Kaplan’s latest is in the Washington Post with the op-ed piece titled How a Movement Could Transform the Region. As always, the ComingAnarchy executive summary appears below — click the link for the complete article. Thanks as always to the many loyal readers who send us alerts to Kaplan’s latest articles. We love you guys!
The now-joined struggle for Iranian hearts and minds is where the universal battle of ideas — democracy vs. tyranny — meets the dictates of Middle Eastern geography. Whereas Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states are puzzle pieces carved out of featureless desert, with no venerable traditions of statehood, the roots of a great Persian power occupying the Iranian plateau date to the Achaemenid, Parthian and Sassanid empires… Iran’s governing institutions, however illiberal their current intent, are structurally sounder than most in the Arab world. When the shah was toppled, anarchy did not ensue: Within weeks, a Shiite bureaucratic apparatus filled the void. That sophisticated network reflected not just religion but also Iranian high culture.
The Iran of the ayatollahs was never a one-dimensional tyranny such as Saddam Hussein’s Iraq; it is a complex system with an elected parliament and chief executive. Likewise, Iran’s democracy movement is strikingly Western in its organizational discipline and its urbane use of technology. In terms of development, Iran is much closer to Turkey than to Syria or Iraq. While the latter two live with the possibility of implosion, Iran has an internal coherence that allows it to bear down hard on its neighbors. In the future, a democratic Iran could be, in a benevolent sense, as influential in Baghdad as the murder squads of a theocratic Iran have been in a malignant sense.
As in the former Soviet Union, change in Iran can come only from the inside; only an insider, be it a Mousavi or a Mikhail Gorbachev, has the necessary bona fides to allow daylight into the system, exposing its flaws. Only a staunch supporter of the Islamic Republic such as Mousavi would have been trusted to campaign at all, even as he is now leading a democratic movement that has already undermined the Brezhnevite clerical regime. It is unfinished business of the Cold War that we have been witnessing the past few days.…
Throughout Iranian history, dating to Cyrus the Great, Jews and Persians have often had an alliance against the mass of Arabs and other peoples that border Iran to the west and south. In brief visits to Iran, I have sensed a greater aversion to Saudi Arabia, for instance, than to Israel. A virulent hatred of Jews may turn out to have been an attribute of the clerical regime, which won’t outlive it, at least not to the same extent. The late Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi did, in fact, maintain an implicit alliance with Israel, and future Iranian leaders must look at the world from the same geographical position as he did, without the baggage of Third World radicalism with which the mullahs had been indoctrinated early in the Khomeini period.