Friday, January 20, 2012 RUBIN INTERVIEW:IRAN

The regime is nervous, though. There is no question that the regime is unpopular across a broad cross-section of society. The evidence for this is not only anecdotal, but also quantitative. Using Persian speakers in Los Angeles, polling companies have surveyed Iranians by taking every telephone exchange in Tehran, and randomizing the last four numbers and conducting what, on the surface is an economic survey but which also provides insight into political altitudes. In September 2007, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps reorganized and implemented what its new commander, Mohammad Ali Jafari, called the mosaic doctrine. Rather than orient the IRGC to defend against foreign armies—as it had been from the days of the Iran-Iraq War—Jafari divided the IRGC into inwardly-oriented units, one for each province and two for Tehran. Jafari argued that internal unrest and the possibility of a velvet revolution posed more of a threat to the regime than foreign armies, a judgment validated by the June 2009 unrest.

The key issue in regime survival therefore lies with the loyalty of the Revolutionary Guards. It matters not if 90% of the Iranian people turn against the regime so long as the IRGC remains loyal to the Supreme Leader. Western politicians can hope for muddle-through reform, but ultimately change will come when the IRGC defects, much like regime change came to Romania after Nikolai Ceausescu’s security forces switched sides. The Iranian regime is aware of this, and so IRGC members are seldom stationed in their home provinces minimizing the risk that units will refuse to fire on crowds which might contain family members, friends, or neighbors.

If the Islamic Republic does not fall, then the regime will have made a Faustian bargain. The IRGC will become a predominant force, dominating not only political life, but also economic and religious life. What we are now seeing is a slow, creeping coup d’├ętat. The Islamic Republic is becoming a military dictatorship, albeit one with a religious patina.

About the Interviewee: Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School, and lecturer at Johns Hopkins University

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