The opposition is still alive: You could see that in video footage of a crowd defacing a poster of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, an act of public defiance that would have been unimaginable a year ago. But this is a movement in retreat, for now, driven back by the ferocity of the regime.
Repression comes at a cost. Iran’s power in the Middle East came from the idea that it was different from the undemocratic police states of the region, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia. That moral legitimacy has been shattered. The men who run Iran are now revealed as just another clique holding on to power.
That’s what the world saw today in Tehran: The commemoration of a revolution whose moral, spiritual and political force is being wasted by the people who now claim to speak in its name. All revolutions have arcs: This one has crested and is heading gradually but inexorably downward.