There will be no revolution
Then what will happen to the Islamic Republic?
December 4, 2006
Having the hatred of the Islamic regime at heart the Iranian diaspora (including myself) often misjudges the regime. Subjectivity overcomes rationality. Let's analyse the Islamic republic a little bit, so that we can see things a bit more objectively. This is also good for the US administration who is an enemy of the Iranian regime, to try to be more objective, and less stupid, when approaching foreign countries.
First of all Iran is not a dictatorship. It is not a true democracy, but it is not a dictatorship either. This is one of the main reasons of its survival. Iranians are dissatisfied with their rulers but they cannot really find anyone to pour their anger toward. This is beside the fact that Iranians have lived with dictators for almost (being kind putting the word almost) all their history. So, Iranians are not fundamentally opposed to dictatorships, though this may miss one important point. Previous to the Pahlavi, Iranian kings did not rule Iran as dictators do nowadays. Not that they did not wish to do it, but because they were unable to do it.
Iranian kings had the capital and its surrounding areas under their tight control, but beyond that, their sole intervention would take place only if the local ruler did not pay respect, and taxes, duly. Previous to Reza khan's reforms Iran's provinces did not have much of a central control except for tax collection, which were not burdensome. So, dictatorships were more symbolic than anything. People usually knew about one king who ruled over Iran, but that king didn't have much importance to their daily affairs. So, Iran's true dictators, in the modern sense, have only been Reza Khan and his son.
One thing that took place with the revolution in 1979 was that the Iranian people decided to get rid of the corrupt system of monarchy they had been struggling with ever since 1906, or before. But what they got was not democracy. They could have probably got some sort of a democracy, but history hasn't been that kind.
What Iranians have now is not a system of one or two individuals, or more, who rule for their selfish interests. If we would think that the Iranian regime is as just explained then we must be in deep error. Who are those individuals? Khamenei? Ahmadinejad? Rafsanjani? Counting, we will notice that there are too many, which would create an atmosphere of impossibility for a dictatorship. Who knew Ahmadinjead a couple of years ago? Almost nobody. The definition of a dictatorship, according to Webster is "a form of government in which absolute power is concentrated in a dictator or a small clique." Islamists in Iran are not a small clique. They are simply too many.
Therefore the Iranian regime is indeed a system based on an ideology. It is truly based on the ideology of Shia Islam, or some modern shape of it. It is probably like Communism. The problem with these types of regimes (what I mean as "the problem" would refer to those who are opposed to the ideology) is that they outlast dictatorships and they do not need a majority support. We should not under-estimate the Islamic republic. It is, like a modern democracy, capable of re-inventing itself, its personalities and its behaviour. It is capable of rejecting defectors without causing huge damage.
And it would be naive also to under-estimate the popular support that the Islamic regime enjoys. Would the majority of Iranians vote for a non-Islamic, secular, republic if they had the choice? I'm not so sure they would. But maybe even the majority of Americans would vote for a Christian republic if they had the choice, which they don't, for the joy of the liberals, and the Iranians who live in the US. America is far ahead in democracy and it seems absurd to imagine a religious system in the US. But Iran is not like that. Let's not forget that modern Iran, as we now know it, was built on the basis of religion, and that religion was Shia Islam. Modern Iran is not, and was not, the pre-Islamic Iran. Modern Iran was a religious state from the start. Iranians have been bound on Shia religion for about 500 years.
What will happen then to the Islamic regime? The Islamic regime of Iran is corrupt, but it's not as corrupt as many imagine. It is not as corrupt as a dictatorship where the elite compete with each other on how much each owns, can steal, or exert power. The Islamic regime is not as unpopular as many outside, and inside, Iran think it is. Islamists have a solid support base.
Many pundits miss a very important point when evaluating the popularity of the Islamic republic, that Iranians are not so much against the Islamic republic as such but more against one individual or the other, and as long as individuals change, the Islamic republic as a system moves on. Iranians probably dislike Khamenei, but he has very very little executive power at his hands (or his one hand). Khamenei doesn't really do anything. When laws are not passed in the parliament of the Islamic republic it is not because Khamenei orders, but it is because there are so many other Islamists (the Khobregan for example) who are powerful enough to take measures so that Islam is upheld.
When candidates are rejected because they are not fit to run in a Islamic regime, it is not because Khamenei, or some other individual chooses so, but because there are assemblies of Islamists who decide. And at the same time Iranians are quite capable of dumping a president if they do not like his actions. Although the president, or the government as a whole, is not that strong in Iran, they do have some powers and people can see the results of those powers. So, Iran is not a country ruled by one man or a small group of men. It is a country truly based on Islam, where there is no single person to blame. And this makes the whole system a formidable one.
The Islamic regime, thanks to its ideological backgrounds, is not a week regime and it may last for a very long time. It's true that oil is quite handy, but we can never be sure that if oil becomes really cheap or runs out the regime is destined to disappear. The regime can then take necessary measures, probably make economic reforms, and put the economy back on track.
The Iranian Islamic regime may one day fall when there would be an internal ideological weakness. It is extremely unlikely to see a revolution in Iran because any serious revolution needs to be pointed at some person and there is no such figure in Iran. Foreign occupation or intervention is also extremely unlikely for the foreseeable future, not just because Iran is a large, populated and quite powerful country, but also because Iran's only truly powerful enemy has had such a nasty lesson in Iraq it will be unlikely to get involved in similar affairs (taking on a regime that does not threaten it directly) for at least a generation from now. Comment