Don’t let the hype out of Tehran fool you. To hear Iranian officials tell it, the geopolitical earthquake now taking place in the Middle East and North Africa represents an “Islamic awakening” that will forge a new regional order more sympathetic to the Islamic Republic and its great power ambitions.
But the renewed anti-regime uprisings that have taken place in recent weeks in Tehran, Isfahan, Mashad, Shiraz and other cities—and the brutality of the Iranian government’s response to them—tell a very different story. Clearly, Iran’s ayatollahs are deeply worried that the “Arab Spring” taking place in the region could end up bringing down their theocracy as well, and are working feverishly to prevent such an eventuality.
Far less obvious is what the U.S. can and should do about it. Conventional wisdom within the Beltway is that the White House has only limited ability to influence the course of democracy within the Islamic Republic—and therefore shouldn’t even try. In fact, there’s quite a bit America can do, and do now, to aid Iran’s opposition.