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Gauntlet Thrown in Iran

19 Jun 2009 18:569 Comments

Photo: In an apparent reference to vandalism, "We break idols, not glass."


Speaking to a government-organized throng bused in from around Tehran and as far away as Qom, Iran's religious capital, and other cities -- a crowd, no doubt, vastly inflated by dutiful members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and the fascist, mosque-based Basij thugs -- Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threw down the gauntlet against the Green Wave.

He said: "Nothing can be changed. It's finished, the Presidential campaign."

He added, as if we didn't know, that he's on the side of President Ahmadinejad. "The President was closest to my point of view," huffed the Leader. And he issued not-so-veiled warnings to Iranian citizens to behave, to "be careful how they are acting, careful what they are saying."

Make no mistake: it's by far the most serious, even existential crisis for the Islamic Republic since its founding in 1979. By blatantly rigging the vote, and by their heavy-handed crackdown in the wake of the travesty, the regime has shattered its legitimacy. Its leadership, including Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, are isolated from virtually every important segment of Iranian society -- students, workers, intellectuals, the business class, and even the very clergy that is at the heart of the system -- and they stand revealed as a repressive, reactionary military dictatorship.

What remains to be seen is whether the opposition will back down in the face of that repressive power.

We'll know soon. The real explosion could some within a few days, when the so-called Guardian Council -- a group of twelve bearded old clerics slavishly loyal to Khamenei -- confirms the bogus election results. If they do -- as expected -- sometime mid-week, it's possible that the sustained street protests could become a revolution.

From an Iranian source, it appears that for Mir Hossein Mousavi, Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, Medhi Karroubi, and other leaders of the movement, there's no backing down. Here's what he said: "Mousavi and the others cannot compromise. They know that if Ahmadinejad remains in power, he will try to eliminate all of them. All of them. And it will be violent."

And: "The Ahmadinejad people are trying to weaken and destroy the 'republic' part of 'Islamic republic.' They dislike democracy, they dislike elections, they dislike accountability. What they want is to establish a regime with an unelected Islamic leader, something like a caliph, who has absolute, unchallenged authority."

On the other hand, although many of the protestors -- including Mousavi and Rafanjani, the wily wheeler-dealer -- have impeccable establishment credentials, it's increasingly clear that most if not all of the opposition leaders want a fundamental change in the way Iran is organized.

That, highly informed Iranian sources say, would include replacing Khamenei with a council of leaders, radically reinterpreting the Constitutional requirement for a Leader, or rahbar, who represents the velayat-e faqih principle ("rule of the jurisprudent") with a far more flexible, collegial body. Were this to happen, it wouldn't mean the fall of the Islamic Republic, but it would represent a huge step toward eliminating its worst features.

Many supporters of the opposition -- as I learned during nearly two weeks in Iran -- don't want the clergy to rule at all. "The mullahs are like idols," one government official told me. "They must be broken."

Rafsanjani is a two-term president (1989-1997), an extremely well-connected, wealthy power broker, and chairman of the Expediency Council. Back in the 1980s, he helped to elevate Khamenei, who was president of Iran from 1981 to 1989, to the post of Leader -- succeeding Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder -- in exchange for Khamenei's support for Rafsanjani becoming president. Since then he's shuttled back and forth between the hardline camp and the reformist camp, while maintaining a pragmatic (opportunist) stance. Now it seems he's irrevocably thrown his lot in with the reformists, including Mousavi and former President Khatami. And it's Rafsanjani who, if he chose to, might be able to manipulate the levers of power in Iran to oust Khamenei as Leader.

So far, it's still unlikely. The ruling clique has the army, the Guard, the intelligence service, and courts, the police, the media, and its street thugs to support them -- and, according to some reports, Rafsanjani is under house arrest. But the opposition has the streets.

Robert Dreyfuss is a contributing editor to The Nation magazine, and the author of Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam (Metropolitan).

Copyright (c) 2009 The Nation -- distributed by Agence Global

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I currently live in UAE and i feel that foreign new networks like indian channels and american channels are not paying as much attention to the Iranian crisis as they should.. How do you feel about this?

Btw u are beginning to become my hero!! i greatly respect the work you are doing!!! may allah protect you and grant you Jannah ! Ameen

Aswira / June 19, 2009 4:00 PM

I agree that the American media is not really covering this story like they should. I have to follow the blogs at nytimes, huffingtonpost, and guardian to keep informed. These days the American media feeds us shallow news like celebrity scandals and fashion and things they think we want to see. Our media has become a huge paparazzi and they only feed us stuff worthy of tabloids and 'junk food' news.

Yoshi / June 19, 2009 6:15 PM

May you are being a little too critical. I watch cbsnews.com, nbcnews.com, washingtonpost,CNN, and abcnews. They all report what's going on in Iran. The reporters for these news in Iran have been told to not to report anything for what's going on there. The report from CNN was doing a good report on the election,but he was sent back to USA, they did not want him to renew his visa.

I do wish that have better resources to get news from Iran

douglas / June 19, 2009 7:29 PM


hi, if you would go to twitter to #iranelection you will find many many americans supporting. setting up proxy servers so that they can continue to get to the outside world. They have also been DDOS attacks on iranian government sites... i think your just in the wrong place.. the established news is running at least a day behind perhaps 2 days

HoosierDONK / June 19, 2009 9:51 PM

Thank you for this important resource. Read about it in Boston Globe today.

Bev Freeman / June 20, 2009 9:49 AM

CNN News is... I'm watching it from Ireland all day & it's very good because they're getting loads of stuff from video blogger's but every picture & film is being checked by authenticity. I'd say PRESS TV are the rags & the dogs of Khamenei....ask them to put up the picture's of this Khomeini grave explosion...they can't because they don't have any...or if they show a picture it's an old library picture conned up to look like it is genuine. The people of Ireland are on your side by a majority of 80% so you're in all our prayer's in your marches for "Democracy"! God is with you...the Devil is with "Ahmadinejad & Khamenei. God always wins!

PS. & have a look at CNN every now & again.

Jaker / June 20, 2009 11:07 AM

Boston.com...the "Big Picture" is another great American site showing the world the horror of this regime. Love to all...& "Don't Give Up". I am sure God is going to do something in the next day or two to help you out "Big Time". I mean I'm praying...more than I ever did...he can't keep ignoring me!

& the London Time has good coverage!

Jaker / June 20, 2009 11:17 AM

Douglas. They sent all the press from the West packing...but the Iranian people are the greatest pressmen of them all because they're sending loads of report's back to CNN & BBC's new "PERSIAN TV CHANNEL. America & Britain or Europe won't let you down if a Tiananmen Square scenario happens there. It will be the end of "Jekyll & Hyde...Khamenei & Ahmadinejad" the "SHOCK" duo!

Jaker / June 20, 2009 11:26 AM

It helps to understand why the IRGC (the Revolutionary Guard) is so bent on putting down the reformist movement, and the recent Rand report documented how much power and profit the IRGC derives from black market imports, which is roughly a THIRD of Iran's imports. This "The Nation" report includes those data:


That clarifies the degree to which the IRGC has been corrupted, and how ruthless they will be in suppressing reformist changes. Only great solidarity both within and outside of Iran will overcome that kind and degree of corruption.

The hardliners and IRGC must not be allowed to steal this election!

That they have tried to block the media, banned free assembly and free press only proves how corrupt the government is, and how much they fear the people of Iran.

Roger / July 8, 2009 12:13 PM