Saturday, June 13, 2009

Iran's Next Revolution?

I feel it is necessary to explain why this is my latest post and what compelled me to write this. After checking my twitter feed and noticing how the elections in Iran were a trending topic I started to notice a pattern. First there was great anger and frustration being projected not just at the government of Iran but also at the American media for its scant coverage of the events that are occurring as I write. I have to say despite the negative atmosphere, these comments are conveying the fact that Americans are interested in Iran and disappointed in their media. This gives me hope that this nation still does demand more from its media and that people as a whole still take an interest in what goes on outside of America. None of this explains why I feel the need to write a post on Iran, but the fact is I fear that many of the people commenting on this issue are misplacing their optimism, and misunderstanding Iran and its complexities. To help explain this I have written a post with an extremely brief history and a projection for the future.

To quote Health Ledger in his infamous role as the Joker, “Where do we begin?” Iran has a relationship with the United States that it seems we were all to keen to forget. The reality is that at one point the United States and Iran had a very close relationship. In fact not only did we help instill the dictator that ruled before the Revolution we also gave him sustained support and towards the end amnesty. This begs the question why does Iran hate us if we had a working relationship with her? The fact is that the Shah (Iran’s King) passed through and enacted some reforms that created a great deal of resentment towards him. He created a high unemployment rate and was viewed by a good deal of the youth as a tyrant. The Shah’s acceptance of Westernization provided the fuel for the inevitable backlash. This coupled with the fact that he had “illegally” seized power back with his own coup in 1953 with the assistance of the CIA; only perpetuated his image as a “Puppet of the West”. This anger allowed more radical clerics and fundamentalists to harness the power of Iran’s large youth population and eventually resulted in the Iranian Revolution. The Iranian Revolution had two targets in its sight the Shah and the Great Satan (The United States). This is really the underlying cause of our tensions with Iran today.

Fast forwarding to this very hour, again youth take to the streets, attack the police, start fires and chant “Down with the Dictator”. Once more it seems a spirit of revolution is in the air fueled by an “illegitimate elections result”, and as history repeats itself Americans have fallen “in love” with the spirit of REVOLUTION just as they did during the Tiananmen Square Protests. It is this optimism that I regard with great suspicion. The Iranian people are not discarding the pillars of the previous Revolution, and are not chanting for a pure democracy. What is being protested is an election result between a somewhat more moderate candidate and a fundamentalist one. This is not a call for a complete overthrow; in fact the election results carry very little weight in the grand scheme of things. This chart should help demonstrate my point.

The real leader of Iran is the supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei and the Guardian Council to a lesser degree. The fact that Khamenei has come out in support of the results creates a conundrum in Iran. Either Iran falls in line with his wishes, as it has done since the Revolution, or the dissenting voices strength forces the Ayatollah to demand a re-election or risk civil war. The second scenario is a stretch, however considering how unpredicted the first Revolution was it is a possibility. The real question is what reform any of the possible choices could bring.

98% of Iran is Muslim and that figure is not going to change. The leaders of the country are extremely conservative and have continued the same fundamentalist fervor that brought them to power. Most of the poor and peasants in Iran still show an overwhelming support of the radical president Ahmadinejad, and his power and populism is not something to be underestimated. The real dissent comes from the middle class and educated population. There is another country that tried a revolution with the backing of this group and it ended up in a Communist Republic instead of a Democratic system. I am referring to the Kadets who led the first Revolution in Russia and were quickly overthrown by the Bolsheviks. If history is to be the judge a successful revolution led by this group in Iran is highly unlikely.

As always would love comments and love to debate any of my points my email address is