Tariq Al-Homayed
Saudi journalist and writer, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

Iran: 80/20

The question now is: how do we understand Iran? What impact will its protests have? What is the difference between them and what came to be known as the ‘Green Revolution' in 2009, which former US President Barack Obama, for electoral reasons, has finally apologized for not supporting?

When and how will we know that Iran has reached a point from which there is no going back? When can we say that the cup has overflowed?

I posed all of these questions to a figure who knows Iran well, both because of his background and his life, and who plays an influential role in assessing the situation in Iran internationally.

My informed source told me that a prominent figure inside Iran familiar with the inner workings of the regime had informed him that the supporters of the mullah regime could be split 80/20.

My source tells me that the well-informed Iranian has told him that “20 percent of Iranians believe in the regime ideologically. And 80 percent support the regime out of pure self-interest.”

An Arab diplomat watching the situation in Iran closely has told me that “this is true for all the ideological regimes in the region, like the Baath regime that had ruled Iraq during the era of Saddam Hussein, the Baath regime in Syria, and the Muslim Brotherhood’s time in power in Egypt.

“The same is true for Sudan when it was led by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Muslim Brotherhood’s (through Hamas) rule over Gaza,” he continues, explaining that ideology has inherently low horizons. “Love makes you blind,” as they say, and this is the total opposite of political pragmatism.

My well-informed source adds that to understand Iran and whether the protests there, which have been ongoing for nearly two months, are genuine or not, we should note two things and keep in mind that what is happening today is very different from what we had seen in 2009.

My source tells me that in 2009, political protests over the rules of the game broke out. The protests were against the manipulation of the election results. “What happened to my vote,” was the rallying cry. It had an obvious leadership, and repressing it repressed the entire ‘Green Revolution.’ Today, we are seeing something totally different, a socio-political protest movement that is inherently diverse.

It is impossible, for example, to erase the image of the Iranian woman in her eighties cutting her hair in solidarity with the women of Iran.

It is also impossible to overlook the image of another Iranian woman letting her hair down in the streets of Tehran and lifting her fist in a salute to the men and women around her as she gave out candy. In one video, she appears to salute an Iranian soldier in uniform with her fist.

In the latter video, the soldier replies with a smile, and she offers him a piece of candy, which he takes without a second thought. We could not have imagined seeing the videos that are now circulating of Iranian women taking “turbans” off the heads of Iranian clerics in the streets.

Alright, when will we know that Iran has reached a point of no return? The source tells me: there are two things to look out for. First, whether the protests are bottom-up, and they are. Second, whether there are splits within the top brass of the regime; once we see this, we will know that the winds of change are coming.

Let us wait and see.