revolution in iran? your thoughts?

I know very little about Iran, so I don’t know how to interpret what’s happening today. The summary, according to bloggers and news sources: the state first publicly reported a win by incumbent Ahmadinejad, but now many believe the election’s been manipulated. Today, there are reports of the arrest of the other major candidate and the opposition, accompanied by riots, demonstrations, and other forms of resistance. Some think it may be a military coup in progress. Other bloggers think this is that last stand of the theocracy and is a “classic” coup.

The question I have: is this a revolution in progress? Is this the state’s last stand or a new phase of authoritarianis, more like the 1989 repression of the Tiananmen movement – crack down following a little liberalization? If I were a hard core early Skocoplian, I’d hazard that its more crack down than system crisis, given that the factions supporting Ahmadinejad are firmly in place and Iran isn’t any under international pressures that would weaken the state. Your thoughts? What would one have to know to make sense of what’s happening?

Update: The website “Tehran Bureau” has pages on election news updates and videos of riots/protests. Here is a twitter on news leaking out from Tehran. Also: a commenter on Andrew Sulilvan correctly notes how the major news media are AWOL and we’re getting live coverage and commentary from bloggers and independent media.

Written by fabiorojas

June 14, 2009 at 12:47 am

8 Responses

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  1. No. No revolution ever succeeds (or even happens) if the state’s repressive force is intact.

    So it’s unlikely that much will come of it unless we see those in charge of security forces defecting to the opposition.



    June 14, 2009 at 4:34 pm

  2. Cwalken, you should check out Charles Kurzman’s 1996 ASR article, which argues (convincingly, imho) precisely the opposite about the 1978-9 Iranian revolution: that this was a case where it was the perception of opportunities for change that encouraged collective action, despite the considerable capacity of the shah’s regime to repress the opposition.

    In the Iranian case, the state had not, Kurzman argued, weakened, but it was the perceived strength of the opposition that was consequential.

    Will be interesting to see whether these protests become self-reinforcing in a similar fashion.


    ed walker

    June 14, 2009 at 6:54 pm

  3. Have you seen the Renfro/Deckro network analysis of Iranian government?



    June 14, 2009 at 6:57 pm

  4. […] the comments from yesterday, a few argued that there’d be no movement long as security forces sided with the state. Seems like it’s going that way, at least right now. No reports of hesitation from actors […]


  5. Ed Walker, the Kurzman work on the ‘unthinkable revolution’ makes a strong case for the role of perception of opportunities… most strongly for the opposition in 1979 feeling that they had no other choice but to continue to rebel.

    Yet the Shah’s repressive capacity was arguably failing… on one hand, the Shah didn’t trust the military and so kept them confined to barracks at key times. On the other, when repression was used, it was inconsistently, which Karen Rasler argued was key to the success of the revolution.

    So the question for today: is the Iranian government in an analogous situation? My guess is no, not for the time being. Yet the legitimacy of the regime is likely to come out sorely damaged. And popularly illegitimate regimes often must rely on repression alone to maintain rule, which is perhaps ultimately unsustainable. But nobody in the soc of revolution has been able to come up with a clear answer to how long illegitimacy can last.



    June 15, 2009 at 6:59 am

  6. 1. That there can be no revolution as long as state security is in place is tautologous. If the revolution succeeds, then security must have failed. (“… none dare call it treason.”)

    2. The cogent question is why Americans did not riot when Bush-Cheney stole the 2000 election via massive elecion fraud in the province (“state”) where the winner’s brother was governor. Why does the city of Chicago stand at all, as so many elections there have been fraudulent?

    3. Perhaps rioting in the streets is just part of Iranian culture, something normal that was suppressed in the early days of the Islamic Republic. Demonstrations then were required, likely a safety valve for the state: let the people have the day off, but choreograph the dance. The old USSR staged that ballet for 80 years.

    4. Finally, I captured a picture of an Iranian policeman with the word POLICE (Roman letters; English) on his jacket. I also have one from 2008 of a Bulgarian cop with the word POLICE (Roman letters; English) on his jacket. Do we have a single police department serving the world?


    Michael E. Marotta

    June 15, 2009 at 10:54 am

  7. According to Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, most dictators have little chance of being removed from power. The exception is if it becomes known that they are terminally ill, which is what happened to the Shah.



    June 18, 2009 at 3:21 am

  8. Hey Guys, as I’m an Iranian, temporarily in Iran,

    1.The widespread cheatings are real, not that I don’t support Ahmadinejad, but we have enough evidence, least of which is the number of people who came to the streets!!!

    2.People have very rationally avoided violent protests and they started walking in silence, but the main problem was that even with no TV nor any printed media it could lead to the awareness of all far people in the small towns and villages so they started beating and finally killing people

    3.The green movement was a very unique phenomenon in Iran’s history, that was shaped just during the campaigns before election, and surprised everyone with a very harmonious form it took!

    4.Iranians are very complicated as a social system; They have failed many predictions! So predicting their behavior (or their society’s)is one demanding and ambiguous things to do, mostly if you have not experienced living between them.

    5.There is no revolution favored nor possible; people have experienced these protests for the 1st time after 30 years to ask for a basic civil right: Fair Election! And the degree of security and violence from the government is bigger than people could stand. So I guarantee: It’s not about a revolution.

    I’d be very happy if I could help anyone with any info…

    P.S. One very considerable role belonged to Facebook, Twitter and other Web 2.0 aspects of Internet, which helped compensate the censorship of media and phone controls. (although we have to bypass the filters to reach them!)



    June 28, 2009 at 8:35 am

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