Like Sullivan, I’m hopeful that Ahmadinejad and Khamenei have bitten off more than they can chew. It will be a great moment for freedom and democracy if their regime falls – hopefully in a way that yields a stable representative government. I worry that Sullivan’s coverage is a little bit Pollyanna-ish. On his blog every twitter-reported protest seems millions strong and the police stand aside like lambs. But there are also plenty of videos where the police do beat protesters, and there has been at least one large pro-Ahmadinejad demonstration in Tehran, so we’ll have to wait and see.
If Ahmadinejad falls, the main question in the US will likely be – which party gets credit? It’s probably mostly nonsense to talk in the short-term about credit for a country’s internal politics, but it’s likely nonsense. The leftist position seems pretty clear: Obama, by offering to negotiate with Ahmedinejad, undermined his hostile rhetoric and created space for more dovish politicians. By contrast, neoconservatives will argue that the close proximity to Iraq’s less managed democracy sharpened Iranians’ hunger for the real thing. Which argument is better? Check your political affiliation and decide accordingly.