This inability to mobilize should not be mistaken for a decrease in passion. The internal conflict in Iran’s government shows that the regime’s wounds remain unhealed and, if anything, are expanding as Ahmadinejad makes politically explosive moves like firing the foreign minister. The opposition just needs that triggering moment that enflames the population. And Ahmadinejad may be giving them just that by ending subsidies for some consumer items despite widespread outrage.
One of the most underreported Iran-related stories is that the regime has begun phasing out subsidies, causing huge increases in the price of food and other essential items. Gasoline prices rose by almost 60 percent over a single night, though the regime is selling fuel at a major discount to try to stem the blowback. The regime’s catch-22 is much tougher to manage than the Greens’. The regime is suffering from a major gasoline shortage, but the last time it tried to ration gasoline in 2007 it resulted in gas stations being set on fire throughout Tehran. The current course is unsustainable. Already, taxi drivers in Hamedan have gone on strike and bus drivers in Bandar Abbas and factory workers in Khuzestan, Qazvin, and Tehran are calling for action.
The regime is still on a downward trajectory, even if its security forces have not defected en masse and huge protests have been stopped from happening this year. The struggle is still happening, yet the media has acted as if it’s been over since July 2009. Equally impressive protests later that year received only a fraction of the attention the post-“election” ones did. In 2010, there has been virtually no coverage of other protests, including the most recent ones on Student Day and Ashura. The Western media didn’t even pay any attention to the recent testimony of an alleged Iranian nuclear scientist that claimed he personally worked on developing a nuclear bomb at a secret enrichment site. As far as I know, even Fox News didn’t run a segment about it.
The Greens now have an additional obstacle ahead of them: impressing the Western media. To do so, they will need that galvanizing moment that causes the Iranian people to make their voices heard as they did in 2009. Perhaps the regime will make the misstep of arresting Mousavi or Karroubi or the controversial subsidy plan will cause a headline-generating workers’ strike that will arise too quickly for the regime to stop it. Maybe we’ll have to wait a little bit longer for Khamenei to die and spark a vicious battle inside the regime. Whatever that event may be, it will come and the Iranian people will again scream to be heard by the media.