Iran is in the midst of a sweeping crackdown that both Iranians and U.S. analysts compare to a cultural revolution in its attempt to steer the oil-rich theocracy back to the rigid strictures of the 1979 revolution.
The move has quashed or forced underground many independent civil society groups, silenced protests over issues including women's rights and pay rates, quelled academic debate, and sparked society-wide fear about several aspects of daily life, the sources said.
The widespread purges and arrests are expected to have an impact on parliamentary elections next year and the presidential contest in 2009, either discouraging or preventing reformers from running against the current crop of hard-liners who dominate all branches of government, Iranian and U.S. analysts say. The elections are one of several motives behind the crackdowns, they add.
"The current crackdown is a way to instill fear in the population in order to discourage them from future political agitation as the economic situation begins to deteriorate," said Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "You're going to think twice about taking to the streets to protest the hike in gasoline prices if you know the regime's paramilitary forces have been on a head-cracking spree the last few weeks."
I disagree that the reason for this sudden crack-down is to "steer the oil-rich theocracy back to the rigid strictures of the 1979 revolution." I think that's pure propaganda. The real reason is a rise in the level of dissent the regime sees as dangerous to its further existence:
Despite promises to use Iran's oil revenue to aid the poor, Ahmadinejad's economic policies have backfired, triggering 20 percent inflation over the past year, increased poverty and a 25 percent rise in the price of gas last month. More than 50 of the country's leading economists wrote an open letter to Ahmadinejad this week warning that he is ignoring basic economics and endangering the country's future.
Ahmadinejad's policies have paved the road to ruin and that on top of this increase in authoritarian interference in the lives of Iranians has just about pushed the population to the point that popular uprising isn't such a far fetched thing anymore. Thus the authoritarian crack-down couched in religious language to disguise the real reason for doing so.
Look carefully at the following paragraph:
Iran's Supreme National Security Council last month also laid out new censorship rules in a letter to news outlets, instructing them to refrain from writing about public security, oil price increases, new international economic sanctions, inflation, civil society movements, or negotiations with the United States on the future of Iraq, according to Iranian journalists.
Sounds real 'religious' to me, doesn't it you?
And what should we do? That's easy, keep up the pressure economically, diplomatically and politically. With patience, this could actually work out in our favor.
It does pretty much only allow discussion of crime and gossip and morality. Morality = religion to many people and so they will look to their recognised moral leaders (who happen to be statist mullahs). The state can frame debate in terms of the immorality of rising against the state, so that questioning the regime is heresy and not just dissent.
And what should we do? That’s easy, keep up the pressure economically, diplomatically and politically. With patience, this could actually work out in our favor.
Perhaps. Economically the regime is still solvent enough to operate through the oil revenue and the economic sanctions do not target this. Diplomatic reality will change once they develop nuclear weapons so that they are more respected/feared (same thing). And politically the West is (in Islamic terms) immoral.