Someone few Americans had ever heard of one week ago now stands poised to alter history. His name is Mir Hossein Mousavi and his case utterly debunks the school of historians who insist that history is made by large impersonal forces rather than by key individuals. While it is certainly true that Iran's current crisis had many antecedents, it is equally true that the decisions of this one man will play a decisive role in the outcome.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has accepted the congratulations of Syria's Bashar Assad and Russia's Dmitri Medvedev on his wonderful victory. Many people find it wonderful, though not in the sense he or Supreme Leader Khamenei would prefer. Ahmadinejad has assured observers that "Iran is the most stable nation in the world." But on the streets of Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz, and other Iranian cities, a broad alliance of Iranians are literally shouting from the rooftops that they will not accept the risible vote tallies announced by the government -- a two-to-one landslide for Ahmadinejad. "Death to the Dictator" is on many lips.
The unfolding drama in Iran is at once thrilling, disturbing, and ambiguous. It's thrilling because for the first time since the Khomeini revolution in 1979, a spontaneous, grassroots movement threatens the rulers in Tehran. The mullahocracy, deeply unpopular with the Iranian people, has held power through violence and terror for 30 years. As much misery as Iran has spread worldwide through its sponsorship of terror and its pursuit of nuclear weapons, it has visited even more wretchedness on its own people. The economy, despite Iran's oil wealth, is crumbling, with double-digit unemployment. Corruption is endemic: Freedom House reports that even mail is not delivered unless the postman gets a payoff. Repression on a totalitarian scale is a fact of daily life. Though Iran's people have repeatedly given evidence of their disgust with the clerical leadership, they have been unable to escape the boot on their necks. Particularly during the past four years, shortages, corruption, and privation have plagued Iran. A survey conducted by the Ministry of Intelligence for the Majlis (parliament) a few months ago found that only 13 percent of Iranians would vote for Ahmadinejad.