“The Curtain Has Been Pulled from the Islamist Wizard”

Andrew Sullivan isolates the essential result of the last two weeks in Iran:

it seems totally clear to me that the curtain has been pulled from the Islamist Wizard. Theocratic regimes require some base level of reverence, and watching the old Supreme Leader lose it at Friday prayers a week ago, and the bare-faced martial law that has been effectively imposed since, you realize that the mystique has gone for ever. In fact, the whole notion of a democratic Islamist state just hit a wall of contradictions.

He cites John Simpson:

He’s done some pretty dreadful things in his life, from attacking women in the streets for not wearing the full Islamic gear to fighting alongside Islamic revolutionaries in countries abroad.

And yet now, in the tumult that has gripped Iran since its elections last week, he’s had a change of heart.

He’s become a backer of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the reformist candidate who alleges fraud in the elections. He’s saved up the money to send his son to a private school abroad, and he loathes President Ahmadinejad.

He’s not the only one.

I had to leave Iran last Sunday, when the authorities refused to renew my visa. But before I left, another former senior Revolutionary Guard came to our hotel to see us.

“Remember me,” he pleaded. “Remember that I helped the BBC.”

I realised that even a person so intimately linked to the Islamic Revolution thinks that something will soon change in Iran.

The 11 extraordinary days I spent there was my 20th visit in 30 years. I’ve been reviewing the material we recorded, taking a second look at what was really going on.

I think that these last weeks may turn out to be as momentous as the Islamic Revolution I witnessed there 30 years ago.

The Revolutionary Guards with second thoughts illustrate some of the deeper forces driving a crisis which I believe could change Iran forever.

The first big change is that nowadays in Iran, even when you meet an official you can’t necessarily tell which side they’re on.

It’s as if the fabric of the Islamic Revolution itself has been torn; so much so that individual government ministers, civil servants, Republican Guards, senior military men, and all sorts of others, have taken sides, reflecting a power struggle at the very top.

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