What’s going on in Iran isn’t that different from what happened in Eastern Europe just before the wall fell. It also reminds us what happened in South Africa just before P.W. Botha decided that he must cede power to avoid a civil war and national bloodbath, or 1992 and Boris Yeltsin facing down the tanks prepared to overthrow the regime. Yet, at the same time, it could also be China just before the Tiananmen Square crackdown.
What should the West (especially the US) think & do? There are those—especially among the neoconservatives—who do not believe there is any difference between radical leaders and reformers in Iran. According to them it is foolish to make a distinction or to modulate policy to benefit one side or the other. I respect their opinion, but I’m not sure they are right. What I’m quite sure about is that it would be ineffective and possibly counterproductive for the US and its Western allies to take punitive actions against Iran (new sanctions would just hit the people and, by consequence, would throw a lifeline to Khamenei and further enrich the Iranian regime and the Revolutionary Guards), while supporting human rights and civil liberties, and denouncing those violations that have occurred would speak louder about what the Western true priorities are than any threats of punitive action.