Iran’s Islamic Revolution: Lessons for the Arab Spring of 2011?

By Michael Eisenstadt Strategic Forum 267

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Iran's Islamic Revolution: Lessons for the Arab Spring of 2011?
Iran's Islamic Revolution: Lessons for the Arab Spring of 2011?
Strategic Forum 267
Photo By: Michael Eisenstadt
VIRIN: 180314-D-BD104-012

Key Points

  • Iran’s experience in 1978–1979 and after highlights key factors that could shape the outcome of the political struggles defining the Arab spring of 2011: the quality of regime leadership; the nature of civil-military relations; the training, equipment, employment, and cohesion of regime security forces; and the extent of foreign support. 
  • The Shah’s military was the main pillar of his rule but failed to quash the Islamic Revolution in 1978–1979. Reasons include the Shah’s weak leadership, a military incapable of acting coherently to counter opposition demonstrations and propaganda, and the Shah’s belief that the United States no longer supported him. 
  • The leadership of the Islamic Republic has avoided repeating the many mistakes of the Shah. It has acted resolutely, created specialized security forces and employed them effectively, calibrated the use of force to prevent escalating violence, and cowed much of the opposition through a campaign of intimidation.

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