RIOTIRANBehrouzMehri:Getty

It's far too early to make sense of what is happening, and what just happened in Iran. It could be another episode of tragic suppression of stirrings of democracy and reform in that theocratic state. It could be a new, more significant marker in the regime's loss of legitimacy among its educated classes. It could possibly lead to real unrest, as riots today revealed, and a much less stable regime. It could lead to an even more disturbingly aggressive and know-nothing government, threatening the world and the region with weapons of mass destruction, precipitating awful conflict. Or it could mean that many of us have been deluding ourselves in thinking that there is not widespread popular support in Iran for hardline religious conservatism.

How the US and Israel and the Arab states react will depend on the next few days and weeks. But if the regime hardens still further, the silver lining is that it could help garner more international support for much more serious economic sanctions and international isolation. It could accelerate the possible Israeli-Sunni alliance against Iran, which might help broker an Arab-Israeli settlement.

Of course, I hope for real resistance in Iran and a weakening of the regime. Despite tactical disagreements, most Westerners want that to happen. And now, even more obviously than before, vast numbers of Iranians despise this dictatorship and want it gone. That's the promise of the green revolution. It will not die because the yearning for freedom never does. But the struggle never ends.

(Photo: A supporter of defeated Iranian presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi flashes the victory sign as he stands in front of a burning police motorcyle during a protest in Valiasr Street in Tehran on June 13, 2009. By Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty.)

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