After last summer’s disputed presidential election, Iran’s government relied largely on brute force — beatings, arrests and show trials — to stifle the country’s embattled opposition movement.
Now, stung by the force and persistence of the protests, the government appears to be starting a far more ambitious effort to discredit its opponents and re-educate Iran’s mostly young and restive population. In recent weeks, the government has announced a variety of new ideological offensives.
It is implanting 6,000 Basij militia centers in elementary schools across Iran to promote the ideals of the Islamic Revolution, and it has created a new police unit to sweep the Internet for dissident voices. A company affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards acquired a majority share in the nation’s telecommunications monopoly this year, giving the Guards de facto control of Iran’s land lines, Internet providers and two cellphone companies. And in the spring, the Revolutionary Guards plan to open a news agency with print, photo and television elements.
The government calls it “soft war,” and Iran’s leaders often seem to take it more seriously than a real military confrontation. It is rooted in an old accusation: that Iran’s domestic ills are the result of Western cultural subversion and call for an equally vigorous response. The extent of the new campaign underscores just how badly Iran’s clerical and military elite were shaken by the protests, which set off the worst internal dissent since the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. [continued…]