In an essay for the Monthly Review Web site MRZine, Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, author of Iran in World Politics: The Question of the Islamic Republic, argues that what we are witnessing in Iran is not a revolution so much as a political struggle and cautions against drawing too many parallels with the events of 1979.
(Needless to say Adib-Moghaddam’s perspective is not without its detractors. The essay was also posted on the site Lenin’s Tomb and has been the subject of a very lively discussion.)
Adib-Moghaddam argues that unlike 1979 when the Shah was the clear enemy to broad segments of the Iranian population, there continues to be widespread loyalty to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and even Ahmadinejad. Moreover, while the Shah’s regime was unequivocally totalitarian in nature, the Islamic Republic “has proven to be rather responsive to societal demands and rather flexible ideologically.”
Mousavi himself, as Adib-Moghaddam and others have suggested, is far from a revolutionary and has always been a part of the Islamic Republic’s establishment. In challenging the notion that events in Iran signal a desire to upend the Islamic Republic, Adib-Moghaddam writes,
“When some commentators say that what we are witnessing is a revolution they are at best naive and at worst following their own destructive agenda. The dispute is about the future path of the Islamic Republic and the meaning of the revolution — not about overthrowing the whole system. It is a game of politics and the people who are putting their lives at risk seem to be aware of that. They are aware, in other words, that they are the most important force in the hands of those who want to gain or retain power.”