Thursday, August 5, 2010

Iran’s history suggests Green opposition will re-emerge

The imminent departure of John Limbert, the US administration’s leading point man on Iran, is casting further doubt on the feasibility of engaging the Islamic Republic.

But if Iran’s politically tumultuous history is any guide, the opposition Green movement will survive its current downturn, consolidate and emerge as a force for democratic change, Michael Singh argues in Foreign Affairs.

“After all, movements propelled by similar social currents have succeeded in dramatically changing Iran in the past,” he notes, citing the Constitutional Revolution of 1905–11; the Mossadeq era of 1951–3; and the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Each episode emerged from the confluence of popular anger over corruption, a rupture between ruling and clerical classes, and discontent over foreign relations, writes Singh, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. In each instance, secular and liberal forces temporarily aligned with politically active clergy in opposition.

But international actors should recognize that democratic and authoritarian tendencies are likely to come into conflict at some stage in the transition.
The international community should not worry that the Green Movement is doomed, but it should harbor no illusions that its success would inevitably lead to peace and democracy in the long term. Indeed, the United States and its allies should be considering not only how best to support the democratic aspirations of Iranians but also how to prepare for the real possibility of instability in Iran should the opposition prevail.

Green movement exiles are also to feature as key players in the opposition’s renaissance. The New York Times highlights the work of several such activists: 
On a recent muggy afternoon in Washington, Aliakbar Mousavi Khoeini, a former member of Parliament, sat at a white table in a small Google conference room, imploring a top executive to provide more Persian-language Internet tools.

Speaking in halting English acquired during his year in the United States, Mr. Mousavi Khoeini told Robert O. Boorstin, the company’s director of public policy, that activists inside Iran desperately needed Google Earth, Google advertising and other services that could help thwart repression.

An engineer by training and an expert in information and communications technologies, the former student leader recently said that he is “deeply disappointed” that sanctions still prevent Iranian dissidents getting access to Western ICT tools, including state-of-the-art cell phones and modems.

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