As in the former Soviet Union, change in Iran can come only from the inside; only an insider, be it a Mousavi or a Mikhail Gorbachev, has the necessary bona fides to allow daylight into the system, exposing its flaws. Only a staunch supporter of the Islamic Republic such as Mousavi would have been trusted to campaign at all, even as he is now leading a democratic movement that has already undermined the Brezhnevite clerical regime. It is unfinished business of the Cold War that we have been witnessing the past few days. The Iranian struggle for democracy is now as central to our foreign policy as that for democracy in Eastern Europe in the 1980s.
It is crucial that we reflect on an original goal of regime change in Iraq. Anyone who supported the war must have known that toppling Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Arab — whether it resulted in stable democracy, benign dictatorship or sheer chaos — would strengthen the Shiite hand in the region. This was not seen as necessarily bad. The Sept. 11 terrorists had emanated from the rebellious sub-states of the sclerotic Sunni dictatorships of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, whose arrogance and aversion to reform had to be allayed by readjusting the regional balance of power in favor of Shiite Iran. It was hoped that Iran would undergo its own upheaval were Iraq to change. Had the occupation of Iraq been carried out in a more competent manner, this scenario might have unfolded faster and more transparently. Nevertheless, it is happening. And not only is Iran in the throes of democratic upheaval, but Egypt and Saudi Arabia have both been quietly reforming apace.