Skip to comments.Iranian revolution missing key ingredient --the Military (for now!)
Posted on 06/26/2003 7:20:48 PM PDT by freedom44
Protests against the Islamic Republic have been under way in Tehran and other Iranian cities for several days as demonstrators -- mainly university students -- demand an end to the veto that unelected clerics exercise over the country's elected president and parliament.
The Bush administration dearly would love to see the Islamic Republic overthrown in a democratic revolution. But while Iran possesses some of the ingredients that were present in other countries that experienced democratic revolution in recent years, it does not have all of them -- yet.
Like the Philippines in 1986, South Korea in 1988, Eastern Europe in 1989 and Russia in 1991, Iran has an increasingly educated, urbanized population that has become thoroughly disillusioned with the ruling regime. But while this may be a necessary condition for a democratic revolution, it is not sufficient.
What's missing is the key ingredient that made democratic revolution possible in those cases: military or paramilitary forces that are unwilling to crack down on the democratic movement. As recent news reports from Tehran indicate, this is not the case in Iran. The hard-line clerics have been able to mobilize forces that are not only cracking down on the democratic activists but are doing so with enthusiasm.
Of course, the armed forces in other countries in which there were democracy movements initially did not seem likely to side with those movements because officers suspected of being sympathetic to democratization would not remain in the military for long if they did. But they eventually switched over.
Why? Because a few seemingly loyal senior officers who were ordered or expected to crack down on the democrats not only refused to do so but went over to the democrats instead.
The impact of this was to immobilize the rest of the armed forces, which might not favor democracy but which did not want to engage in fighting among themselves. Without the armed forces willing to fight for it, the old regime was soon forced to yield to the democrats.
Could such a scenario occur in Iran?
Part of the reason for the passivity of the military in these other cases was the relative certainty that the armed forces would survive as an institution, albeit with some leadership changes at the top under a new government. A democratic government in Tehran undoubtedly would keep the regular Iranian armed forces intact as well.
However, it is not the regular armed forces that the Islamic Republic is using against the democratic activists, but the Revolutionary Guards and their vigilante minions, the Basiji. These irregular forces are highly likely to be disbanded, and their leaders imprisoned, by a democratic Iranian government, so they have a strong incentive to prevent an overthrow by cracking down on the democratic movement.
Is there any hope, then, for a democratic Iran?
There might be if the regular Iranian armed forces moved against the irregular forces. The former, however, have not shown any sign of being willing or able to do this. If this continues to be true, then it will take a change of heart among key leaders within the Revolutionary Guards and the Basiji for democratization to unfold.
This could occur as a result of sympathy for the democrats secretly developing among them (these groups are not, after all, immune from the trends affecting the larger society). Or it could occur as a result of key leaders being bought off -- perhaps a more likely scenario given the reputation of these organizations for corruption.
However it occurs, the defection of merely a few key officers and units from the Revolutionary Guards and the Basiji to the democrats could result in immobilizing their colleagues followed by the rapid downfall of the clerical regime.
It may seem highly unlikely, especially to Iranian democrats, that anything like this will ever occur.
But the ruling ayatollahs can hardly be confident that anything like this will not.
And Kudlow and Cramer also!
They had Senator Brownbeck on discussing the situation!
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