Inside the country, the popular legitimacy so carefully cultivated by the Islamic regime for 30 years began to dissipate like vapor from dry ice. Police, militiamen, and pro-regime vigilantes took to the streets to beat the Iranian "enemies" into submission. Dozens died amid claims of torture and rape, 4,000 were arrested, and 140 were subjected to Stalinesque mass trials and videotaped confessions that supposedly revealed – according to the indictments – a vast foreign conspiracy to topple the regime with a "velvet revolution."
For a regime that had always trumpeted its quasi-democratic credentials, Iran's postelection tactics caught many outside the country by surprise.
"Iran's supporters in the region were wagering before and during the elections that the Islamic state would teach the world a lesson in democracy and present a model of Islamist rule," wrote the Saudi-owned Al-Hayat newspaper. "They have lost their wager, and certainly Islamists in Arab countries who aspire to participate in the political game and come to power have lost the most."
Another Al-Hayat story was equally blunt: "The truth of the matter is that revolutionary movements that establish a new legitimacy from illegitimacy carry early on fertile seeds for its demise."
Egypt's state-run Al-Ahram newspaper decried the "democratic outrage" and said the Iranian regime should "stop the wave of violence and blood and listen to the viewpoints of the Iranian opposition that rejects the [election] results."
Many Arabs, to be sure, never bought into the Iranian mystique, and their indifference or even hostility toward the regime in Tehran has only solidified since Mr. Ahmadinejad's disputed landslide victory.