The Green Movement
The Greens, even at their height, never represented anything close to a majority of Iranians, and within a week of the election, their social base was already contracting.
The fundamental reason was that, after Mousavi failed to substantiate his charge of electoral fraud, the Greens’ continued protests were no longer about a contested election, but a challenge to the Islamic Republic itself -- for which there was only a negligible constituency.
While many Westerners prefer to believe that the Greens did not fade because of their own weaknesses, but because of cruel suppression by an illegitimate regime, this does not hold up to scrutiny.
In the fifteen months preceding the shah’s 1979 departure, his troops gunned down thousands of protesters -- and the crowds demanding his removal kept growing. In 2009, police brutality unquestionably occurred in the course of the government’s response to post-election disturbances. The government itself acknowledged this -- for example, by closing a prison where some detainees were physically abused and murdered, and by indicting twelve of that prison’s personnel (two were later sentenced to death).
But fewer than 100 people died in the clashes between demonstrators and security forces after the 2009 election, and still the Greens retreated and their base shrank.
The effects of the sanctions
Economic hardships caused by the sanctions will soon prompt Iranians to rise up and force fundamental change in their country -- or at least compel their government to make the concessions demanded by Washington. But those making this argument have never explained why the economy is so much worse today than it was in the 1980s, when Iran lost half its GDP during the war with Iraq -- and yet even then, its population did not rise up to force fundamental change or concessions to hostile powers.
There are no discernible food shortages; stores of all sorts are fully stocked, with significant customer traffic. Shortfalls are emerging in some imported medicines. This, however, is not because of currency devaluation. Rather, it is a function of the US-instigated banking sanctions that, contrary to official US rhetoric about their “targeted” nature, make it difficult for Iranians to pay for Western medical and pharmaceutical imports, even though selling such items to Iran is technically allowed under US sanctions regulations.
Certainly, anyone who has walked the streets of Tehran recently (as we did in December) can see that Iran’s economy is not collapsing, and anyone who has talked with a range of Iranians inside the country knows that the sanctions will not compel either the Islamic Republic’s implosion or its surrender to US demands on the nuclear issue. There is no constituency -- among conservatives, reformists or even what’s left of the Green Movement -- prepared to accept such an outcome.
The effect of the Paradigm shift
Policy-makers and analysts see the Arab Awakening as hugely positive for the Islamic Republic’s regional position. They judge – correctly -- that any Arab government that becomes more representative of its people’s beliefs, concerns and preferences will be less enthusiastic about strategic cooperation with the United States, let alone Israel, and more open to the Islamic Republic’s message of foreign policy independence.
The role Syria will play
More particularly, one hears in Washington that, because of the Arab Awakening, Tehran is going to “lose Syria,” its “only Arab ally,” with dire consequences for Iran’s regional position and internal stability. This observation underscores just how deeply US elites are in denial about basic political and strategic trends in the Middle East.
Iranian policy-makers do not believe that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will be overthrown (at least not by Syrians). But even if Assad felt compelled at some point to cede Damascus, he and his forces would almost certainly still control a significant portion of Syria. Under these circumstances, Syria is hardly likely to become an ally of the West.
Indeed, any plausibly representative post-Assad government would not be more pro-American or pro-Israel than the Assads have been, and it might even be less keen about keeping Syria’s border with Israel quiet. Unless Assad were replaced by a Taliban-like political structure -- which would be at least as anti-American as it was anti-Shiite and anti-Iranian -- the foreign policy of post-Assad Syria would be, on most major issues, just fine for Iran. But the US fixation on undermining the Islamic Republic by encouraging Saudi-backed jihadis to fight Assad will ultimately damage US security, just as US support for Saudi-backed jihadis did in Afghanistan and Libya.
The results from the unfaithful actions by the Pawn of Satan George W Bush Iraq invasion
More significant, American elites have been slow to grasp that, today, the Islamic Republic’s most important Arab ally isn’t Syria; it’s Iraq -- the first Arab-led Shiite state in history, an outcome made possible by the US invasion and occupation.
Likewise, America’s political class has been reluctant to acknowledge that the strategic orientation of Egypt -- a pillar of US Middle East policy for more than thirty years -- is now in play. While certainly not uniformly pro-Iranian, post-Mubarak Egypt is clearly less reflexively pro-American. Before meeting with President Obama, the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, traveled last year to Beijing, where he met with both outgoing President Hu Jintao and incoming President Xi Jinping, and to Tehran, where he met with President Ahmadinejad. Iranian military ships now go through the Suez Canal -- something that Washington could have vetoed just two years ago, Because of these development
Iran doesn’t “need” Syria today in the same way it once did, American elites have a hard time facing these facts. What Washington misses above all is that Tehran does not need Arab governments to be more pro-Iranian; it just needs them to be less pro-America, less pro-Israel and more independent, bBecause US elites miss this critical point, they miss a broader reality as well: that the Arab Awakening is accelerating the erosion of Washington’s strategic position in the Middle East, not Tehran’s
Rather than deal with this, Americans continue to embrace the logic-defying proposition that the same drivers that are empowering Islamists in Arab countries will somehow transform the Islamic Republic into a secular liberal state.
But reality is what it is. Consider the strategic balance sheet: on the eve of 9/11, just over a decade ago, every Middle Eastern government -- every single one -- was either pro-American (e.g., Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the smaller Gulf Arab monarchies, and Tunisia), in negotiations to realign toward the United States (Qaddafi’s Libya) and/or anti-Iranian (Saddam’s Iraq and the Taliban’s Afghanistan). Today, the regional balance has turned decisively against Washington and in favor of Tehran.
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