Staunton, January 5 – If the Iranian protests succeed in overthrowing the ayatollahs, that will constitute a crushing defeat for Russia’s foreign policy line and undermine its hold on the population, Aleksandr Skobov says; but even if they do not succeed, they show the fragility of any effort to engage in authoritarian modernization, the course the Kremlin has decided on.
“Without exaggeration,” the Russian commentator says, “the current events n Iran have a tectonic character and are capable of significantly changing the entire situation in the world” both in the region and more generally and both now and in the decades to come (graniru.org/Politics/World/Mideast/m.266746.html).
According to Skobov, “the possible fall of the regime of the ayatollahs would be a crushing blow to the entire foreign policy construction of the Kremlin – and that means as well the domestic political stability of the Putin regime.” That is why the regime’s media have tried to hard to dismiss the Iranian protests as marginal and the work of Western conspirators.
Were the regime in Iran to change, Russia would have to pull back from Syria and its plans for a military base there, something that “by itself” would involve “a serious psychological trauma for the vaunted ‘Putin majority,’” which sees in these things a marker of Putin’s and their own recovered greatness.
Moreover, he continues, “Kremlin propaganda” has become so defensive of any regime in power that “this same ‘Putin majority’ views any revolutionary overthrow of any cannibalistic regime in any part of the globe as a shameful defeat of the Kremlin.” And for the Kremlin, Iran is “the only significant non-virtual ally of the Putin Kremlin” in its campaign against the West.
But as important as these developments would be, the Iranian events already carry a larger and even more disturbing message to Putin and the Russian people. They show that a people with a great culture can give rise to a horrific despotism and then the popular revolutionary movements that can overthrow it.
That was what happened at the end of the shah’s rule and opened the way for a moment when the ayatollahs could seize power. Many in Moscow today are breathing easier now that the protests in Iran appear to be ebbing; but that is a mistake, Skobov argues, noting that in 1979 protests ebbed and flowed until they finally won out despite repression.
“The Islamic Revolution in Iran has much in common with the Russian Revolution,” he says. Both show “how a genuinely popular, democratic and it would seem victorious revolution can degenerate into the blackest and most obscurantist reaction” and give rise to a regime even more repressive than the one it overthrew.
And the two revolutions were also a revolutionary response to “the wild archaism” of efforts at “authoritarian modernization” that destabilized society but did not produce the results their leaders promised. Indeed, they showed that that strategy is ultimately a failure, that it fails to produce genuine stability and can “at any moment” collapse into the most reactionary forms.
But at the same time, Skobov says, the history of Iran for all the tragedies it contains also provides the basis for optimism. “It is a threatening warning about the fact that regimes based on the suppression of the human personality are ultimately condemned to failure.”
“Any authoritarianism, be it ‘progressive’ or traditionalist, involves the use of force against human nature. And sooner or later, that nature rises against the regime which is killing its life. The history of Iran shows that a people can rise for freedom” and that this rising can be general and not the work of some small minority.
Forty years ago, “the people of Iran rose against the forces of the modernizers from SAWAK. Now it is rising against the medieval ayatollahs.” That is the larger threat that the Iranian events present to Putin’s regime, and it explains why his media mouthpieces are doing all they can to suggest otherwise.