PETER KOHANLOO: An Iranian Revolution of National Dignity.

After nearly four decades of plunderous and fanatical Islamist rule, Iranians are desperate to become a normal nation-state once more, and they refuse to be exploited for an ideological cause that long ago lost its luster. It is a watershed moment in Iran’s history: The illusion of reform within the current theocratic system has finally been shattered. Iranians, you might say, are determined to make Iran great again.

Their movement is attuned to the worldwide spirit of nationalist renewal. From the U.S. to India, and from South Africa to Britain, political leaders and the voters who elect them are reaffirming the enduring value of the nation-state. Iran hasn’t been immured from these developments, as the slogans of the current protests indicate. No longer using the rights-based lexicon of votes and recounts, Iranians are instead demanding national dignity from a regime that for too long has subjugated Iranian-ness to its Shiite, revolutionary mission.

It’s notable, for example, that protestors chant “We Will Die to Get Iran Back,” “Not Gaza, Not Lebanon, My Life Only for Iran,” and “Let Syria Be, Do Something for Me.” Put another way: The people are tired of paying the price for the regime’s efforts to remake the region in its own image and challenge U.S. “hegemony.” Some have even taken to chanting “Reza Shah, Bless Your Soul,” expressing gratitude and nostalgia for the Pahlavi era, which saw the modern, pro-Western nation-state of Iran emerge from the shambles of the Persian Empire.

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