Charles Krauthammer

True, but that overlooked two extremely important points. First, while Mousavi himself was originally only a few inches to Ahmadinejad's left on the political spectrum -- being hand-picked by the ruling establishment precisely for his ideological reliability -- Mousavi's support was not restricted to those whose views matched his. He would have been the electoral choice of everyone to his left, a massive national constituency -- liberals, liberalizers, secularists, monarchists, radicals and visceral opponents of the entire regime -- that dwarfs those who shared his positions, as originally held.

Moreover, Mousavi's positions have changed, just as he has. He is far different today from the Mousavi who began this electoral campaign.

Revolutions are dynamic, fluid. It is true that two months ago there was little difference between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi. But that day is long gone. Revolutions outrun their origins. And they transform their leaders.

Mikhail Gorbachev and Yeltsin both began as orthodox party regulars. They subsequently evolved together into reformers. Then came the revolution. Gorbachev could not shake himself from the system. Yeltsin rose up and engineered its destruction.

In the 1980s, Mousavi was Ayatollah Khomeini's prime minister, a brutal enforcer of orthodox Islamism. Twenty years later, he started out running for president advocating little more than cosmetic moderation. But then the revolutionary dynamic began: The millions who rallied to his cause -- millions far to his left -- began to radicalize him. The stolen election radicalized him even more. Finally, the bloody suppression of his followers led him to make statements just short of challenging the legitimacy of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the very foundations of the regime. The dynamic continues: The regime is preparing the basis for Mousavi's indictment (for sedition), arrest, even possible execution. The prospect of hanging radicalizes further.

As Mousavi hovers between Gorbachev and Yeltsin, between reformer and revolutionary, between figurehead and leader, the revolution hangs in the balance. The regime may neutralize him by arrest or even murder. It may buy him off with offers of safety and a sinecure. He may well prefer to let this cup pass from his lips.

But choose he must, and choose quickly. This is his moment and it is fading rapidly. Unless Mousavi rises to it, or another rises in his place, Iran's democratic uprising will end not as Russia 1991, but as China 1989.


Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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