The students in Iran aren't up against a foreign backed puppet, a decadent old monarch, or an impudent oligarch. They are up against a former elite special forces leader who specialized in divide and conquer tactics, intelligence, and asymmetric warfare.
The students in Iran aren't up against a foreign backed puppet, a decadent old monarch, or an impudent oligarch. They are up against a former elite special forces leader who specialized in divide and conquer tactics, intelligence, and asymmetric warfare. Ahmadinejad was one of the founders and high ranking organizers of the cream of the crop of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the Quds force. The Revolutionary Guards are the private army of the Iranian ruling party with their own navy, special forces, intelligence, and militias. The IRG is a separate loyal army that competes with the regular army for resources and gets privileged access when it comes to training, talent acquisition, and funding. This competition is analogous to how Waffen SS in Nazi Germany was the vanguard of National Socialism, competed with the regular army, and often got preferential treatment when it came to talent, recruitment, cutting edge technology, and political influence.
Although IRG has a public ideology for recruitment purposes, its main task ( of keeping the ruling party in power ) forces it into very pragmatic decision making. The Quds force is IRG's CIA/special forces equivalent and like all special/intelligence services worldwide, is completely pragmatic when it comes to alliances with ideological enemies to achieve is goals. The Quds force is not above funding itself with drug money, bribes, and covert business dealings. IRG also employs thousands of ideological youngsters in a civilian militia (Basij) through using the clergy's infrastructure.
Lets make a semi-humorous analogy of what Iranian students are up against using American Republican party in 2004 as an example. Imagine if in 2004, the Republican party had a well funded army to "preserve the Reagan Revolution." This Reagan Revolution Guards had its own bases and access to tanks, factories, aircraft, and almost as many soldiers as the regular American military. The best of the Reagan guards were in elite Freedom Corps that combined CIA, FBI, NSA, homeland security, and Green Berets. Imagine if the Reagan Guards also employed an enormous civilian militia consisting of young Baptist zealots who were called say, College Republicans. Imagine if College Republicans were given legal power to assist the police, the Reagan Guard military, and did the bidding of the top GOP chairman. Imagine if GOP also consisted of a tight alliance of oligarchs and the clergy ( ha ha ). Imagine if like ROTC, College Republicans had local headquarters in every college and sent geeky religious goons to break up drinking parties, harass couples, beat up homosexuals, organize pro-regime rallies, disrupt opposition gatherings, and had the power to call in for police reinforcement whenever they felt like it. Finally, imagine that it financially paid to be a part of the College Republicans and the Reagan Guards since the GOP party oligarchs controlled the major industries of the country and only shared the profits with supporters through job perks and higher salaries. 2004 comes along and GOP mullahs only allow George Bush and John McCain to run. They then blatantly manipulate the elections with state controlled media to swing the elections towards Bush and use College Republicans and the police to make sure there isn't any unrest.
Makes one's blood boil doesn't it? In most of the world, including United States, there are always more uneducated poor religious people than bourgeois liberals and secular intellectuals. In Iran, the uneducated and the poor have been effectively manipulated by the wealthy clergy for close to thirty years.
The IRG are there to pacify the urban areas (where the intellectuals and middle class are dominant) and to counterbalance the underfunded non-ideological military. The students are substantially split between themselves along class and education lines through the Basij student union. Ahmadinejad knows that pacification of youth is key in a country where the average age is very low compared to aging European countries. Just like Putin promoted youth organization NASHI in Russia, Ahmadinejad made sure to promote Basij as a loyal student body. How reliable they are is yet to be seen.
NASHI is organized primarily around nationalism and job perks just like Hitler youth was. Basij is also organized around nationalism and job perks but also has the religious fundamentalist element. Considering that neither NASHI, college republicans, or Hitler youth have any monopoly on nationalism, that might be the weakest bond within Basij. In terms of job perks, the current regime has not made much effort to diversify from oil and unlike Russia they don't have too many other commodities to withstand the severe recent drop in oil prices. Job perks as an incentive may increasing lay in the promise of a liberal reformist movement. That leaves fundamentalist Islam as key glue to motivate the Basij youth. As most people know the trademark of the deeply religious youths is geekyness, unsexy clumsy prudishness, and often sadistic authoritarian unpleasantness of the uneducated. Iranian youths like youths anywhere are not immune to ridicule, fashion, trend following, internet, and the appeal of a sexier more liberated society. It is not known how long Basij can exert energies against the pro Mousavi protests taking this into account.
That really leaves the job of suppression and the last line of defense in the hands of the special forces, intelligence, and IRG themselves. Ahmadinejad is relatively young, cunning, and energetic. As a pragmatic former intelligence officer, he has sharp strategic neural capacity to do problem solving. He might not be Putin level or George Bush Sr. level intellect, but the growing role of the position of the Iranian president in recent years (who isn't supposed to be in control of foreign policy), shows that Ahmadinejad is very capable at building alliances and increasing personal power. As such, it's very possible that he'll be able to find enough allies to create a believable impression that the protests are dying out, do mass swarm arrests in smaller cities to scare the key opposition leaders in Tehran, and string the world along until the bulk of the students are demoralized and dispersed. It remains to be seen whether Khomeni and Ahmadinejad have enough access to economic resources to create such a coalition.
THE FUTURE IS RUSHING UPON US
We're in for a wild ride. Exponentially accelerating technological, cultural, and socioeconomic evolution means that every year will see more developments than the previous one. More change will happen between now and 2050 than during all of humanity's past. Let's explore the 21st century and ride this historic wave of planetary transition with a confident open mind.