have remained strikingly restrained. Neither the Europeans nor the Americans have an interest in breaking off all diplomatic contacts, as long as the conflict over the Iranian nuclear program continues. But it is a disaster when EU chief diplomat Javier Solana and some member states are already at this point advocating for continued dialogue with Tehran -- and in doing so are giving the mullahs virtual free reign."

"When the EU reacts to the violence against Iran's opposition protestors simply as business as usual, it betrays its core values. Incidentally, those same values are the ones for which the demonstrators are being beaten and jailed."

The financial daily Handelsblatt writes:

"Thirty years ago, Khomeini enacted a political system in Iran that has been unshakeable. A little bit of democracy serves as a vent for the people -- but at the top is a God-given power that has authority over every challenge and every obligation to accountability. Even a government that only approximated democratic legitimacy would have interpreted the extreme reluctance of a large portion of its people as a clear vote of no confidence. A president who was presumed to have fixed an election would be finished politically -- regardless of whether he had done it or not."

"The fact that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad doesn't pay attention to this -- and the fact that he still expresses scorn and ridicule in regards to his challenger -- makes it clear that, at its core, the Iranian system is designed for one thing: the pure preservation of power."

"As much as the events of the last days have been disastrous for many Iranians, they are bringing clarity to the West. Those who held out hope and had illusions about the nature of the political system in Tehran now know the facts. A dictatorial regime rules in Iran."

-- Jessica Mann, 2:30 p.m. CET


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