It is not easy to assess what has been happening in Iran since the results of the presidential elections [were announced] and the violent reactions that led to demonstrators taking to the streets in protest.
There is a traditional Iranian view that the entire issue is nothing more than a Western, American, Zionist conspiracy that aims to incite opposition and resistance within the regime. This opinion states that those who took to the streets came from none other than the core of the Iranian regime, in fact it is [the regime] itself and in it’s usual manner that selected [the few] out of the thousands of candidates to be part of this electoral “game” in the true sense of the word, as the regime only accepts candidates from within the Iranian regime’s political “Hawza” and not from outside of it.
There is also another traditional view that states that in most cases revolutionary regimes face moments of internal division between moderates and hardliners, conservatives and reformists, and all these expressions were used in confrontations between Lenin and Trotsky, or Trotsky and Stalin, or Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, and in the framework of the Bolshevik or Chinese revolutions. We can of course go back to the American and French revolutions in search of cases of tug-of-war between those who wanted to take the issue to the extreme, and others who believed the issue should take time and reality into account. The problem in Iran is that there is a division in the media, but it is very difficult to know what caused it as it is not enough to object to Ahmadinejad’s statements to draw the line between moderation and fanaticism. Without a fundamental difference between the regime’s infrastructure and its internal and external paths, that is considered a cause of confrontation and the upcoming clash. Perhaps a division such as this could cause the erosion of the religious regime, as people disagree on the effective policy. As for the “holy” regime, regardless of its religion, division in this case draws the line between faith and disbelief.
There is a third traditional view that states that revolutionary regimes in general, regardless of whether they transform into states and institutions, cannot escape erosion and collapse in the end. Usually this doesn’t happen overnight but in stages ending with the regime reaching breaking point. What happened in Iran is nothing but one of these stages, in which various contradictions exploded onto the scene – but this stage is not necessarily the last.
What that means is that the revolution – the Iranian revolution in this case – even if it did come about fundamentally to turn matters upside down, usually transforms into a powerful traditional force to preserve the existing conditions. In the case of Tehran specifically, the regime that Khomeini established was based on a series of beliefs, ruling institutions and an equilibrium that makes change from within impossible. Perhaps Khatami’s tenure as president was the first testimony to the powerlessness of the head of state versus the ability of the Supreme Leader and Commander-in-Chief as well as the weakness of reform to find for itself a place in a state with institutions such as these. In fact in most cases the reaction to reform is more extremism and conservatism, and on top of that the use of violence if necessary even if it is against another group from the same regime. The flexing of Ahmadinejad’s revolutionary and military muscle in front of Mousavi during and after the elections was nothing but a reaction to previous confrontations with the Zadeh and Abolhassan Banisadr axis and with others who thought about the potential for reform from within. The lesson here is that the Iranian revolution and its political regime does not share the kind of change that takes place in other regimes with real local or international changes, or the method to transform which comes from within the political regime. It is more likely that no change will come until there is complete collapse as part of an important historical moment.
Regarding all traditional and inadequate views of Iran, there is nothing an analyst can do but wait, as every situation is unique and there are always some who believe that there is a possibility to escape historical judgments. But without doubt there are no political regimes that can escape “efficiency” in the sense of being able to manage resources and to deal with the needs of the nation and the Ummah. The issue here is not the satisfaction of the poor or the anger of the rich, as inefficiency has no connection to this or that and in a country with great oil resources such as Iran, after three decades since the revolution, efficiency is almost forbidden because the state is not only complicated and run by a number of councils but because its bureaucracy in all cases is close to socialist systems but under the banner of Islam this time.
No political system, regardless of how much it increases its influence and how much support it gives to Mujahideen and Jihad, can escape the changes taking place within it. Firstly, there are the demographic changes to take into consideration as there are new generations that do not know much about the past their parents cursed but know a lot about the present as those parents seem corrupt on the one hand and powerless on the other. As for the changes that come about externally, most prominently the technology revolution or revolutions you can say what you want but they show the new generation that they are living a miserable existence and that they can change their reality.
One feature of the case of the Iranian protests is that the youth has surpassed their candidate Mousavi and the Iranian elections. The issue is now about questioning the world in which Iran is living. What’s surprising is that whilst the youth was raising questions whilst being attacked by teargas, a group of Arab analysts who were asking insistently about that which concerns a number of Arab countries were prepared to completely ignore searching for an answer about what concerns Iran.
But the one question is the same in all cases, and whoever thinks that the lesson concerns Iran alone is wrong, whether the issue is about the efficiency of regimes, or the existence of new young generations or of contemporary technological revolutions or even the new Obama phenomena in the world – the question is put to everybody, and there is no difference between an Arab and a non-Arab in this except in research, hard work and change. But to publicize this issue does not relieve Iran of the interest in it and its particular situation because firstly it is a fundamental part of regional balances and it cannot be ignored, and it poses a danger if it is revolutionary and would be no less dangerous if it were an empire. Secondly, it would be a curse if it were a power exporting ideology and blowing religion into policies; and the biggest curse would be if it weakened and fell apart and did not learn from the lesson of Iraq and will not learn from other lessons.
In any case, Iran is a state, an ancient one and one with a civilization and only it alone will decide how change will take place, and when amendments will occur. But what’s for sure is that the Iranian state will not remain the way it is because its situation is not a situation at all but rather a set of contracts and formations that like Iranian rugs are interwoven and intertwined. Even those who think they are experts on Iran are fooled.
If I were an Arab leader I wouldn’t be optimistic nor pessimistic about what’s happening in Iran, I would keep an open mind with all forces and groups, whether in power or part of the opposition as well as the universities and Bazaar and of course the movement of troops and forces movement and I would continuously observe Iranian behavior inside the country and in international forums both in Persian and English because countries are not run by words alone but more importantly by actions and behaviors both inside and outside.
Some issues remind us of other issues. How many research centers are there in the Arab world that focus on Iran? I do not mean those that focus on the Persian language or Persian literature but on Iran and specialize in this region.