Current democracy promotion efforts assume unrealistic timetable for success
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The U.S. democracy initiative is based on the faulty assumption of the Iranian regime's vulnerability. Although the administration generally concedes that democracy promotion is the work of generations, it is clear from the size of the program and the breathlessness of U.S. appeals to Iranians that a much faster timetable is intended. Anticipating the next revolution is a longtime Washington parlor game, and each new rumble of discontent from Tehran brings a new avalanche of headlines predicting the regime's imminent demise. These expectations, while faulty, are not entirely without foundation. Iran has all of the risk factors for a revolutionary break: a disproportionately young population; restive ethnic minorities; an inefficient, distorted economy; and a regime mired in an obsolescent ideology, riven by factional feuds and reliant on repression.But the focus on these weaknesses overlooks the unfortunate evidence that the Iranian regime retains enormous repressive capacity over society and appears to be firmly entrenched in power for the foreseeable future. Its track record is worth noting. The Islamic Republic has survived every, calamity short of the plague: war, isolation, instability, terrorist attacks, leadership transition, drought and epic earthquakes. This does not imply that the regime is impregnable, nor that its leaders view it as such. Rather, the endurance of Iran's revolutionary, regime through multiple crises is a testament to the adaptive capacity of the system and its leaders as well as to the lack of any viable alternative power center.