Yesterday offered a glimpse into the [Iranian] regime's crisis of legitimacy. As in the waning days of the Shah in the late 1970s, Iranians merely need an excuse to show what they think of their rulers.
Absent religious legitimacy for the so-called Islamic Republic, the current rulers must rely on blunt means of preservation, such as the elite Revolutionary Guards and the Basiji militias. Thus Iran seems to be morphing into a military dictatorship, not unlike the Poland of Wojciech Jaruzelski after the "workers"—the supposed communist vanguard—turned against that regime.
The White House is still pleading for talks even as its December deadline passes without any concession from Tehran. Meantime, the Iranian opposition virtually begs Washington not to confer any legitimacy on the regime, and the democracy demonstrators crave American support. Iran's civil society clock may now be ticking faster than its nuclear clock. However hard it may be to achieve, a new regime in Tehran offers the best peaceful way to halt Iran's atomic program. Shouldn't American policy be directed toward realizing that goal?