[B]oth sides' legitimacy depends upon not being the aggressor in the event of violence. That's why, notwithstanding the opposition's dramatic demonstrations and the regime's brutal but relatively limited repressive measures, both sides have essentially been playing for time. It's as if two armies were maneuvering in close proximity, knowing that the first one to open fire loses.
It seems obvious that Khamenei and Moussavi realize this, and I've read reports (Le Monde here) that suggest some of the Revolutionary Guard commanders realize it also. Judging by his rhetoric, though, I'm not convinced that Ahmadinejad realizes it.
My sense is that the only non-violent way out of this impasse that restores the regime's legitimacy (i.e., its stable grip on power) while allowing the opposition to save face is to find a scapegoat. Ahmadinejad would make a useful one, with a plausible scenario then being an interim president followed by a new election. Alternatively, some subordinate to Ahmadinejad could take the fall, with the opposition placated by the kind of institutional accommodation I mentioned yesterday.
The longer this goes on, the less a compromise becomes possible. These people have exposed the sham that is the system. Khamenei has revealed himself a blatant stealer of people's votes. I don't see how he recovers his legitimacy in any way.
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