Economic misery and repression played roles, but an overt act of corruption brought the people into the streets.
One year ago, election fraud ignited demonstrations throughout Iran. Stealing the national election held on June 12, 2009, was one theft too many by the religious dictatorship and its cronies.
Established by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979, Iran's radical cleric-controlled regime ("mullocracy" is the pop term) came to power deploring the Shah's theft and corruption. Khomeinist Islamic revolutionary values would ensure two things: 1) a harsh, but clean Iranian national government and 2) the spread of Khomeinist-led Islamic revolution around the world by any means necessary, including successful political example, economic might, subterfuge, terrorism, guerrillas and, when necessary, all-out war.
The mullahs' attempts to fulfill their second revolutionary pledge to extend Khomeini's revolution beyond Iran's borders, however, have been destructive but largely unsuccessful. Decades of political finagling and terrorist activities in the Persian Gulf have not toppled a single Arab government.
Iran's attempts to use proxies to destroy Iraq's nascent democratic government have left thousands dead and slowed Iraqi development, but "the Arabs" continue to build a new society in Mesopotamia. Afghanistan, the bloody puzzle to the east, has NATO troops. Global revolution has left Iran in a strategic vise. A nuclear weapon, however, might change that.
The regime's failure to keep the revolution's first pledge, the promise the Khomeinists used to ignite popular revolt against the Shah, however, has divided Iran's people and created what is ultimately a more potent and dangerous threat to the mullahs than American or Israeli bombs. Harsh domestic government the revolution provided, but as for clean?
While Khomeini lived, the crooks kept up the pretense of spic and span -- maybe. Khomeini died in 1989. Economic decline in Iran, tied to mismanagement and corruption, was evident by the early 1990s, when the first serious calls for systemic reform began.
The complaints received lip service. Reformers, like Ayatollah Mohamed Khatami (who was elected president in 1997), were isolated politically and rendered powerless. Subsequently, the Khomeinist regime rigged the voting system to exclude future Khatami-type intruders.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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