Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Revolution in Egypt and Iran - Dr. Bechor on the Contrasts

The success of the Egyptian popular ouster of their long serving autocrat, Mubarak, coupled with Obama's blessings has given hope to many Iranians that perhaps this is time to get rid of their autocratic regime.

Dr. Guy Bechor, of whom I am an avid reader, weighs in on the differences between the Iranian situation and the Egyptian situation, aside from the many superficial similarities.

Regime Survival

In Egypt, the current regime which is dominated by the defense establishment, has sacrificed  its figurehead Mubarak, in order to guarantee its own survival (at least until the next round). The Iranian equivalent will be the Revolutionary Guard attaining full control of the state, sacrificing Ahmadinijad in the process. However, in Iran, Ahmadinijad is viewed as a puppet of a hated regime, not as the root of it.


While the Egyptian population  is by and large rural, uneducated and extremely conservative, Iran has a large, urban, educated middle class. This means that  a democratic revolution is much more likely to go smoothly in Iran. This was not necessarily the case some 32 years a go. Both populations yearn to taste the forbidden fruit. For Egypt, this fruit is political Islam. The Iranians are sick and tired of political Islam in their own country and are yearning for democracy.

The Al-Jazeera Factor

Al Jazeera has taken an immense pride at its coverage of the Egyptian uprising and its taking credit for instigating the whole affair. Meanwhile, they pay almost no attention to what's going on in Iran. Why is that? Well, Al Jazeera's talk about democracy in the Middle East is merely a ruse for western ears. In reality, they have an agenda where Mubarak has to go, because he stands in the way of political Islam. Iran is the epicenter of political Islam and having the regime fall is considered undesirable by the Emir of Qatar.


Many in Egypt view the peace treaty with Israel as a national embarrassment (despite of restoring all territory to Egypt, which initiated both wars and was unable to win either). Antisemitism in Egypt is rampant and there is a good chance that the treaty will not survive the next few years of transition. Iranians on the other hand, are unhappy about the regime's continued funding of conflicts against Israel while neglecting domestic issues. From Israel's perspective, a revolution in Iran is a good thing, because its enemies will lose their source of financial and moral support.


Ironically, America can shoot their most reliable ally in the foot and do almost nothing about Iran. This means that Mubarak was expected to behave himself lest he will be abandoned by Obama, which is exactly what happened. America fully supported Mubarak's ouster and they had many connections in the Egyptian establishment who could make it happen. The Egyptian people on the other hand, disdain the superpower that was able to guarantee their wishes are met. Iran is in quite the opposite situation. While Iranians generally view American and western culture somewhat favourably, Obama has no pull with any force that can guarantee a democratic transition in Iran. The regime can be as brutal and suppressive as it wishes.

The wind of change continues sweeping across the Middle East. Except for Iran and Egypt, many smaller states such as Yemen and Bahrain are on the cusp. Arab dictators, who are completely disconnected from the populace can only try to uncover the force that is endangering them. There is no army, no tanks, no infantry. Just a bunch of Facebook pages written in a strange sounding dialect, with one word that seems to repeat itself: 'Like'.


No comments:

Post a Comment