Jason Lee Steorts, writing at the National Review Online, suggests the possibility that Iran, like Poland in 1980, could be poised for a worker-triggered regime change. Apparently despite the vast oil wealth pouring into Iran, the Iranian economy is in chaos — something not uncommon under a regime that stifles the free market. Workers strike on a regular basis, not at the local, employer level, but by picketing government offices. Steorts wonders whether these workers will become politicized, as Solidarity was, and take on the government. He urges Western support for the workers, both rhetorical (as Reagan and Thatcher provided for the Polish strikers) and practical (in the form of NGO funds funneled directly to the strikers).
I think Steorts' idea is an intriguing one, and I've heard it expressed before, so I know he's not a lone voice in the wilderness. I foresee a few problems, though. First, Poland, despite a generation under Communism, still had a rich history of Western thinking, as well as a deep-rooted desire for freedom from Russia — something going back to the 19th Century. There is no such history of "freedom thinking" in Iran. Indeed, as a Muslim country, the concept of "Submission" is the highest religious and civil goal. This is especially true in a country where the religious and political leaders are one and the same.
Second, horrific as the Soviets were, I'm not sure that the Iranians aren't even scarier. Yes, the Soviets killed millions upon millions of their own citizens, but it was discrete. People were hustled away in the darkness and their punishments kept behind walls. People knew of these punishments, and feared them, but the Soviets kept a clinical distance. This differs from the head-chopping, hand-whacking, stoning, whipping culture that dominates Iran. There's no attempt at due process, something that the Soviets, in a weird, hallucinatory way, pretended to observe. It strikes me that those Iranian workers who are protesting job conditions are already acting with extraordinary bravery. On this blood saturated soil, will they be able to go the extra mile?
Third, I'm doubtful about the efficacy of NGOs. Nowadays, every NGO seems to have been coopted by an anti-American, anti-Capitalist agenda. It's hard to imagine a pro-Democracy organization even getting into Iran country today, what with the International Red Cross and the UN running the show. In the Communist era, the AFL-CIO, for all it's anti-Capitalist rhetoric at home, was fiercely anti-Communist abroad, and provided a lot of moral support for the Solidarity movement. Do you know of a large American/Western organization that exists now that would do the same?
Anyway, as I said, it's a good idea, but I have my doubts.