I noticed that on some of the left-wing blogs there have been debates, some of them quite heated, over what should be the attitude of the left towards the demonstrations in Iran. It seems to me that the first thing that should be borne in mind in this discussion is that even if the vote tally is accurate, the election itself was not democratic. Only candidates approved by the clergy are allowed to run in elections. Anyone promising real change is barred from running. The choice between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi is like a choice between Coke and Pepsi. (Yes, there are differences between the two, just as there are differences between Coke and Pepsi, but they are minor in the larger scheme of things.)
Some people have expressed the fear that Iran will have a bogus “color” revolution, in the manner of Ukraine or Georgia, that will install a pro-US government. I think this concern is unwarranted. Iran is a much larger country than these two, and it is more socially and culturally complex. What’s more, Mousavi, who was Iran’s prime minister during the 1980’s, is not a US puppet, and he certainly is no friend of Israel. If Mousavi were to become president, he would likely adopt a more conciliatory tone towards the US (which may not be a bad thing), but there would be no radical change in Iran’s foreign policy. There are objective reasons why Iran needs to counter US and Israeli influence. Thus, the argument that the Ahmadinejad’s foreign policy is “objectively progressive” is neither here nor there.
I suspect the protestors are motivated not so much by support for the dubious Mousavi, as by general frustration with Iran’s theocratic dictatorship. We are talking about a government that treats women as second-class citizens, executes gays, imprisons trade unionists, and persecutes religious minorities. People struggling against such a regime deserve our support.