For all our sentimental belief in the ultimate triumph of those on the “right side of history,” nothing is inevitable. This second Iranian revolution is on the defensive, even in retreat. To recover, it needs mass, because every dictatorship fears the moment when it gives the order to the gunmen to shoot at the crowd. If they do (Tiananmen), the regime survives; if they don’t (Romania’s Ceausescu), the dictators die like dogs. The opposition needs a general strike and major rallies in the major cities — but this time with someone who stands up and points out the road ahead.

Desperately seeking Yeltsin. Does this revolution have one? Or to put it another way, can Mousavi become Yeltsin?…

In the 1980s, Mousavi was Ayatollah Khomeini’s prime minister, a brutal enforcer of orthodox Islamism. Twenty years later, he started out running for president advocating little more than cosmetic moderation. But then the revolutionary dynamic began: The millions who rallied to his cause — millions far to his left — began to radicalize him. The stolen election radicalized him even more. Finally, the bloody suppression of his followers led him to make statements just short of challenging the legitimacy of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the very foundations of the regime. The dynamic continues: The regime is preparing the basis for Mousavi’s indictment (for sedition), arrest, even possible execution. The prospect of hanging radicalizes further.

As Mousavi hovers between Gorbachev and Yeltsin, between reformer and revolutionary, between figurehead and leader, the revolution hangs in the balance.