Revolution in Iran is Easier Said Than Done

There’s a persistent liberal drumbeat out there that, somehow, the current regime in Iran is about to be overthrown.

Iran’s current power holders are taking no chances:

Police chief Gen. Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam made a harsh threat to protesters to stay off the streets.

“In dealing with previous protests, police showed leniency. But given that these opponents are seeking to topple (the ruling system), there will be no mercy,” Moghaddam said, according to IRNA. “We will take severe action. The era of tolerance is over. Anyone attending such rallies will be crushed.”

And recent history is on their side.  Consider what happened in the wake of the 1979 revolution, as documented in David Pryce-Jones’ The Closed Circle:

Uninhibited by Western education, unfamiliar with Western concepts of human rights, Ayatollah Khomeini quite correctly perceived himself challenged, as once he had been the challenger; and he was determined not to be brought down as the Shah had but to respond in a manner so exemplary that there could be no mistaking his will.  Capturing the state, he had no intention of then allowing it to disintegrate…

The process whereby Khomeini had his position first challenged and then confirmed was very close indeed to civil war, as described by the historian Walter Laqueur:

In 1981 Ayatollah Khomeini’s former allies from the left, the mujahedeen [fighters] and some other groups, turned against the new rulers of Iran.  They were many and experienced; within three months they succeeded in killing the prime minister, many chiefs of police, half the government and the executive committee of the ruling party, not to mention dozens of members of parliament.  Perhaps never before had a terrorist onslaught been so massive and so successful.  Yet within another three months, the terrorists either were dead or had escaped abroad.  The government acted with great brutality; it killed without discrimination; it extracted information by means of torture; it refused as a matter of principle to extend medical help to injured terrorists…

Towards the end of 1983, it became clear that internal groups with a potential for challenging Shia supremacy on ethic or secular or tribal grounds had been smashed, and their leaders were all dead or in exile, their peoples truly cowed.

There’s no doubt that this victory is firmly implanted in the minds of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his colleagues in the government, which explains the ruthless method they are going about crushing the current dissent.  For the dissidents to achieve victory will require substantive foreign assistance, and there’s no sign that’s forthcoming.

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