The gravest threat to the survival of the repressive regime in Tehran may be the continuing attacks on its perceived legitimacy. Part of the factional infighting undoubtedly reflects a simple power struggle. However, religious principles also appear to be at stake. A number of Muslim clerics are denouncing the authorities for their misbehavior.
For instance, Iranian cleric and blogger Mohsen Kadivar recently applied several Islamic principles to the Iranian government:
The fourth question concerns attempts by some to cite the protection of the Islamic state to justify suppressing people's efforts to defend their own rights.
The response is that an Islamic state cannot be protected through violence.
The fifth question is about what Shari'a law says are the signs of suppressive guardianship.
The response is that a leader who fails to respect Shari'a law, promotes violence, and rejects the public's demands is a clear sign of oppressive guardianship and that leader is oppressive. The recognition of those signs is the responsibility, firstly, of Islamic jurists (experts in religious law) and, secondly, of ordinary people.
His words alone will not topple Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and those behind and around him. But as the regime's moral foundation further erodes, the long-term possibility of significant changes in Tehran grows.
Americans should cheer for the advance of liberty in Iran. But the U.S. government, with precious little credibility for promoting democracy in Iran, needs to stay far away. The last thing Iranian human rights advocates need is for their struggle to become a contest between the Iranian and American governments instead of the Iranian government and Iranian people.