Iran Unrest Shifts Power Dynamics

The large-scale protests in Iran since its hotly disputed June 12 presidential election have shaken the Islamic republic’s long-standing balance of political power. For decades, hard-line members of Iran’s cleric-led government controlled the judiciary, military, intelligence and state media. But reformists also had wide public support and room to push for more moderate social and political policies. That delicate balance worked for both sides, providing an outlet for people who chafed at the Islamic regime’s austerity and isolationism, while ensuring that the core system, created after the 1979 revolution, would not be seriously challenged. The reformists did not advocate a revolutionary overhaul. The general view was that Iranians did not want another revolution. But the recent protests attracted hundreds of thousands into Iran’s streets, resulting in at least 17 deaths and many more injuries. The hard-liners have tightened their grip, leaving the reformists to decide whether they should keep playing the old game or whether the rules have changed so much that the game no longer exists.

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