Saturday, July 18, 2009

Clashes in Tehran as Hashemi Rafsanjani warns regime.

We've always known that they could beat the protesters off the streets but that they couldn't eliminate the feeling that a terrible wrong has been committed here.

And it is that feeling which Hashemi Rafsanjani is touching upon when he states that Iran is "in crisis" and demands the release of all prisoners arrested since the election.

Rafsanjani, a bitter rival of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, broke his month-long silence to issue a stark warning that the Islamic Republic had lost popular support. His carefully crafted address stopped short of directly attacking Khamenei or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose victory in June's presidential poll has been widely denounced as a fraud. But its message was still strong.

"Today is a bitter day," Rafsanjani declared from the pulpit at Tehran University's sprawling prayer ground. "People have lost their faith in the regime and their trust is damaged. It's necessary to regain people's consent and restore their trust in the regime. Everyone has lost."

Mir Hossein Mousavi, the moderate former prime minister who says he won the election, sat in the front row with other VIPs as Rafsanjani spoke. Mehdi Karoubi, a reformist cleric who was also a candidate, was there too — and was jostled by thugs afterwards.

Mousavi and Karoubi both insist the Ahmadinejad government is illegitimate. Khamenei has publicly backed the incumbent, hoping to see off the biggest challenge to the regime since the Iranian revolution 30 years ago.

Tens of thousands of Mousavi supporters, many wearing the green wristbands that became the symbol of his election campaign, packed the prayer ground, the stage for a peculiarly Iranian combination of religion and politics, prayer and agitprop. Rafsanjani's first sermon since the disputed election was keenly awaited but was not broadcast on state TV. Foreign media access is now severely restricted. The mobile phone network was again completely blocked to disrupt communications between demonstrators .

"Doubt has been created [about the results]," Rafsanjani said. "There is a large portion of wise people who say they have doubts. We need to take action to remove this doubt. Where people are not present or their vote is not considered, that government is not Islamic."
It's fascinating to watch the way which people like Rafsanjani challenge the administration, whilst being careful not to place themselves on the wrong side of the law.

We all know what he's actually talking about, but he's very careful never to say anything which he could actually be arrested for.
"Rafsanjani's main message was for Ayatollah Khamenei," said the analyst Baqer Moin. "Rafsanjani wanted to tell him, 'You'd better be humble and try to find a way out of the current crisis.'"
Khamenei is not out of the woods yet. And I doubt he'll ever recover the legitimacy he squandered by backing Ahmadinejad as quickly as he did.

Ian Black is reporting that what took place yesterday was "electrifying". He also states that "profound divisions, not defiant unity, are now on open display" in Iran. Friday prayers are usually used as a showcase for the very opposite purpose.

It's not over yet in Iran.

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