Why This Is Not Like 1979

A reader adds a note of caution:

The blogger you quote in the post suggests, rightly, that the 78-79 revolution had as one of its turning points the raiding of weapons stashes (note that many were opened by defecting military, police and SAVAK agents -- something I saw personally). But that the army will stand down again or that the Green Wave will simply sweep into power when that happens is unlikely. The conditions are not nearly the same. In trying to explain how it was that the religious right swept into power in Iran in 79-80, scholars often note the way in which, for decades, the opposition was led by clerics and religious thinkers (Khomeini and Ali Shariati). Today, there seems to be no galvanizing idea beyond resistance to dictatorship.

Those benefitting from the Shah's policies and rule were the middle, upper-middle and the rich classes. But they had no emotional or ideological commitment to the royal line or the Shah. More still, they all abandoned the country (sucking cash out as fast as they could) as soon as they saw the tide turning. Today, the poorer urban, lower-middle and rural classes have a deep emotional and economic commitment to the right of the regime. They will not abandon the Revolution and the legacy of Khomeini and they do not seem to have any sympathy for the urban youth and their desire for more individual freedoms.

I agree that the regime is pretty hobbled and delegitimated after June and that this round of protest and violence bodes awfully poorly for the regime. But even if Ahmadinejad is, somehow, forced to step down, even if Khamenei is removed by Rafsanjani's maneuvering in Qom, and even if, and this is a pipe dream, Tehran falls because the Rev Guard and police refuse to shoot at the protesters, the country will not follow as a whole. At best, I think, we get a political solution (in which Rafsanjani makes out very well), and a more liberal, but also rhetorically anti-US, leadership replaces the current one. They would have to be Anti-US and for Nuclear power to win over enough popular support and not look like imperial tools.