This BBC-provided Tehran-demonstration footage, only a few hours old, feels like raw footage from a Paul Greengrass film. I’ve been in a violent demonstration and know that demonstrators who risk bludgeonings and worse by fighting back have more courage than I. Mahsa from Tehran: “I was in the rally today and police forces in Azadi square cruelly killed people.” From Iran: “I am home since 10 minute and Basij forces and police were killing young people like animals”

President Obama “has been right to tread carefully, given the poisonous American-Iranian history,” says N.Y. Times op-ed columnist Roger Cohen, “but [he] has erred on the side of caution. He sounds like a man rehearsing prepared lines rather than the leader of the free world. A stronger condemnation of the violence and repression is needed, despite Khamenei’s warnings.

“Obama should also rectify his erroneous equating, from the U.S. national security perspective, of Ahmadinejad and Moussavi. Ahmadinejad is Iran’s Mr. Nuclear. He has rapidly advanced the program and, through preaching in every village mosque, successfully likened it to the nationalization of the oil industry as an assertion of Iranian nationalism. By contrast, Moussavi has not abjured the program, but has attacked Ahmadinejad’s ‘adventurist’ and ‘delusional’ foreign policy. These are essential distinctions.

“Obama should think hard about whether this ballot-box putsch is not precisely about giving Ahmadinejad and his military-industrial coterie four more years to usher Iran at least to virtual nuclear-power status. He should also think hard about the differences in character: Ahmadinejad is volatile and headstrong, the interlocutor from hell, while Moussavi is steady and measured.

“Shrugging away these distinctions like a dispassionate professor at a time when people are dying in the streets of Iran is no way to honor this phrase in his Inaugural Address: “Know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.”