Iranian President Ahmadinejad

So You Say You Want an Iranian Revolution?

A revolution in Iran might be optimistic, but that’s okay. Sometimes, the optimistic scenario might be right. Avigdor Lieberman openly said that sanctions might bring Iran to the brink of revolution by the summer of 2013. As he sees it, the combination of diplomatic pressure, even more sanctions, and the upcoming 2013 presidential elections will mark a crescendo. That all assumes that Iranians are on the same page as Westerners and know what they need to have after trashing the corrupted government of the Mullahs.

The current Iranian regime has more of a diverse opposition than ever. Some of Iran’s most prominent ayatollahs have voiced opposition to the current structure of government, not just the people holding the reins. The idea that absolute power corrupts absolutely (a mantra that Shiite theologians and wise men used to criticize their Sunni oppressors for centuries) has become popular Shiite ideology again. The revolutionary fervor of 1979 is giving way to a less reactionary, more concentrated, and more deliberately focused revolutionary idea in our time. But it will take a lot more from Iranians this year than it did in 2009 to upset the political balance in Tehran. This time the government will expect trouble. They will anticipate riled emotions. They might even want to respond to protesters.

Benjamin Netanyahu has asserted that the world really only has until the summer of 2013 to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear bomb capability. Is an Israeli strike inevitable? If it is, is it the only choice, and does it hold the best guarantee for Israeli security? No. Of course it isn’t the best. Is it the only option? I resoundingly say, no.

The first scenario, with riots and police in the street, is actually more of a practical possibility than ever before. Ten years ago, an Iranian revolution was a fantasy. Then came Lebanon 2005. Then the riots of 2009 had long-time Middle East experts second guessing their ideas and making excuses for their past dismissal of the possibility that anything on that scale could occur in the Ayatollahs’ Iran. Even after 2011′s Arab protests toppled four governments, a revolution is still a quiet if not ignored possibility.

It certainly is an option. The United States, Israel and the European Union would never be so open to say so, but our governments and we ourselves would prefer that Iran’s government go the way of the dodo, even if our own security services secretly nudge the process along.

However, revolutions have to be natural. Though foreign governments have maneuvered generals to topple each other from power before, those operations weren’t revolutions. Those were coups. Even when Germany drove Lenin back to Russia to overthrow the Czar, it was just a chauffeur; they weren’t giving the orders. The revolution was Lenin’s show. When Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini motivated a country to topple the Shah, Iraq and France (his exilic homes) had nothing to do with it. They couldn’t have stopped the process if they had wanted to (and Saddam Hussein did).

Iran is an interesting case. The world would not like to see a simple revolution, but a counter revolution. What was made right in 1979 with Khomeini’s revolution must be seen as wrong again by enough of the population to drive their government from power. But that first revolution is entrenched. It redesigned the entire Iranian infrastructure. It created new ministries, new officers, and even extra revolution-guarding armies.

Shiite Islam is structured a lot like Orthodox Judaism. Of course, whatever power a Rabbinical organization has (even the official Rabbanut of Israel) is nowhere near as intense as that wielded by the sages of Tehran. Even so, their revolution has slipped away from them. The Revolutionary Guard, hardly a bastion of seminary students comparable to Israel’s Hesder brigades, are more powerful than the religious Supreme Leader.

Are the original fighters of corruption corrupt enough to warrant their own overthrow?

It’s asking a lot for people to put their fear aside and confront their own freedom at the barrel of a gun. The Iranians did it four years ago, and they didn’t win. If they feel that the situation calls for it again (which I think they do), they will have to be more meticulous and determined than ever.  Iranians will have to give it their all. Then they will have to give more. Then they’ll have to know what to do with their victory.
Imagine the symbolism and emotional fire that Iranians will need to spark in order to keep their own spirits going as they confront batons and bullets again. If any country’s people is capable of standing right back up so quickly after getting knocked down so hard just four years ago, it’s Iran’s.  Failed revolutions in 1906 and 1953 and then a successful one in 1979 show that the zeal for change can remain fresh from generation to generation.

Considering the gravity of what the CIA faces, they can’t just conjure up a revolution, nor can the Mossad. It doesn’t matter what Tehran’s fascist Supreme Leader, brutal generals, and xenophobic president say. A revolution can only belong to the people. I think Lieberman might actually be right. There is a crescendo of tolerance Iranians have yet to hit. Even when faced with the pressure of the outside world, I thinkthat  the population there has enough awareness and fortitude to understand they won’t be told to rebel. They will only do so if they want to. They did in 2009. They will, more than likely, try again.