The Implications of a Revolution in Iran

The political turmoil in Iran over the apparently fraudulent results of the Jun. 12 presidential election pits conservatives and the Iranian regime against reformers who want more freedom and better relations with the West.  Millions of protesters have taken to the streets, and their opponents have used deadly force against them.  There is a significant chance that recent events in Iran could precipitate a revolution that would oust the ruling clerics, who wield ultimate power in the Islamic Republic and are not elected by the public, and replace them with democratically chosen leaders; according to a recent independent public opinion poll, nearly 80 percent of Iranians want to be able to elect their country’s top officials, though it is uncertain how many would be willing to fight for the right to do so.

The implications of a revolution in Iran for the world and the US are major.  According to the aforementioned poll, 77 percent of Iranians want normalized relations with the US.  As part of a peace deal, 70 percent of Iranians support giving international inspectors access to Iran’s nuclear sites and pledging not to develop nuclear weapons in exchange for more trade and economic assistance; as part of the same agreement, a majority of Iranians would favor recognizing the state of Israel and ceasing support for Shiite militias in Iraq.

Thus, a democratic revolution in Iran, the most strategically important country in the Middle East with the possible exception of Saudi Arabia, could facilitate efforts to stem nuclear proliferation, combat terrorists groups, stabilize Iraq and negotiate an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.  Whether such a revolution will occur in the near future depends on several factors, including the determination of dissidents to effect change and the actions of the ruling elite and their allies.

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