With American troops now sitting on either side of Iran (in Afghanistan and Iraq), that nation's hard-line Muslim leaders are bolting the door - from both sides.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Council of Guardians can't afford to have their authority challenged from within while the US tries to rid the region of terrorist regimes. So they fiddled with Friday's elections by eliminating over 2,000 reformist candidates for parliament to ensure victory for conservative candidates. The conservatives can now put a halt to reform efforts by liberal parliamentarians.
The clerics also are besieged after being caught twice recently by foreign inspectors with equipment for making bomb-grade nuclear material. They now face the greater prospect of the United Nations imposing economic sanctions on Iran, which isn't what they need with so many jobless youth in open defiance of Islamic rule.
In one unusual act of defiance, two reformist parliamentarians last week openly criticized the antidemocratic actions of the ayatollah, whose position was supposed to be beyond criticism.
In the US effort to put pressure on Middle East regimes, is this what President Bush intended: That Iran's limited democracy get worse before it gets better?
Many authoritarian regimes implode after they crack down harder on dissent. Leaders like the ayatollah fail to understand that legitimacy lies with the people. No wonder voter turnout in Friday's election was the lowest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.