Today’s Tehran feels like East Berlin, ca. 1975: secret police on the prowl, phone calls tapped, secret meetings after midnight with dissidents in hiding. Iran has long been a scary place for those who dare to challenge the government, but in the year since anti-government protests nearly brought the regime down, the climate of fear has deepened. It is the worst I’ve seen in six years of traveling there. Dissidents who last year told us they were on the verge of a revolution, are now demoralized.
But while the regime has stifled the protest movement, it has not wiped away the anger at the government. With this in mind, I’ve asked several contacts for signs of hope.
A student protest leader, whom I’ll call Ahmad to protect his identity, finds hope in new attempts to bring labor unions into the opposition movement: “In my view the opposition has a lot of work to do but new forces are beginning to grow and I’m sure they’ll bring about change.”
Potkin Azarmehr, a London-based dissident who blogs at http://azarmehr.blogspot.com/ added this:
“The circle of those in the ruling elite is getting smaller and smaller. None of Ayatollah Khomeini's descendants favor the status quo. Yesterday, they announced that the local council elections which should have taken place later this year will be postponed for another two years. There are no more people carrying out repression out of conviction but purely for money. I think these are the signs that now that the legitimacy of the regime has gone. It will soon crumble away itself.”
Meir Javedanfar, head of MEEPAS and author of 'The Nuclear Sphinx of Iran' writes: "I believe that the planned reform of subsidies in Iran could create a spike in opposition to the government. How that translates into feet on the street depends on the security measures taken. In their absence, we could see disturbances on the streets again. The fact that people dared pour out onto the streets during the elections created an important precedent for such demonstrations
The recent sanctions, especially by the EU against Iran's oil sector are likely to hit the government hard, in the medium to long term.
That, together with increasing unemployment could create a combustible atmosphere. How and when it explodes depends on the question of Khamenei's succession and how much cohesion exists between the leadership and the IRGC."