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From the wikipedia article:
The revolution was unique for the surprise it created throughout the world: it lacked many of the customary causes of revolution (defeat at war, a financial crisis, peasant rebellion, or disgruntled military); produced profound change at great speed; was massively popular; overthrew a regime heavily protected by a lavishly financed army and security services; and replaced an ancient monarchy with a theocracy based on Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists (or velayat-e faqih). Its outcome -- an Islamic Republic "under the guidance of an 80-year-old exiled religious scholar from Qom" -- was, as one scholar put it, "clearly an occurrence that had to be explained."
The environment is different, of course, but the mythology of 1979 is certainly an influencing factor today. For both sides.
There's no question in my mind the regime has the military hardware needed to bring this thing to a bloody, halt. The Revolutionary Guards - the armed wing of the Ahmadinejad faction - certainly has the equipment and trained personal to use the equipment that, deployed, would overpower a bunch of people throwing rocks.
IF they are prepared to water the streets with the blood of their fellow countrymen.
At this point, the regime and, perhaps, the leaders of the National Guard are not willing to do it and/or those who are willing to do it are being restrained.
I merely observe what is not there. ;-)
The situation is obviously unstable. Iran cannot continue forever with their major cities paralyzed with protesters, police, militia, and who-knows-who fighting it out on their streets in an escalating cycle of violence. Recent history, e.g., the 1979 Revolution, shows Iranians ARE willing to accept political and economic chaos over a sustained period of time when they feel it is necessary.
In one analysis, the street protests are going on in the forefront in a background of a power struggle within the Iranian elite. In a sense, the Greens are being protected by the regime; more precisely, some faction(s) within the regime as a weapon against another faction(s). Until the struggle within the Elite is ended the regime, one might say, is fighting itself.
One other thing ...
Chris Cook and other people have continually remarked on the difficulty of getting low level bureaucrats and apparatchiks of the regime to make a frickin' decision. They just won't do it. This tendency operative under "normal" conditions is going to be even more so when these people are under stress. They will hem, haw, waffle, and shuffle paper even with orders they would process as a normal day's work previously. With the top level fighting each other for political survival and the mid-to-low level paralyzed it's impossible for the regime to function. Even at the dysfunctional level they usually operate on.
So far, and we're are in the early innings, the regime has yet to muster the Will to Fight with all the weapons available. Until they gin it up the strategic advantage is with the Greens.
(Tho' there is some problems there, as well.)
She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
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