Last week, Haleh Esfandiari spoke in Santa Fe. One of the things she said that particularly struck me was that the participation of women in the demonstrations was something that the regime was not mentally prepared to deal with. The strictures on interactions between men and women put women demonstrators outside any of their models of public order.
Today, the New York Times reports that Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri has been criticizing the regime as acting against Islam. Because the 1979 revolution was supposed to make Iran into a thoroughly Islamic country, this criticism strikes at the roots of the government's legitimacy. More so because Montazeri helped to set up the form of the government.
Events that are impossible by the mental models held by a repressive government and criticism that goes to its basis for existence can be devastating. That was what happened in the Soviet republics particularly, and Moscow didn't realize what was happening until too late.
These two factors are likely to be the most powerful. Whether they are used successfully depends on the insight of the Iranian opposition and the willingness of the regime to use force.