Let me suggest a couple of things, despite the fact that my knowledge of Iran is pretty close to zero:
- A Revolutionary Guard-led regime with much less ideological cover might actually have to be a bit more careful than Ahmadinejad has been the past few years, as support can only come through coercion (well, that and bribes, given the Rev Guards' increased role in the economy--hints of China). Regime maintenance will have to become the focus of all efforts and cannot be taken for granted. Indeed, the clerics may end up presenting a significant threat once they realize they have been sidelined.
- Under the good old days of unquestioned theocracy, Iran did aggressively support terrorism around the world, as far away as Latin America and with great consequences for Lebanon. So, it is not so clear that we should be rooting for the clerics.
- Unfortunately, it is pretty clear that a coercive regime is going to be worse for the Iranian people than what they have been living with. Dissent has been and will be met with repression.
- And what we know about repression from the decades of scholarship is that it can work and it can fail. We have no simple equation or theory that tells us if the use of force here will succeed at squashing dissent or not. Most of the work in this area is frustratingly contingent.
- We do know more about military regimes, but not in comparison to theocracies. Again, it really comes down to who is willing to shoot whom, and, thus far, the current regime has built up a robust support system through various coercive arms of the state.