Iran's Durable Revolution

Do not step on Persian carpets or mullahs, for they will increase in value.

--Persian Proverb

Four years after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's triumphant return to Teheran, Iran's Islamic Revolution has defied the doom-sayers. It has weathered a series of convulsions, any of which might have brought down weaker regimes. The failure of the provisional government of Mehdi Bazargan stripped the middle class intelligentsia and bazaar merchants of power and influence, and deprived the regime of much-needed technocratic expertise. The hostage-taking contributed to Iran's diplomatic isolation and further damaged its economy. The border war with Iraq drained Iran's treasury and tested its military might. Terrorist activities by urban guerrilla organizations killed important revolutionary leaders and engendered fear among the populace. Yet the regime has managed somehow to survive.

This is due in large measure to erratic but shrewd state-building by Khomeini and the clerical leadership. The regime has integrated elements from the Shah's time into the revolution, built a domestic policy around national pride, religious fervor and self-sacrifice and a foreign policy on an adherence to "neither East nor West." Revolutionary institutions have been created, but many of the Shah's institutions have been kept; only the personnel have been changed. A desperate economic situation is looking hopeful for the first time since the revolution, in large measure because revolutionary ideology has given way to a more pragmatic approach. A new policy of less repression may signal the beginning of more personal freedom. The Iran-Iraq war ironically has given the regime the opportunity to create a battle-tested military force of the army and revolutionary militia-the most formidable in the region.

Iran, therefore, has survived certain tests, and achieved stability on its own terms. It remains committed to an ideology of revolutionary exportation which frightens its Muslim neighbors. Interestingly, the superpowers have been relegated to the sidelines in the unfolding of Iran's Revolution. Both the United States and the Soviet Union must face the fact that the Iranian regime is not going to collapse

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