But it is far more likely that purely internal factors are at work. David Frum, at NewMajority.com, catalogues the economic misery Ahmadinejad has delivered. The unemployment rate, already at 10.5 percent four years ago, has shot up to 17 percent. The inflation rate is 25 percent, destroying savings and driving down living standards. Despite Iran's immense oil wealth and the rise in oil prices in recent years, the standard of living for the typical Iranian is no better now than it was in 1975. Because Iran has not built oil refineries, this oil-rich nation must import 40 percent of its gasoline. Moreover, the corruption of the clerical elite is widespread and universally detested.
Michael Ledeen points to the galvanizing effect the presence of Mir Hossein Mousavi's wife, Zahra Rahnavard, has had on women in Iran. Rahnavard is the half of the couple with all the charisma -- and the spirit. While Mousavi is a soft-spoken, even dull former apparatchik, his wife is a noted artist and university professor known for her reformist views who directly called Ahmadinejad a liar and a disgrace during the presidential campaign. She is personally religious and wears a hijab, but she favors choice in these matters -- a profoundly subversive idea in the Islamic Republic. Brave women have been out in force since before the election. They marched carrying pictures of Mousavi and displaying their green colors. When the regime declared Ahmadinejad the winner, young women poured into the streets along with men. CNN covered one young demonstrator explaining how the women collect rocks to give to the men to throw at the Basij militia, as the women cannot throw as far. But they are on the front lines, body and soul, defying the Basij militia and sometimes, as in the now iconic case of Neda Soltani, paying with their lives. Neda, a young woman clad in blue jeans and sneakers, has become an instant martyr to a very great cause -- the cause of freedom.
President Obama needs to fall out of love with the image of himself as the ultimate mediator. Events have overtaken that strategy and revealed its hollowness.