As I noted in my last entry on the matter, a broad spectrum of observers is beginning to seriously consider the possibility that the Green Movement signals the beginning of the end of the revolutionary regime in Iran. As intoxicating as it is to get caught up in the excitement that surrounds the Green Movement, to which the world has attached its hopes for seeing the fall of the clerical regime, it’s a good idea to take a moment and keep things in perspective. Media outlets are already beginning the backlash, with Foreign Policy magazine, StratFor, and even the Gray Lady leading the skeptical charge. While the movement’s longevity is certainly remarkable, their aims may not be as far reaching as we all might want, to the extent they’ve been articulated at all.

Which brings us to the greens’ first shortcoming: a lack of a clear agenda. The massive uprisings in June and the actions since have been driven by 30 years of simmering resentment towards an Islamic nanny state finally boiling over. But so far that’s all that’s been articulated by the opposition: just repeated accusations of corruption, electoral malfeasance, and brutality. While these accusations may be (and let’s be honest pretty much are) true, they have yet to present an alternative plan. Do they just want a reelection? Resignation of high officials? Reform of the system? Revolution? Given the broad ideological base the greens are now attracting you’re likely to get different answers based on who you ask, and while the broad support is good it’s also something of a thorn. The number of voices now in the movement makes articulating a single, coherent agenda all the more difficult as illustrated by how many ways the simple question “Who’s running this show?” can be answered.

Realizing this vulnerability the movement appears to be attempting to make its goals clear post-Ashura, which is especially important as the outbreak of violence makes it necessary to counter government charges that the protesters are merely anarchists. However while green leaders inside Iran such as Mousavi and University Professors are simply making generalized calls for reform, the most comprehensive statement seems to have come from several Iranian exiles, and this is itself a problem. Exile communities are hardly the best barometers of opinion inside their home countries, and aren’t nearly as powerful or influential there as they generally like to think they are (hence why they left in the first place). This is why thousands of Cubans in Miami and New Jersey, despite their well-earned wealth in their adopted country, have been utterly powerless to present anything more than an annoyance to Castro. And let us not forget the role elements of the Iraqi exile community (namely one Ahmed Chalabi) played in building up george bush’s hopes of replacing saddam’s statues with his own. It also runs the very severe risk of playing into the government’s hands by lending credence to the regime narrative of discontent being driven by foreign agents seeking to subjugate Iran once more.

And this leads to another problem, although this is more a problem of perception.The green movement neither wants nor needs foreign support, despite numerous claims in the media to the contrary. This is immensely frustrating to Americans, as we are both an action-oriented people and see ourselves as the vanguard of freedom. In this way Obama’s taken a good tack of offering light moral support to the opposition and precious little else. Anything more could easily be spun by the regime and the resulting wave of nationalist fervor would be just what the doctor ordered to restore their legitimacy. Ditto the recent game of brinkmanship on the nuclear issue: goading Israel into an attack that would universally enrage the populace is probably the regime’s only solution to its ills that they can see, but once again I digress.

In short, the Green Movement carries within it the promise of bringing great change to Iran, and the mere fact of its continued existence has already irrevocably altered the political landscape in Tehran. A full scale revolution may not be in the offing, but even a few reforms of the current system would prove a breath of fresh air in a nation that’s been stagnating politically for decades. All we outside the country can (and should) do is continue to watch, and wait, and hope.

-We’re All In This Together

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