I don't think that Reuel Marc Gerecht is overstating this:
A democratic revolution in Tehran could well prove the most momentous Mideastern event since the fall of the Ottoman Empire. A politically freer Iran would bring front and center the great Islamic debate of our times: How can one be both a good Muslim and a democrat? How does one pay homage to Islamic law but give ultimate authority to the people’s elected representatives? How can a Muslim import the best of the West without suffering debilitating guilt?
I am, of course, distressed at the rank show of force in the streets of Iran today, the brutal intimidation of peaceful protestors. But this strength is as brittle as all raw force without legitimacy, and something very profound has occurred in the Iranian soul this past year.
How we cope with this, try to leverage this, try to help the people of Iran is a delicate matter.
I think Obama has handled it with great skill, making sure he does not take the regime's bait, and patiently revealing to the entire world that he is not the obstacle to Iran's peaceful nuclear power aspirations, that he is not belligerent, that his open hand remains open as a way to expose and thereby isolate the junta in Tehran.
The case for targeted sanctions against the junta, not the people - and the support for them - is stronger now than it was a year ago, and it is stronger in large part because of the skill with which Obama has played his hand. There remain the huge problem of China's UN veto, and Israel's potential for a pre-emptive attack. But there is also great reason for hope, resilience and patience.
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