Iran’s so-called green movement is not yet a counterrevolution, but recent developments make clear it is heading in that direction. Seven months after the uprising began, an opposition manifesto is finally taking shape, and its sweeping demands would change the face of Iran.
Three bold statements calling for reform have been issued since Friday, one by opposition presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, one by a group of exiled religious intellectuals and the third by university professors. Taken together, they suggest that the movement will not settle for anything short of radical change.
The statements set tough preconditions for a political truce: resignation of the current leadership, introduction of broad democratic freedoms, prosecution of security forces engaged in violence against the opposition and an end to politics in the military, universities and the clergy. [continued…]
One thing Western observers should have learned from 30 years of second-guessing Iran and Iranians is that second-guessing Iran and Iranians is often a mistake, and predicting the imminent demise of the Islamic theocracy is unrealistic.
What is evident is that if we consider Iran’s pro-democracy “green movement” not as a revolution but as a civil rights movement — as the leaders of the movement do — then a “win” must be measured over time. The movement’s aim is not for a sudden and complete overthrow of Iran’s political system. That may disappoint both extremes of the American and Iranian political spectrums, left and right, and especially U.S. neoconservatives hoping for regime change.
Seen in this light, it’s evident that the green movement has already “won” in many respects, if a win means that many Iranians are no longer resigned to the undemocratic aspects of a political system that has in the last three decades regressed, rather than progressed, in affording its citizens the rights promised to them under Iran’s own Constitution.
The Islamic Republic’s fractured leadership recognizes this, as is evident in its schizophrenic reaction to events since the disputed June election. Although the hard-liners in power may be able to suppress general unrest by sheer force, the leadership is also aware that elections in the Islamic state can never be held as they were in 2009 (even conservatives have called for a more transparent electoral system), nor can the authorities completely silence opposition politicians and their supporters or ignore their demands over the long term. [continued…]