Influential Ayatollah sides with reformers

It is not an unexpected development nor is it very meaningful, but one of the most respected religious figures in Iran has come out in favor of the protestors, agreeing with their complaints about the election being stolen and calling on the army and police to restrain themselves from committing violence.

Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri skewered the government of President Ahmadinejad in no uncertain terms, according to this McClatchy report by Warren P. Strobel and Jonathan S. Landay:

"No one in their right mind can believe" the official results from Friday's contest, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri said of the landslide victory claimed by Ahmadinejad. Montazeri accused the regime of handling Mousavi's charges of fraud and the massive protests of his backers "in the worst way possible."

"A government not respecting people's vote has no religious or political legitimacy," he declared in comments on his official Web site. "I ask the police and army personals (personnel) not to 'sell their religion,' and beware that receiving orders will not excuse them before God."

As many as three more protesters were reported killed in clashes during Tuesday's opposition demonstration in Vanak Square - adding to eight who were confirmed killed in Monday's protests.

Foreign news organizations were barred from covering Wednesday's demonstrations, and the source of the report of the latest deaths was a witness known to McClatchy, who asked that his name not be used for his own security.

Montazeri is a member of the old guard of original revolutionaries who overthrew the Shah in 1979. He was the designated successor to Ayatollah Khomenei until, disgusted with thousands of executions following the Iran-Iraq war, he split with the Khomeniests and was sacked for his trouble. He has since come out for more moderate policies from the government including women's rights, less influence by the clerics, and more democratic freedoms.

But Montazeri has no political power and in this kind of a street fight, it's guns and clubs versus courage and fortitude. The protestors could use a defection or two from Ahmadinejad's cronies but that's not likely to happen.

The regime has lost whatever legitimacy it had with the Iranian people - which wasn't much to begin with. The authorities may succeed in clamping down on the reformists, arresting hundreds, and the protests may eventually peter out. But the youth who felt the blows of batons and saw their friends gunned down in cold blood will not forget. They are the vanguard of a mass movement, seething with anger and frustration.

The near future does not look bright for Ahmadinejad and his thugs.





It is not an unexpected development nor is it very meaningful, but one of the most respected religious figures in Iran has come out in favor of the protestors, agreeing with their complaints about the election being stolen and calling on the army and police to restrain themselves from committing violence.

Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri skewered the government of President Ahmadinejad in no uncertain terms, according to this McClatchy report by Warren P. Strobel and Jonathan S. Landay:

"No one in their right mind can believe" the official results from Friday's contest, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri said of the landslide victory claimed by Ahmadinejad. Montazeri accused the regime of handling Mousavi's charges of fraud and the massive protests of his backers "in the worst way possible."

"A government not respecting people's vote has no religious or political legitimacy," he declared in comments on his official Web site. "I ask the police and army personals (personnel) not to 'sell their religion,' and beware that receiving orders will not excuse them before God."

As many as three more protesters were reported killed in clashes during Tuesday's opposition demonstration in Vanak Square - adding to eight who were confirmed killed in Monday's protests.

Foreign news organizations were barred from covering Wednesday's demonstrations, and the source of the report of the latest deaths was a witness known to McClatchy, who asked that his name not be used for his own security.

Montazeri is a member of the old guard of original revolutionaries who overthrew the Shah in 1979. He was the designated successor to Ayatollah Khomenei until, disgusted with thousands of executions following the Iran-Iraq war, he split with the Khomeniests and was sacked for his trouble. He has since come out for more moderate policies from the government including women's rights, less influence by the clerics, and more democratic freedoms.

But Montazeri has no political power and in this kind of a street fight, it's guns and clubs versus courage and fortitude. The protestors could use a defection or two from Ahmadinejad's cronies but that's not likely to happen.

The regime has lost whatever legitimacy it had with the Iranian people - which wasn't much to begin with. The authorities may succeed in clamping down on the reformists, arresting hundreds, and the protests may eventually peter out. But the youth who felt the blows of batons and saw their friends gunned down in cold blood will not forget. They are the vanguard of a mass movement, seething with anger and frustration.

The near future does not look bright for Ahmadinejad and his thugs.