Through everyday acts of defiance such as work stoppages, student protests and denunciations through social media, the opposition contests the regime’s justifications, unraveling its fabrications and denigrating its claims of omnipresence. Such dissent is subversive, as it lifts the ideological veils that loyalists must cloak themselves in to endure and enforce regime commands. For instance, the Islamic Republic had offered its torturers the comfortable illusion of morality by saying that their brutal acts were designed to uphold a virtuous republic forged in the path of God. The Green movement’s ideological triumph has exposed the lie: State functionaries can no longer deceive their conscience. Khamenei and Ahmadinejad oversee an elite divided against itself, with first-generation revolutionaries and esteemed clerics joining the rank of dissidents and security organs unsure of their cadre.
On top of their domestic stress, Khamenei and his cohorts have to confront the contagion of the Arab Spring. Iran cannot remain hermetically sealed from the transitions taking place around it. The regime’s crude attempts to link the Arab uprisings to its own Islamist revolution underscore the depth of its concerns. For its part, the Green movement needs to respond to the challenge of the Arab awakening and move beyond de-legitimizing the regime into confronting it on the streets. As the region evolves and the Islamic Republic’s power structures continue to erode, change is likely to come full circle from where it all started — the streets of Tehran. The Green movement and the Arab Spring are intimately linked, sharing the same values and shaping each other’s destinies.