Juan Cole on Iranian Protests and the Reform Movement's Future

08/09/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Thousands of Iranian protesters marched toward Tehran University today, both to commemorate the 1999 student uprising and to continue their opposition toward the recently stolen presidential election. Once again, the Iranian regime has responded with violence, as Basij militia members dispersed demonstrators with live fire, tear gas, and other brutal measures. It's clear though that Iran's reform movement is still alive and strong, despite the regime's best efforts to thwart protesters and the fact that the US media have largely buried this story beneath coverage of Michael Jackson's death.

Though instantaneous social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter helped spark and coordinate last month's protests, we simply can't expect Iran's reform movement to succeed as quickly. Any success will be slow going, a point Juan Cole emphasized when he discussed the chaos in Iran with The Huffington Post's Nico Pitney yesterday at Brave New Studios. Cole, the author of Engaging the Muslim World, told Pitney that while the Obama administration definitely can't intervene to the point that they enable a reformist victory, they must continue engaging Iranian hardliners if the current regime remains in power.

Respectful, diplomatic engagement, Cole argued, is key to resolving the Iranian nuclear threat, the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, the continued US/NATO military presence in Afghanistan, and Iran's relationship with both Hamas and the Hezbollah. Cole, who also believes Iran's election was stolen, sees all of these issues as being intertwined, and he's absolutely right.

It's well worth watching Cole and Pitney (who's been doing a terrific job in his own right covering the Iranian election) discuss the future of the reform movement, the possibility of an emerging power sharing situation within the Iranian government, and how we can keep supporting reformists still voicing their dissent.

(Help spread awareness about the reform movement in Iran by posting this video on Facebook and Twitter: "What's next for the reform movement in the wake of the violent #iranelection? @jricole explains: http://bit.ly/Sg9xh")