In power since February 1979, the current Iranian regime is confronting its most serious crisis yet. Faced with a sudden and unprecedented protest movement, religious authorities are striving to contain the unrest, clamping down on demonstrations, arresting reformists, and severely restricting access to media and communication outlets – especially social networking websites (Facebook, Twitter).
Various analyses of the situation have been offered by observers and specialists in Iranian politics. Since Sunday, editorialists have been pondering whether or not the mounting tensions mean the country is “on the verge of civil war.”
Though he never goes as far as that, French-Iranian journalist Armin Arefi nevertheless evokes a ‘’turning point’’ in the history of Iran’s clerical regime. In place for the last thirty years, the “sacred union” formed from the different components of the regime is “in peril,” he notes. The proof, he claims, is in the “abundance of disagreements” between conservatives attached to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s Islamic Revolution dogma and reformists eager for change.
Author of the provocatively titled essay “Is the Twelfth Imam a Woman?”, writer and journalist Fariba Hachtroudi, interviewed by FRANCE 24, does not exclude the possibility of a regime implosion. Contrary to past crises, the turmoil rocking the country since the announcement of the election results is not confined to circles of power alone. “Pandora’s box has been opened,” she said. “Today, the street has spoken. Determined to go through with things, the population is in the process of saying ‘no’” to the regime.
Hachtroudi believes in Mousavi, who is “visibly determined to support the people in the street,” and in his capacity to change things. She thinks if the reformist candidate plays the role of an “Iranian Gorbachev,” he can help “make the regime implode” from the inside.
Farther away, Western experts are adopting a more cautious perspective of the ever-accelerating events in Iran. Without denying the gravity of the crisis, they are not quite ready to consider it an uprising nourished exclusively by the will of the Iranian people to rid themselves of those who took down the Pahlavi dynasty.
According to this interpretation, the demonstrations organised by Mousavi supporters are therefore less an expression of mass anger than a collateral effect of a power struggle between rival clans operating within the same system. Despite the “powerful turbulence” shaking the country since June 12, Denis Bauchard of the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI), cited by AFP, “[does] not think that the regime is desperate.” The risk of a brutal clampdown exists, but “the foundation of the regime will likely not shake.” What’s going on “is not an opposition” between a force outside of the regime and “the regime itself,” he adds.
Opposition leader Mousavi is not, in Bauchard’s view, an opposition leader in the classic sense of the term, but rather ‘’a conservative, an agent of the apparatus, albeit more pragmatic than the others.”