Recent weeks have seen a new wave of protests in Iran. Unlike the 2009 protests, which were largely carried out by educated urbanites, the current round of protests have included smaller towns and the middle class.
The regime claims to have quelled an uprising with each passing day, but history shows that such movements often mark the beginning of long-term change.
From the outside, it's difficult to know exactly what's happening, aside from small reports and videos on social media. Do the protests have staying power? Will the police and elements of the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps, the country's security and military organization, eventually side with the protestors? Are Iran's "reformers," led by Ayatollah Khamenei, in danger of being displaced by a more moderate movement? All of these questions are fascinating, but very difficult for many westerners to answer.
There are plenty of domestic problems that will shape Iran if a more moderate regime comes to power. But Iran's external relationships — through economic engagement and diplomacy — will be a serious factor in the well-being of everyday Iranians and will determine the regional and global influence of a potentially new Iran.
No matter how sharp of a break from the current regime any newly moderate Iran takes, it would be difficult to make an accurate and detailed prediction at this point.
That said, here are some factors that are worth considering: