Prospects of revolution/reform in Iran?

Seems an appropriate topic, since this is a week for Iran threads, and since the Arab Spring is still more or less going on (as unrest and bloody suppression and undeterred unrest continue in Syria and Yemen) and might conceivably have spillover effects in the non-Arab Islamic world.

But, while there have been street protests in Iran this year, they were easily put down, and don’t seem to be gathering energy. The consensus is that unrest in Iran made its bid and lost in 2009 and can’t rally again so soon. Is there any chance that might not be so? Is there, now, any plausible threat to the Islamic Republic/Council of Guardians/Revolutionary Guard Corp regime, from within Iran?

Iran seems to be moving further and further away from reform as time passes. After the Revolution it had a meaningful democratic process and constitution, albeit one where the Clerics had the final say. When Khatami became Supreme Leader, he spent the 90’s neutering the reformist parliament. In the 2000’s the gov’t went from free and fair elections electing increasingly powerless gov’ts to rigged elections doing the same thing.

Khatami is in his 70’s and reportedly not in good health, so I guess there’s an outside chance he’ll die and be replaced by someone more moderate. But I wouldn’t bet on it (his preferred successor is apparently his even more hardliner son).

I suspect the next decade will see the final transition of Iran from a liberal Islamic republic to a more or less generic hereditary dictatorship, with a few meaningless democratic trappings leftover. Especially as oil and gas prices are expected to rise, leaving the Iranian gov’t flush with cash to keep people well fed and economically happy (people with full bellies are slow to revolt), I dont think any effective revolution is likely to change things.


Khamene’i, not Khatami, who was the former “moderate” president.

I’m not sure I’m as pessimistic as you, but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility you are correct. The theocrats have been turning the screws on Iranian democracy almost since the get-go, but they really have been ramping it up lately and it is hard to predict where they are going. But Iran’s population is youngish, with a median age in the mid-twenties, which can lead to a lot of explosiveness in societies.

Thanks, I always flip Khamenei, Khatami and Khomeni. Honestly, aside from his being a hardliner, I hope the son of the current Supreme Leader doesn’t take his fathers place because I can’t deal with another “K” name.

Also, in looking up how to spell his name, I see the name of Khatami’s political party is the “Association of Combatant Clerics”. I would vote for that party on name alone.

I’ve had the impression that when the current generation of ageing hardliners die, there’s not really anyone to replace them. Not so? Also, the Iranis I’ve met (albeit a biased sample) give me the impression of a well-educated people thirsting for democracy, held back by those pesky few in power.

I’m surprised this one has gone almost unnoted. Surely, there must be some more opinions on this? A bump seems in order.

I’m not sure there’s as much of a young-old divide in Iran as some people perceive. The Revolution was originally pretty liberal, and that was because a lot of the now older generation were (relatively) liberal. As time has passed, the gov’t has become more conservative.

So if anything, I think the original “old guard” leaders of Iran were probably more liberal then the people that came of age during the Revolution and who are now coming into power (Ahmadinejad, for example, who would’ve been in his early 20’s during the Revolution).

How much popular yearning is there, really, for a more secular and liberal society? Even among the young? Serious question.

Also, Iran has a parliamentary election coming up in March 2012. Any chance at all that will bring any real changes?

They had a democratically elected government in the 1950s. But when they threatened to nationalize oil, we and England helped to overthrow the government and install the Peacock Throne. So they had a history of elections in the past.

Even after the revolution their elections were, if not totally free and fair, at least pretty close to it. But during the reformist gov’ts of the 90’s, the Clerics went from occasionally blocking cadidates to blocking large slates of reformist candidates from running. And in the last election, they seemed to more or less abandon even the pretense and just started rigging polls.

I don’t think so. The leadership now seems pretty committed to blocking reformists from gaining much ground. And as I said above, they have a bunch of legal and not so legal ways to do that. And even beyond that, the more liberal parts of Iran seem to have abandoned participating in elections, presumably because if the Clerics won’t let any of their candidates run (and if they do win, won’t approve any of their legislation) there isn’t much point in going to the polls.

So, what, if anything, might they do instead?