A successful second revolution in Iran is unlikely, at least this time.
While thousands of Iranians continue to take to the streets for a sixth day and night, the security forces remain loyal to the government with few exceptions. Unless that changes, it's hard to see how even a significant uptick in the protests could threaten the regime's survival.
That said, what the world is witnessing in Iran is not the product of some transient economic or political dissatisfaction. While motivated by various concerns, the protests reflect the crumbling house that Khomeini built.
Young, generally well educated and considerate of better living standards abroad, the majority of Iranians believe the Islamic republic is unfit for service. This uncomfortable reality forces the regime into a catch-22 of political strategy: the choice between greater freedom and increased repression.
As reflected by the tentative and disparate security forces response to the protests, it's already clear that the regime is split here.
On one side is the more-moderate wing of the republic, led by President Hassan Rouhani. While Rouhani has made increasingly tough statements as the protests have continued, his language remains very obviously calibrated towards cooling rather than escalating the protester tensions.
On the other side are the hardliner blocs associated with the theocratic elite. Propelled by Ahmad Jannati and his fellow geriatrics on the Guardian Council, and weaponized by the Basij militia and the revolutionary guards, this element seeks not just to crush the protesters, but to crackdown on the limited freedoms they have already won. These soldiers of the first revolution believe western social liberalism already has far too much influence in Iranian society.
Correspondingly, and again as reflected by his rambling tweets on Tuesday, Khamenei has a very tough decision.
If he offers more economic and legal authority to the Rouhani bloc he risks alienating the hardliners, destabilizing the theocratic elite and risking a civil war.
But if the Ayatollah embraces brutality, he risks losing Iran's youth forever by driving them into an existential mindset of irredeemable grievance. That course will almost certainly ensure the next protest incarnation is more aggressive, more integrated, and far more dangerous. For the dying Ayatollah, the prospect of burning down the house probably doesn't seem that appealing.
Ultimately, I expect Khamenei will attempt to strike a balance between offering Rouhani new political powers and ensuring the regime's financial and foreign military power remains entrenched with the hardliners. Still, I don't think it will be enough. On a mission from God, the hardliners cannot help but continue to throw resources at their grand regional project and Iran's youth cannot help but realize they are getting a very raw deal. Slowly but surely Iran is heading either for a successful revolution or a bloody civil war.
In turn, the U.S. should work with the European Union to ensure the Iran nuclear deal's sanctions relief flows more effectively to Iran's people.