Iran exploded in revolt again Monday. Demonstration organizers cleverly announced a march in solidarity with the people of Egypt, whom the government says it supports wholeheartedly. The regime, then, was caught in a bind. It can’t very well cheer the Egyptian street while cracking its own people’s heads. Well, it can, but not without losing even more credibility at home than it already has.
The Iranian people will have a harder time than the Tunisians and Egyptians did, not only because Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are much more thoroughly repressive than Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak, but also because Iran’s tyrants may have nowhere to run. Mubarak has reportedly retired to the resort town of Sharm El Sheikh on the Sinai Peninsula while Ben Ali has decamped to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, but only three Middle Eastern countries could conceivably give shelter to Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, and they’re all long shots.
The Iranian regime is a Shia theocracy, and almost all Muslim lands are governed by Sunnis. That poses a serious problem for theocratic Shias all by itself. Iraq is an exception, but Tehran sponsored militias that tried to destroy Baghdad’s elected Shia-dominated government. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has tried to establish decent relations with Iran lately, but he also sent his army into battle alongside Americans against Iranian-sponsored militias.