Well, things have taken a further turn in Iran today, with Supreme Leader Khamenei's full public endorsement of Ahmadinejad's victory at the Friday prayer at Tehran University. I suspect that the people around Khamenei and Ahmadinejad concluded that the demonstrations were likely to continue, unabated, through the ten day period of the electoral review by the Guardian Council, and that this would have tremendously weakened the current power structure. They have taken a calculated risk, that the implied threats of crackdown will deter further peaceful demos. I do not see this as a "revolutionary" situation, but, rather, a conflict between two contending factions within the revolutionary class: The hardliners, grouped around Ahmadinejad and Khame nei, with their paramilitary apparatus (Revolutionary Guard, Basij, Martyrs Brigade and a group of radical clerics, typified by Yazdi), versus the more moderate elements. I would not call them "reformers" perse. They have a desire to end Iran's isolation, and see an opportunity now that may not be quite so available a year from now.
Tienenmen Square started out in a similar fashion, although cross-cultural analogies are always somewhat dangerous. A reform faction of the Chinese Communist elites tried to use the students as a leverage against a hardline faction. As time wore on, and the demonstrations/sitins continued, outside forces inevitably started mucking around, and the character of the situation changed at that point–weakening the negotiating position of the reformists who had initially encouraged the student demonstrators. They could not countenance an outside effort to stir a destabilization of the whole system, so they wound up having to go along with the crackdown–and take the political hit.
I am a strong opponent of the doctrine of humanitarian interventionism, particularly as promoted by some in the Obama administration, like Susan Rice and Samantha Powers. It is a slippery slope of its own, reducing the power of national sovereignty, especially when used in excess.
Iran is a country of strong political institutions, and elections have traditionally been the only true venue for the population to have a voice. Hence, Khatami's wins, despite the push-back by the parallel structure of IRGC and Basij, which eventually eroded Khatami's power and his credentials with his own supporters.
There is strong doubt, among some of the more informed Iranians, allied with the Mousavi camp, that the IRGC/Basij can really launch an allout crackdown. They believe that there will be a strong sense that turning guns on your own people is going too far. I cannot judge whether they are right or not. But a new phase has begun today, with the Supreme Leader clearly deciding that he has to take a strong stand–contradicting what he himself said just a few days ago. The die has been cast, the next act has begun, and the outcome has yet to be written.
We have a pretty good intelligence picture on the ground–not from twitter and facebook, but from some serious Iran experts, who have moment to moment communication with different factions in the leadership, who are directly engaged in the power struggle behind the scenes. We will have a role to play, but I don't think the Hungary parallel yet holds. This is not yet about a revolutionary overthrow of the system. Harper
Actually, that is Kellie Harper. She is the women's BB ball coach at NC State. She did not write this article. pl