December 27, 2009

TIME AND hISTORY ON THEIR SIDE:

Defiant in Tehran: Antagonism toward clerical regime broadens (Ilan Berman, 12/27/09, Washington Times)

Critical assessments of Iran's "Green" movement have tended to downplay its chances of success. Skeptics have pointed to the lack of viable opposition leaders and the rising power of the regime's ideological army, the Revolutionary Guards, as signs that the current opposition's chances for success are slim to none.

But these criticisms miss a crucial point. Revolutions are not born overnight. It took the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the godfather of the Islamic Revolution, years to generate the political and ideological momentum necessary to sweep the shah from power in Tehran. A post-theocratic transition in Iran today could take just as long, or even longer.

Likewise, the lack of evident leadership among the Iranian opposition is deeply worrying - but not necessarily fatal. It is useful to recall that, at its start, Poland's powerful "Solidarity" movement lacked clear and cohesive leadership. Figures such as Lech Walesa emerged over time, bringing with them the ideological cohesion and political power that helped Poland ultimately shrug off the communist yoke. At least some recent instances of grass-roots revolution, such as the 2005 Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan and "Cedar" uprising in Lebanon the same year, have followed similar evolutionary paths (albeit with very different results).

What is needed, in other words, is time - as well as the attention of the outside world.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 27, 2009 12:41 PM
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