The Islamic Republic’s eroding base of support now comes exclusively from four elements: 1. religious reactionaries who can hardly claim to reflect the popular will, 2. high security officers who can’t trust their rank and file, 3. “anything for a buck” opportunists and 4. yahoo elements (the poorest and least literate elements of Iran’s population whose blind faith in the system could ordinarily be taken for granted).
prior to 2009, the latter segment had dwindled in size as mass literacy spread. However, .an even more serious problem is that while the “yahoo element” may not give a fig about civil liberties or (except among its younger elements) may despise seductive cultural freedoms it does value economic survival. Now this element increasingly shares a widespread perception that, sanctions or no, Iran can never become prosperous so long as this regime stays in power. Everyone can see how it survives by relying exclusively on bribery, force, intimidation and propaganda/ censorship (the latter so ineffective that it adds to popular contempt instead of winning over Iranians).
Even the most persistent regime propagandist is surely aware that if Iranians were given a free choice right now–that is if Khamenei suddenly allowed free, open and unvetted, elections, free speech a free media and internet–the regime would be voted out by an overwheming margin.
In just three years the system’s economic and moral worthlessness has become so incredibly visible. In this climate to repeat utter nonsense such as “We are a democracy,” “Our elections are fair and unrigged,” “We didn’t murder N,” “Foreigners are responsible for all your discontents” and “The people still love the regime” is to whistle past a graveyard. It works on cynical Iranians of all classes as well as similar slogans won over cynical Russians in the late Breshnev era. Instead of winning people over the main effect is to deepen the contempt for an aging clerical Politboro. Popularr legitimacy has gone bye-bye for good. As in Assad’s Syria, it is too late to reform. Too much time has passed and the crimes are too deep to forgive or forget.