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Autopsy of Iran's Green Movement
People have asked me to elaborate further on why I think the "Green Movement" failed to make any impact during the anniversay celebrations in Iran last week. I think there are a number of reasons -- some blame the IRI, others the Green Movement itself, but the real reason is this: All the talk about toppling regimes and bombings and supporting ethnic separatists etc. has backfired on Washington by squelching the space for any real movement for change in Iran to develop. Washington's endless hostility and pressure on Iran for the last 30 years, especially but not limited to the nuclear issue which enjoys massive popularity across the political spectrum in Iran, has so polarized the atomosphere, narrowed willingess to explore options, and created a seige mentality in the public that there is no room for a "third movement" to arise in Iran that has the credibility and the popular trust to accomplish anything. The people prefer going with the regime, for all its faults, than to the alternatives (and in fact, as discussed below, there are no real credible alternatives presented either.)
Iranians see their country as being under seige and continued talk about sanctions that will supposedly cause so much harm to the people that they will rise up and do Washington's dirty work for of toppling the regime, or will force Iran to give up her massively poular nuclear program, only contributes to that perception.
Other lesser reasons which are mentioned by others:
First, as I said before, there is no real evidence that the elections were stolen in the first place, or that Ahmadinejad is so massively unpopular as some have claimed. If you don't want to believe the polling, just as yourself a logical question: Mousavi, the Green leader who supposedly actually won, is a regime-insider and who was specifically pre-cleared and vetted to run for office by the regime. So why would the same regime have to resort to massive election fraud to keep him out of office? It just makes no sense. Until you can come up with a colorable answer to that question, you've no business accusing anyone of stealing elections. (Most of the pro-Greens usually evade this question entirely, saying "it doesn't matter because this isn't about Mousavi" which is ridiculous, then they "appeal to emotion" by retelling about how awful the security crackdown has been and how many people were beaten etc. - as if atrocity makes up for their lack of a logical answer to a logical question.)
Second, the depth and breadth of support for the regime is consistently underestimated. This is partly due to the influence of wishful thinking by regime opponents, and their willingness to believe their own propaganda. I have already mentioned how the media in the US has been foretelling the imminent collapse of the regime practically eveyday for the last 30 years. Look folks, the bottom line is that since the revolutions, Iranians are better off than ever before. They live longer, healthier lives; they are far better educated, have better access to electricity, water, paved roads, etc. than ever before. This is simply an undeniable, statistically-proven fact (which leads the regime opponents to say "But those improvement are in line with the average improvements internationally" -- which may be true, but is irrelevant to the point. The regime has taken care of the people, and there is simply no doubt about it.)
Third, as much as some people want to deny it, the fact is that the "Greens" do not have a wide social base and represented a narrow class of people in Iran -- specifically, the more secular, educated, upper-class which explains their access to Twitter and Facebook etc. We've also heard about how the "youth" will topple the regime, but this is something I've heard for over a decade now. Even if there is a large youth contingent, that doesn't mean much. After all, would you trust your future to the hands of a petulant 20-something year old? Similarly, the analysts who reduced the conflict between "Mollahs" and everyone else were ridiculously shallow. The main backer of the Mousavi faction is Rafsanjani, a very prominent figure in the regime as well as a cleric (who incidentally is also often accused of massive corruption.) Ahmadinejad is not a cleric but is a technocrat.
Third, there is a general lack of leadership amongst the Greens, for a variety of reasons, but especially because...
Fourth, the Greens have no real agenda. All the petulance and empty sloganeering about "Freedom" etc make for great photo-ops, but not are just not a convincing substitute. (one of the problems in the West is that since they are so influenced by PR, they think that PR can be the solution to everything.) The demonstrators come across as just a confused bunch of repressed people who want to let off steam and break stuff, with some vague "Feel-good" chants. The only thing that barely unites them is some vague "opposition" to something -- not clear what. Some oppose the election results only, some oppose Ahmadinejad, some oppose the concept of the constitutional Supreme Jurisprudent, some simply want more social freedoms, some want to topple the regime entirely, etc. This was obvious in the number and variety of figures whom the Western media presented as ostensible "leaders" of the Green movement -- former crown prince, MEK spokesmen, movie directors, regime-insiders like Mousavi and Karroubi, reformists politicians like former President Khatami, etc. Clerics, secularists, Monarchists, the MEK, NeoCons etc. were all trying to climb onto the "Green Movements" wagon and take control of the steering by imposing their own agendas on the movement. Who's going to buy into that? None of these people have the necessary credibility or gravitas. Iranians have long-since become inured to calls for revolutions and regime-topplings by the Washington/Tel Aviv hawks and the Exile-TV crowd who rushed to lay claim to the green movement, and disregard them (or think them to be downright silly and immoral.)
Fifth, the people in Iran are once-bitten, twice-shy. They see all the posturing and rhetoric about regime change that has been coming from Washington and Tel Aviv for decades. They're not foolish enough to think that the denizens of the think tanks in DC really give a fig about human rights and democracy in Iran, and so they naturally wonder what's really behind the so-called Green movement. You can say this is "conspiracy thinking" but lets face it, there's more than enough justification for this sort of suspicion about the so-called Green movement.
Finally, I have to say that the conduct of some of the people identifying themselves as Greens was a major turnoff. The rioting, the burning of busses, the fighting in the street, the obvious appeals to foreign intervention by some who at least claimed to be members of the movement, the intolerance and "black v. white" mentality displayed towards people who may not agree 100% with them (read comments below for an example) all raise significant questions about what these people would be like once in power.