Identifying the Strength of Iranian Opposition Groups
Project AdvisorCastillo, Jasen J.
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Angry about the results of the 2009 elections, the Iranian opposition took to the streets, coordinating widespread protests to challenge the authority of the regime in Tehran. The protests hampered, but did not stop, the regime's effort to impose its favorite candidate for president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The strength of this opposition appears to have caught both the government and the international community by surprise. Our sponsor asked this Capstone group to address the following questions: How strong are Iranian opposition groups? Under what conditions could they pose a threat to the regime? To answer these questions, the project develops a framework comparing opposition groups and regimes across different historical cases. We argue the Iranian regime retains a strong grip on power, using both the threat of US intervention and domestic support for its nuclear program to rally support for the government. Unlike recent revolutions in the Arab world, the opposition stands little chance of toppling the government. Opposition movements lack the resources to seriously challenge the government. The project's framework also identified the conditions under which the Iranian opposition might gain enough strength to overthrow the regime. We summarize our findings in both a briefing and a paper. Our findings aim to help intelligence analysts decide which indicators to use when assessing the strength of Iranian opposition groups, and opposition groups in general. The project team briefed the sponsor in Washington, DC, on May 11, 2011.
Barnes, Riley; Davis, Stephen; Enderle, Dori; Jacobs, Matt; Joost, Laura; Perkins, Mike; Snodgrass, Steven; Stone, Nathanael; Woolfolk, Melisa (2011). Identifying the Strength of Iranian Opposition Groups. Available electronically from