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     Volume 8 Issue 77 | July 10, 2009 |

  Cover Story
  Current Affairs
  Writing the Wrong
  Art- Calligraphic and   Composed
  Art - Off to the Hills
  In Retrospect
  Star Diary
  Book Review
  Post Script

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A Revolution in the Offing?


The Ahmadinajad camp may be unpopular in Tehran but is heavily supported in rural Iran.

Before Michael Jackson's death eclipsed the election uproar in Iran (the Iranian opposition parties, along with Twitter, must be cursing their luck), the world was all set to watch a sequel to the Iranian Revolution. To borrow an apt metaphor from the global financial crisis, the green shoots of hope were budding from the fertile soils of a society clamouring for justice and change. Iranians, at least from what we could gather from CNN and BBC, were fed up with their conservative clerics ruling Big Brother style and force-feed religion down their throat. Or were they? Is Iran ripe for another historic Revolution much like the one that saw the Shah being toppled by the clerics who rule now, or is this just another false dawn, a hyped creation of the West that gleefully accepts any opportunity to topple the Great Satan bashing ruling class in one of the most politically volatile regions of the world?

It's difficult to pin down the winners and losers in the schizophrenic nature of politics and identity in the Middle East and Iran is no exception. Take the recent national elections for example. Even with wisdom of hindsight, few would have put their money on the elections turning up to be so divisive. State media declared the incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the winner of Iran's election, but challenger Mirhossein Mousavi alleged irregularities and claimed victory for himself. Although almost every single legal body has stood by the elections, including the Grand Ayatollah Khomeni himself, the people in Tehran have other ideas. Protests, sometimes violent and leading to a number of deaths, have been going on for over a month now. The national media have clamped down on telecasting any of the protests, but opposition supporters have made the way around such blockades by innovative use of technologyeither through web based mediums like Facebook or Twitter, or actually smuggling out video footage of the clampdowns and heavy-handedness they are suffering.

But all this beggars the question: are these the birth pangs of the demise of the old guard through a new Revolution? Probably not. My friends in Tehran would probably disagree, but a lot of noise and even unfortunately a few deaths do not a revolution make. What is taking place is a clash of two schools of thought that are fundamentally the same thing.

Moussavi--there really is no grand ideological division behind the two rival camps, despite media reports and students in Tehran clamouring otherwise.

Let's clarify a few things: whether Moussavi usurps power or Ahmadinajad stays president, there will be no grand change in Iran. There really is no grand ideological division behind the two rival camps, despite media reports and students in Tehran clamouring otherwise. The current leadership of Iran, from the supreme leader through to Ahmadinejad and Moussavi, all support the concept of Iran remaining as an Islamic state. It's true that Moussavi, though intimately connected to the revolution and still fully supportive of its principles, represents a much more pragmatic school of thought that wishes to move the state towards becoming much more modern. But even Moussavi dares not challenge the supreme authority of the Grand Ayatollah. Many of the same sentiments that preside in the Ahmadinajad camp still exist in the Moussavi camp, but they are presented in different language less hostile and more open to foreign relations with countries presently seen as hostile.

Likewise, the Ahmadinajad camp may be unpopular in Tehran but is heavily supported in rural Iran. Ahamadinajad has sustained power through massively subsidising the rural poor either through farm subsidies or making electricity and fuel readily available at cheap rates (at the cost of massive government spending) for the Iranian rural poor. This has, of course, overtaxed (pun intended) the national coffers thus raising tax rates that fall more on middle class residents of Tehran. In reality, rather than the incipient signs of a full revolution, the recent election conflicts are a manifestation of the seething disgruntlement between Iran's urban and rural.

Could a revolution still occur? Not on the scale of 1979, but some change could very well be in the air if the reformist camp does not back down but if they do not gain an upper hand, the repercussions could be bloody; even more so than the current unrest. The current state of Iran is still fresh, with many of its leaders having been those who pushed the revolution forward and who remember the days of the brutal regime of the U.S backed Shah. Many of them probably lost loved ones in the war against Iraq where Saddam gassed their brothers while the Great Satan (aka the United States) chose to publicly turn a blind eye to that atrocity till it suited them in their bid to bring down Saddam themselves. Scars of foreign interference are still somewhat open for many. Conservative or reformist, this will still be a nation that understandably approaches the west with a critical and wary eye, sniffing for skullduggery. It is a nation still forming its identity and it wishes to be the lapdog of no one.

Iran is a nation with a sense of pride in its independence and no matter who is at the helm at this point in history, if it feels any sense of being pushed around by another, the rhetoric will flow thick and fast whether it be out of the mouth of Ahmadinejad or Moussavi.