The protests and demonstrations in Iran, led by reformists and ongoing since the fraud-ridden 2009 Presidential election, are often called the "green revolution" for the official color of movement leader Mir Hossein Mousavi's presidential campaign. But is it a real revolution? Or just dissent from a small and isolated sub-set of the population? Iran experts Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett argued the latter in a Wednesday op-ed in the New York Times, sparking wide and heated debate over the nature of green movement. Should the U.S. engage Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei or be rooting for their ouster?

  • Iran's Non-Revolution  Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett write, "The Islamic Republic of Iran is not about to implode. Nevertheless, the misguided idea that it may do so is becoming enshrined as conventional wisdom in Washington." They warn, "The focus in the West on the antigovernment demonstrations has blinded many to an inconvenient but inescapable truth: the Iranians who used Ashura to make a political protest do not represent anything close to a majority." They cite data to support their argument that the revolution is overblown in the U.S. and conclude that the U.S. should drop wishful thinking about regime change and work on engaging the current Iranian leadership, which they insist is going nowhere. Private intelligence company STRATFOR concurs with the Leveretts.
  • Engage Khamenei, But Don't Dismiss Revolution  Iran expert Juan Cole agrees with the Leveretts that we should engage Iran, but not their "dismissive attitude" towards the green revolution. "I think it is big, nation-wide, multi-class and significant. And I fear that they have fallen for the regime's phony counter-demonstration on Dec. 30 as a sign of wide and deep support for the regime. I don't deny it has its supporters. But I think the ground is shifting against Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, which helps explain why they are becoming more and more repressive."
  • Why Revolution Is Possible  The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan writes, "I believe that a democratic revolution in Iran is both possible and would be the single most transformative event in global politics since the end of the Cold War. Especially for the US. I sure don't believe we should take it for granted; but I also see what is in front of us." He cites "a regime divided against itself, reliant on raw violence - and nothing else - to stay in control, a regime that has failed to crush massive resistance to a stolen election, and has, if anything, discredited itself further by over-reaction. State violence will have to keep increasing in intensity as state legitimacy keeps eroding. That's not a positive pattern for those in power."
  • For Iran's Mood, Look Outside Tehran  The Atlantic's Graeme Wood explores them. "I am on recordas a member of the cold-water bucket brigade with respect to this revolt's chance of being upgraded, like a tropical depression brewing into a hurricane, to a full-blown revolution. My trip to Iran earlier this year showed a clerical regime with a powerful base of conservative Iranians, and a small if fervent minority of reformists. Last weekend's protests surprised me, though, in their intensity and in their happening at all." Wood suggests "the atmosphere, such as it is measureable, outside Tehran" would speak to the debate. He recounts visiting several conservative and liberal towns in Iran and what he learned from the trips.
  • A Movement, Not A Revolution  Foreign Policy's Hooman Majd cautions that "predicting the imminent demise of the Islamic theocracy is unrealistic." Majd writes, "[I]f we consider Iran's pro-democracy "green movement" not as a revolution but as a civil rights movement -- as the leaders of the movement do -- then a "win" must be measured over time. The movement's aim is not for a sudden and complete overthrow of Iran's political system."
  • Why U.S. Struggles To Face The Truth   The American Conservative's Daniel Larison explains. "By holding out the illusion of substantial political change in Iran, hawks can push for delaying meaningful negotiations and can gain support for destructive sanctions measures," he writes. "After all, if Western policymakers start banking on domestic political unrest to undermine the Iranian government in a major way, they will pursue policies that would be very different than if they assume that the current Iranian government is not changing and not going anywhere."