by Austin Bay
June 8, 2010
Economic misery and repression played roles, but an overt
act of corruption brought the people into the streets.
One year ago, election fraud ignited demonstrations
throughout Iran. Stealing the national election held on June 12, 2009, was one
theft too many by the religious dictatorship and its cronies.
Established by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979, Iran's
radical cleric-controlled regime ("mullocracy" is the pop term) came
to power deploring the Shah's theft and corruption. Khomeinist Islamic
revolutionary values would ensure two things: 1) a harsh, but clean Iranian
national government and 2) the spread of Khomeinist-led Islamic revolution
around the world by any means necessary, including successful political
example, economic might, subterfuge, terrorism, guerrillas and, when necessary,
The mullahs' attempts to fulfill their second revolutionary
pledge to extend Khomeini's revolution beyond Iran's borders, however, have
been destructive but largely unsuccessful. Decades of political finagling and
terrorist activities in the Persian Gulf have not toppled a single Arab
Iran's attempts to use proxies to destroy Iraq's nascent
democratic government have left thousands dead and slowed Iraqi development,
but "the Arabs" continue to build a new society in Mesopotamia.
Afghanistan, the bloody puzzle to the east, has NATO troops. Global revolution
has left Iran in a strategic vise. A nuclear weapon, however, might change
The regime's failure to keep the revolution's first pledge,
the promise the Khomeinists used to ignite popular revolt against the Shah,
however, has divided Iran's people and created what is ultimately a more potent
and dangerous threat to the mullahs than American or Israeli bombs. Harsh
domestic government the revolution provided, but as for clean?
While Khomeini lived, the crooks kept up the pretense of spic
and span -- maybe. Khomeini died in 1989. Economic decline in Iran, tied to
mismanagement and corruption, was evident by the early 1990s, when the first
serious calls for systemic reform began.
The complaints received lip service. Reformers, like Ayatollah
Mohamed Khatami (who was elected president in 1997), were isolated politically
and rendered powerless. Subsequently, the Khomeinist regime rigged the voting
system to exclude future Khatami-type intruders.
The situation faced by most Iranians deteriorated. A telling
conversation took place some six years ago when a knowledgeable Iranian told me
the total bribe required for permission to acquire land and launch a major
construction project in Tehran had gone from $50,000 or so to around a half
million -- in American dollars, please.
Another source asserted the Shia clerics running Iran were
more aggressive thieves than the Palavis, the Shah's despised clan. Call it old
gossip -- perhaps CIA knows the precise Tehran bribe schedule circa 2004 -- but
new gossip says the corruption has gotten worse.
Public demonstrations and anti-regime declarations --
verifiable facts -- show Iran enters the 21st century's second decade a
profoundly divided nation. Time is a threat to all revolutions. As years pass,
the revolutionaries age and the fervor fades. A generational divide often
emerges, and it has in Iran.
The Green Movement, the umbrella anti-government grouping
that emerged from the post-election demonstrations in 2009, has a large
following among Iran's youth and middle-aged.
Most Iranians under the age of 40 have little truck with the
ruling mullahs. The Shah is ancient history. The Council of Guardians' cruelty
is current news. The cultural straightjacket of clerical puritanism chafes
youths who want to rock and roll, and the mullahs' blatant hypocrisy and
corruption adds to their disenchantment and alienation.
The mullahs know domestically they face a sustained, popular
struggle against their endemically corrupt regime. The Green Movement, however,
is a hodgepodge of factions, including reformists (who support extensive, rapid
reform), incrementalists (who favor certain reforms) and radicals of all sorts
(some promoting Western-style democracy).
The mullahs and the Revolutionary Guards exploit these
divisions. Their policy of jailing movement leaders, threatening family members
and selectively repressing Green Movement factions has kept the Green Movement
from coalescing as a genuine revolutionary organization. So far.