Unfortunately, young Iranians have grown up with this false hope of internal reform, along with the skewed view that revolutions generally result in violence and dictatorship. They see the Iranian revolution itself as the prime example.
To be sure, the security crackdown on protesters in 2009 discouraged participation in the Green Movement. But much more discouraging, I believe, was the cautious message of reformers once the chant of protesters changed from "Where is my vote?" to "Death to Khamenei" (Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) and "Independence, Freedom, Iranian Republic."
The new slogans arose after the supreme leader gave an ultimatum to protesters to go back home or face a violent crackdown. But reformers, too, rebuked the demonstrators' rhetorical switch, which amounted to a call for regime change.
Mr. Karroubi and Mr. Mousavi disowned the new demands, confining themselves to supporting a recount. Mousavi went so far as to insist on "the impeccable implementation of the Constitution" (a call for proper counting, perhaps, but also one that underscored the ayatollah's authority and the tired message of internal reform). Karroubi talked about "the golden years of Khomeini" – Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the late founder of the 1979 revolution.
Reformers may well denounce the idea of revolution because they're haunted by their past. Many of them participated in the violent crushing of the democratic wing of the 1979 revolution and in the 1981 coup against the republic's first president, Abolhassan Bani-Sadr. Both events resulted in mass arrests, torture, and executions.