A beautiful outlook? (via mohammadali, Flickr)
A lot of Iranians do not remember the coup today: Two-thirds of Iran’s population of 70 million are under the age of 25. They do not have much of a say, though: The elder clerics still dominate social politics, leading to a terrible human rights record. The destabilization of Iraq has lead international observers fearing a Shia nation in the Middle East, with an islamic Iran being the most important player.
Even though the negotiating-process about the country’s nuclear program remains slow, pessimism may be overblown: Iran’s government faces inflation and a weak economy; its leaders are more concerned with stabilizing the Islamic Revolution at home than with exporting it (also thanks to the improving situation in Iraq) The presidential elections in June may see serious contenders challenging incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, ranging from reformist (and unsuccessful) ex-president Mohammad Khatami to the moderate conservative mayor or Tehran, Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf, who would be my pick if I had to guess the next president.
But in the long run, the conservative establishment will have a hard time keeping up the concept of the American enemy; at the same time, it will be frankly impossible to continue suppressing the cultural move westwards forever, which has been accelerated through the internet and oppressed by moves like the hijab crackdown. But do not believe developments like this will mean secularism and peacefulness: Islam and its clerics will continue to play a dominant cultural role for years, if not decades in Iran; there is also no doubt that Iranian nationalism will be a force to be reckoned with, even if the Mullah’s influence will be diminished.