The Stuff of Which Revolutions Are Made
I'm mostly in agreement here with David Ignatius:
This is politics in the raw -- unarmed people defying soldiers with guns -- and it is the stuff of which revolutions are made. Whether it will succeed in Iran is impossible to predict, but already this movement has put an overconfident regime on the ropes.
To understand why the regime is frightened, ask yourself this question: How many of the demonstrators in the mile-long parades along Vali-e Asr Avenue were Iranian nuclear scientists -- or their siblings, or cousins? We read that the oldest daughter of opposition presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi is a nuclear physicist, but how many more?
And how many disgruntled Revolutionary Guards and war veterans?
Nobody knows, and that's the point: The regime must be frightened of the forces it has unleashed. The more it attacks its own people, the more vulnerable it becomes.
Yes -- the makings.
The problem here is that the figureheads of this movement are old guard, establishment types. I'm sure there's a wide spectrum of thought on the streets of Tehran today; ranging from recount, to re-vote, all the way up to full blown regime change. But we don't know how those respective views divvy out, and so far, their stated goals have been modest. Good, understandable and inspiring, yet modest nonetheless.
My concern is that this is too easily deflatable. I don't know that Khamenei is going to unleash his IRGC dogs on the people, because as Ignatius aptly points out, there's no way at this point for them to know who they're targeting. If the son or niece of a prominent imam or figurehead were to be harmed, how do you measure the backlash?
Khamenei is a calculated fellow, but these demonstrations have left him without a calculator.
One way he could defuse the situation would be to order a national referendum. It has been done before, and it was the impetus behind the constitutional amendments of 1989. Or, allow a re-vote. Or heck, just make Mousavi president. He'll have egg on his face, but that's better than outright regime collapse.
And then my question - and my query to the "something is happening" crowd - is what happens next? How many simply go home? The protesters have limited the Leader's options, but they haven't left him without any options.
And that is the key difference between now and 1979.
Photo credit: AP Photo