On the Ropes

For the Iranian people victory is near


On the Ropes
by ramin ahmadi

The military regime in Tehran is in its final days. The signs of an imminent collapse, perfectly traceable on the Iranian streets, are evading the most prominent Washington experts. The slogans on the walls, the nighttime chorus of Allah-o-akbar on the rooftops, the crowds chanting "death to the dictator," all signaling a collective defiance despite the brutal backlash, and all reflecting a mass mobilization unseen since the 1979 revolution.

The recurring cycles of peaceful protests and state violence is part of a larger transformation sweeping through Iran. But in Washington, this magnificent collective action spurs only arrogant dismissal on the part of the Iran policy industry. Democratic revolutions have always been about idealism, selflessness and a passion for solidarity and freedom--all concepts entirely foreign to the pragmatic, conceitful, double-talking policy insiders.

It was not surprising that hours after millions of Iranians poured into the streets, mourning the loss of the country's greatest dissident cleric, grand Ayatollah Montazeri, all that is heard from Washington are babbles about lack of leadership or a broad-based coalition among Iranian opposition. To Iranians, this is no big shock. Washington's inability to read Iran accurately is reminiscent of it insisting on remaining loyal to the Shah when monarchy had all but been dismantled. But this revolution, as did the previous one, goes forward with the prospect of a final encounter between the state and revolutionaries looming ever larger.

The next several days in the month of Moharram, marking the sacred Shiia mourning days of Ashura and Tassua, will be detrimental for Iran. Traditionally, thousands of mourners take to the streets to grieve the slaying of the Shi'a Imam Hossein Ibn Ali, a martyr who was killed for refusing to obey the illegitimate ruler of his time in 680 AD. The coincidence of the shared names between the beloved martyr and the current leading opposition leader, Hossein, seems ironic to foreign observers, but to the revolutionary guard generals of Iran, it's no less than a colossal disaster. In a recent statement, the guards have threatened to deal harshly with those who intend to defy them during the Ashura and Tassua, though even they know the hollowness of their own threats, especially in light of the events of Dec. 18, 2009.

On that day, the Guards had called for their supporters to rally. A week earlier, the opposition demonstrators had committed the ultimate act of defiance yet, by tearing the image of the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, into pieces before the rolling cameras. The opposition hunkered down, leaving the streets to the Guards and their supporters for the day, who had once managed to draw out millions. On Dec. 18, however, no more than 2,000 to 3,000answered the Guards' call.

The significance of this failed show of support needs some further explanation. According to the numbers given by the Iranian regime in the past, the Revolutionary Guards comprise an estimated 120,000 active duty members and some 300,000 reservists. More than half have been traditionally placed in and around the capital. In the past, the regime effortlessly mobilized the reserves and their families.

Only a year ago, for the anniversary of the Islamic revolution, the state put on a convincing show for the foreign reporters and brought herds of people to the streets, by rounding up supporters in small towns and shuttling them to the capital and other major cities. Foreign correspondents and visiting peaceniks subsequently reported Iran's regime stable and its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and his nuclear intentions as popular and popularly beheld.

But Dec. 18 was a watershed, revealing to the generals that they have been abandoned by their own faithfuls. Clearly, they can no longer win the streets with a disappearing base.

In the next few days, it is increasingly likely that the guards, faced with several hundred thousand peaceful mourners, will be unable to fire. The demonstrators, not the guards, will be in control of the streets, and their protest can take a different turn. This time, strategic locations such as the radio and television headquarters, the Ministry of Interior and the prisons are the places to watch. If the 1979 revolution had any lessons to heed for today's demonstrators, it is that these are the last bastions to conquer for their victory to be complete.

In the meantime, the Iran policy cottage industry in America also needs to take note. If the United States is to ever have a place in Iran's future, it cannot do so without reading the country properly. It is a literacy that can only begin by listening to the voices of the people.

Ramin Ahmadi is co-founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. This article was first published in www.Forbes.com.


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areyo barzan

Never underestimate your enemy

by areyo barzan on

Dear Ramin

Although I agree with most of your assessment I am afraid you have overlooked one essential point. Unlike you I believe that the US and other big players in the world know Iranian people better than themselves and read all the signs. But it is us who misread the signs and their game   These governments are playing a dangerous game called manipulation. To understand the policies of US towards Shah on his final days one only needs to read two books


1-     Akharin talash-ha dar akharin rooz-ha(by Ibrahim Yazdi)

2-     The memoirs of General Hayzer.   

 I just need to mention that Dr Yazdi was Khomeini’s number one man and one of the designers of the Islamic revolution theory.   The fact of the matter is that US administration wanted to get rid of Shah because of him hiking the price of oil and trying to shoulder his influence in the Middle East, in one word he was refusing to play by their rules.Now whether Shah was a good or a bad ruler and whether he deserved to be toppled is another subject for another time and again I can refer you to many books by many non bias historians. You need to do your own investigation and make your own mind.  However the display of vocal (and just vocal) support by the West for Shah was noting but pushing his regime towards collapse. As on those days there was an anti West and specially anti American atmosphere in Iran and this show of support was doing noting but portraying him as a poppet of the West and making the people more angry wanting to get rid of him. 

Today we have the same scenario unfolding before our eyes again.

The West wants to get rid of this regime for many reasons, a few of which are: interfering in Iraq and Afghanistan, nuclear issue threat to Israel, destabilising the region and threatening the smooth flow of energy(gas ad oil) towards China and the West.


The fact is that these big players are still playing the same conspiracy theory card by showing that they do not hear people of Iran and are only interested in dealing with the IRI for limited gains and they know very well that this would serve as another fuel for the revolution.


However to be fair we can not expect anything else from them either. At the end of the day they are only after protecting their own interest.

At the end of the day it is us and only us who could and should protect our national interest and recognize our true friends from occasional opportunists.




intel is wrong, RAMIN is right

by mannya2001 on

Yeah, I guess MI6, CIA and KBG are all wrong. they just can't read the situation, they don't understand.

Baba, sar jat beshin.  You know how a Pizerria makes and specializes in Pizzas, that is their job.  THey collect intel and make predicttion and preparedness.

When you talk, it's like an Italian common person trying to walk into any Pizzeria in the world and try to tell them what is right or wrong simply because he thinks he knows more about Pizzas.

Anyways, I want you to be realistic.  I don't mean to put down any true Iranian, just because my heart is soft.


Velayat-e Mardom

by Taqizadeh on

good article. this is no longer about the june election. It is about the entire system. We need a new concept of sovereignty to replace the "velayat-e faqih"....call it "velayat-e mardom".... the rule of the people...aka democracy.



by shushtari on

you may be right.....but a person like reza shah or koroush the great cannot be bought.....that's what I'm referring to by a 'fearless patriot'....they'd rather die than sacrifice the morals....

but let's hope that the goddamn akhoonds don't last much longer

I truly have a great sense of anticipation that our country will be free soon and justice can be served to these vultures 

Shazde Asdola Mirza

No, it's not the final days, but it may well be the final months

by Shazde Asdola Mirza on

Every voice counts! Every action counts!

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

A powerful leader

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


The problem with leaders is that then revolution becomes about them not the people. In 1978 people wanted democracy; got Khomeini instead. In 1953 people wanted democracy but it become a fight between Shah and Mossadegh.

A powerful leader may be: bought; murdered; corrupted by power and so on. We probably will need a leader at some point. However the further things go without a major leader the more likely is the revolution to produce democracy.



ramin jaan

by shushtari on

thanks for this very inspiring piece....

I do have a question for you, don't u think it's important for a fearless leader to emerge....to help push the mullahs off the cliff once an for all?