Austin Bay

The situation faced by most Iranians deteriorated. A telling conversation took place some six years ago when a knowledgeable Iranian told me the total bribe required for permission to acquire land and launch a major construction project in Tehran had gone from $50,000 or so to around a half million -- in American dollars, please.

Another source asserted the Shia clerics running Iran were more aggressive thieves than the Palavis, the Shah's despised clan. Call it old gossip -- perhaps CIA knows the precise Tehran bribe schedule circa 2004 -- but new gossip says the corruption has gotten worse.

Public demonstrations and anti-regime declarations -- verifiable facts -- show Iran enters the 21st century's second decade a profoundly divided nation. Time is a threat to all revolutions. As years pass, the revolutionaries age and the fervor fades. A generational divide often emerges, and it has in Iran.

The Green Movement, the umbrella anti-government grouping that emerged from the post-election demonstrations in 2009, has a large following among Iran's youth and middle-aged.

Most Iranians under the age of 40 have little truck with the ruling mullahs. The Shah is ancient history. The Council of Guardians' cruelty is current news. The cultural straightjacket of clerical puritanism chafes youths who want to rock and roll, and the mullahs' blatant hypocrisy and corruption adds to their disenchantment and alienation.

The mullahs know domestically they face a sustained, popular struggle against their endemically corrupt regime. The Green Movement, however, is a hodgepodge of factions, including reformists (who support extensive, rapid reform), incrementalists (who favor certain reforms) and radicals of all sorts (some promoting Western-style democracy).

The mullahs and the Revolutionary Guards exploit these divisions. Their policy of jailing movement leaders, threatening family members and selectively repressing Green Movement factions has kept the Green Movement from coalescing as a genuine revolutionary organization. So far.

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Austin Bay

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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