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New America Foundation: Iran Missed the Real Revolution

Author: Afshin Molavi
October 3, 2013


"Iran's rulers, like all men of revolutions, live in the long shadow of the revolution that made them. To them, the revolution is both home and prison. As home, it is a source of identity; as prison, it locks them in ideological boxes, and spawns holier-than-thou tests of will between purists and pragmatists."

Iran's 1979 revolution still reverberates across the world. A revolution in the truest sense, it swept away the old order, delivered a new one, reordered regional and global geopolitics, and spawned hope, inspiration, joy, terror, destruction, despair and disenchantment.

The one thing it didn't do was improve people's living standards.

One thing we know about modern revolutionaries: they rarely make sensible policy choices that benefit their own people. They are too busy living up to the "ideals" of their revolution, fighting with foes, real or imagined, and, of course, remaking the world. Even 34 years on, the mere fact that new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani feared shaking President Obama's hand in public at the United Nations and offered only a tepid endorsement of the Holocaust's veracity tells the story of a political elite still boxing in the shadows of 1979.

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