Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Not a Color Revolution

We are told that the Khamenei-Ahmadinejad camp has spent much time and worry about the possibility that they might be toppled in a so-called color revolution, as happened in Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan.  I have to say so far having watched how Khamenei and his supporters have dealt with the challenge posed by the protests over the elections, they appear to have done their homework.  The bloodiness of encounters towards the end of last week and again on Sunday had no precedent in those revolutions, and we can be sure that the Basiji and Revolutionary Guard will be out in force again tomorrow and the day after that, and as such the neither the suddenness and quick-passed drama that marked the overthrow of Milosevic in Serbia, Shevardnadze in Georgia, and the Tulip revolution that overthrew Akayev in Kyrgyzstan or the sustained non-violent demonstrations in Kyiv that led to the re-run of the 2004 elections in Ukraine.  

Nonetheless, that preparation and anxiety about counter-revolution also reflects a rather narrow understanding of those revolutions on the part of Khameni, Ahmadinejad and the Republican Guards,  Judging from what we have heard they seem to have interpreted those events as the primarily driven by outside meddling i.e. the CIA.   Indeed, George Soros's Open Society Institute famously did provide opposition groups with logistical support, but dwelling on that is to miss the salient feature of the main color revolutions in Serbia, Georgia, and Ukraine (though not in Kyrgyzstan) all had well developed opposition movements with increasing popular support thanks to quasi-open political systems that far exceeded that in Iran, where the Guardian Council has systematically prevented opposition movements from coalescing around key personalities capable of broad support.  Of course that still didn't prevent Iranians from rallying behind Mousavi which gave recent events the look and feel of a color revolution.  Yet, until now the Iranian reformers have regularly been a step behind the opposition.  In the last election, they failed to anticipate the possibility that the Revolutionary Guard might resort to electoral fraud.  This time Iranians were prepared for that, they were not prepared for the brutality with which their protests were met.  Thrilling as it was to see how creative Iranians were in circumventing restrictions to organize, that organization was impromptu and the lines of communication between Mousavi and Kourobi and their supporters not nearly as well developed as necessary to confront as determined and entrenched an enemy as the Republican Guard and Khamenei have demonstrated themselves to be.  At this point though I think reformers are at last under no illusions about what has become of the Islamic Republic.  In short if we have not seen the beginnings of a successful revolution in the past few weeks,  we have at the very least seen a clarification in the minds of Iranians about what they are up against.  Just as 1968 exposed the inability of Soviet communism to reform itself, a reformed Islamic Republic no longer seems intellectually plausible, something that now seems to be an essential realization in order for Iranians to confront the current regime. 

No comments: