Indeed, I find myself agreeing with the Guardian's Tom Porteous who aptly observes:
Monday, June 22, 2009
First it was the U.S., with its pledge of $73 million, and today it's the U.K. seemingly following suit with an additional $8 million (£5m), bringing total U.K. aid to Zimbabwe to $98 million (£60m) for this year alone. Now don't get me wrong, I am very much a proponent of assisting countries in need, but I question whether Zimbabwe has reformed itself to such an extent as to warrant such sizable aid packages. Surely the power-sharing government is a step in the right direction, but in my view not enough to merit such generous aid flows. At least not yet.
As protests in Iran continue to unfold, one can't help but wonder where all of this is leading. It's difficult to imagine Iran returning to status quo after such passionate uprisings, even less so given that Iran's most senior panel of election monitors have admitted "errors" in the vote count. Indeed, there doesn't appear to be any way of turning back - and rightly there shouldn't. Yet deciphering what will happen next is tantamount to uncovering the inner workings of the Soviet politburo. Middle East politics are de facto elite politics, with shifting loyalties and political expediency as the name of the game. What happens behind closed doors is anybody's guess.
In an attempt to shed some light on the matter (or to perhaps have something to say at all), scholars and casual observers alike have begun drawing analogies between the situation in Iran and previous pro-democracy movements elsewhere. While there certainly are parallels to be drawn, I often cringe at such comparisons: the domestic situations are quite divergent across cases, rendering such analyses gross - and often useless - generalizations at best.
That being said, I have stumbled upon a rather interesting post (both parts I and II are worth reading) comparing the protests in Tehran to those which took place in Tiananmen in 1989. The post is valuable precisely because it highlights the centrality of elite politics in such revolutionary movements, raising important questions which may prove useful in any analysis of the Iranian situation. In China in 1989, for instance, a split emerged within the Communist Party which limited the state's response and gave the movement political space within which to operate (until a point, obviously). Is such a split beginning to transpire in Iran? Has it already, perhaps? The leaders of the Tiananmen protests were largely inexperienced students, whereas Mousavi is an establishment figure. What difference will this make, if any at all?
While asking such questions will likely not lead to any concrete answers, it will endow us with a better understanding of the goings-on in Iran. For inasmuch as such anti-establishment movements are bottom-up, grassroots phenomena they are likewise played out from the top-down - and within the top itself. The question, I suppose, is what will it take for the current regime to crack? And what will happen if and when it does?