- Iran in Ferment
Iran's disputed June 12 presidential election has given rise to an outpouring of public protest and intraelite conflict unprecedented in the thirty-year history of the Islamic Republic. All this has occurred despite the fact that the unelected Council of Guardians carefully vetted the would-be contenders for the presidency and allowed only four regime "insiders" to run: incumbent Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, former Revolutionary Guard commander Mohsen Rezai, former prime minister Mir Hosein Musavi, and former speaker of parliament Mehdi Karrubi. Both of the latter harshly criticized Ahmedinejad and were seen as appealing to "reformist" voters, but as election day drew near it was Musavi's campaign that caught fire and seemed on its way to victory.
Yet hastily issued and hardly credible official results gave Ahmedinejad 63 percent of the vote to 34 percent for Musavi (with only the tiny remainder going to Rezai and Karrubi). This led to the millions-strong protests in Tehran and other cities, to savage repression by the security forces, to the arrest and trial of numerous of demonstrators and prominent reformists, and to continuing recriminations among the regime's leading figures. As of this writing, both Musavi and Karrubi remain free, though Ahmedinejad has now called for them to be prosecuted.
It is risky for a quarterly to attempt to cover still unfolding developments of this kind, as dramatic new events may well occur between the time we go to press and the time that this issue reaches our readers. Nonetheless, we felt that the current crisis of the Islamic Republic was too important to omit coverage of it (especially since we cannot address it in January 2010, when we will be publishing a special issue celebrating the Journal of Democracy's twentieth anniversary).
Accordingly, we have commissioned the three short essays that follow, each of which views the recent developments from a somewhat different angle. Ali Afshari and H. Graham Underwood begin with a look at "The Green Wave," the broad-based and incipiently prodemocratic movement that suddenly emerged in the final weeks of Musavi's campaign and fueled the huge demonstrations that followed. Next, Abbas Milani focuses on the top levels of the regime and examines the fissures that are deeply and perhaps irretrievably dividing former allies. Finally, Ladan Boroumand explores the role played by the civil society forces—students, women, human rights activists—who have long opposed the worst abuses of the Islamic Republic and sought to move their country in a more democratic direction. Even if these essays should prove a bit outdated by the time they appear, we are confident that they will still provide valuable insights into the causes and prospects of the ongoing ferment in Iran.
—The Editors, 1 September 2009 [End Page 5]