S ource: Az News
by Cem Oguz, head of the Turkish Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Just after Slobodan Milosevic was ousted from power in a popular uprising in Yugoslavia, opposition campaign manager Zoran Djindjic, surveying the demise of the regime, said that they were in shock to see how everything the dictator epitomized had collapsed so quickly. “We overestimated the strength of the dictator and his pillars of power,” he then added.
Like many other totalitarian regimes of the past, Milosevic’s government, too, drew its power from its inevitability and the notion that it would never be defeated. The American decision-makers of the time, in turn, believed that shattering this illusion could essentially topple the regime. Henceforth, they made it their mission to convince the Yugoslav people that the dictator could and would indeed be defeated. History eventually proved them right.
As far as Iran concerned, the question of crucial importance should be whether such a strategy could indeed be applied to Iran, as some circles in the West, in Israel in particular, vividly claim it could. But before proceeding, let me underline boldly that Iran is undoubtedly not Yugoslavia and Middle Eastern dynamics dramatically differ from those of the Balkans, or any other region. Iran, at least, has been a power in its own right for nearly 2,500 years.
It is precisely for this reason that I keep repeating that Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s candidature in the presidential elections was a carefully engineered “selection” of Iran’s centuries-long political culture. In that regard, the regime’s capacity to politically mobilize masses becomes critical. It was this capacity, for instance, that Saddam Hussein underestimated in September 1980. As Ayetollah Khomeini did during the Islamic Revolution, Ahmedinejad derives his support mostly from the poor and conservative radicals, the most likely social strata among the Iranian population at present to be mobilized against any foreign aggression and/or intervention. Thus, any ill-planned attempt revolving around extreme measures such as a military attack will soon become a matter of Iranian national pride. Measures like bombing will eventually lead these people to religiously-justified searches for revenge. In the final analysis, it will not only help defiant Ahmedinejad to strengthen his power base but also turn him into a national hero.
The prevailing much-expected discontent seen recently, in turn, is on the whole felt among the ranks of the so-called middle class, the origins of which go back to the reign of Shah Pahlavi. Yet the way they express their discontent or dissatisfaction goes not further than making fun of Ahmedinejad’s Persian or dress. Given this backdrop, it is indeed highly questionable as to whether they might become influential in initiating a change of regime.
The U.S. optimism in the past in hoping to stir up discontent among the minorities was as doubtful as the assumption that ordinary Iranians are ready to rise up against the mullah-led regime. The Azeris excepted, the minority groups in Iran, ranging from the Kurds and Arabs to the Turkmens and Baluchis, do not account for more than 10 to 12 percent of the entire population according to even the most optimistic, or exaggerated, calculations. Besides, they mainly live on the periphery. The only thing they can manage thus may be to cause turmoil on the periphery that wouldn’t much affect the heart of the nation. Put in other words, these groups can achieve little more than to become a thorn in the side of the current regime.
This dilemma is indeed a phenomenon to ponder over and something that brings to mind the famous slogan Bill Clinton used in the presidential race against George H. B. Bush in 1992: “It’s the economy, stupid!”