Revolution in the Air?

Millions of Iranians have taken to the streets to protest the apparently fraudulent results of the Jun. 12 presidential election, which gave conservative incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a 30 percent margin of victory over his main opponent, reformist candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, in what was expected to be a very close race.  In response, Iranian leaders have used force against peaceful protesters and adamantly refused to annul the dubious election results. 

Ironically, by allowing the election to be rigged in favor of his chosen presidential candidate and then using all the means at his disposal to uphold the incredible results, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, an unelected official who holds the real power in Iran and controls his nation’s foreign policy, may have precipitated the eventual overthrow of  his clerical regime.  Allowing a reformist candidate to win the presidency would have diffused dissent at the cost of only moderate changes in domestic policy as evidenced by the failure of former President Mohammad Khatami to make major reforms.  But now revolutionary thoughts are being expressed by young Iranians who do not want to be governed by authoritarian theocrats.  Whether a new revolution in Iran that led to the overthrow of the ayatollahs would be peaceful or violent would largely depend on the actions of the Revolutionary Guards, the hardcore militant arm of the Iranian leadership, and how many of their fellow citizens they would be willing to kill in defense of their masters.

A revolution in Iran may not occur this week or this month or this year.  But the seeds of such an event may have been planted during the last 10 days that will bear fruit in the not-so-distant future. The history of the Solidarity movement in Poland during the 1980s may be a harbinger of how things will play out in Iran.  Solidarity emerged in the early part of that decade but was initially supressed by the Soviet-backed communist government; however, just a few years later Solidarity managed to oust the authoritarians and establish a democratic political system.  Perhaps in the next 5-10 years the clerics in Iran will suffer the same fate as the communists in Eastern Europe.

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