Khamenei's not so veiled threats to Iranian protestors

In a much anticipated speech before Friday prayers in Tehran, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei issued a stark warning to those protesting last week's rigged election; get off the streets or suffer the consequences.

I liveblogged the last 20 minutes of the speech on my own site here.

The Guardian has the details of Khamenei's speech in this article by Haroon Siddique:

"The Islamic republic will never manipulate votes and commit treason," he said. "The legal structure in this country does not allow vote-rigging." He said that vote-rigging to the extent of the 11m votes in the official results was impossible.

He added: "If some people have doubts and evidence it should be dealt with through legal ways - only through legal ways. I will never accept illegal innovations."

Some followers of Mousavi, who support his claim to have won the election, had called for a boycott of prayers at the university because of the refusal to annul the result of the poll, but TV pictures showed thousands of people listening to Khamenei and occasionally chanting affirmation of his words.

The speech now creates a clear dilemma for Mousavi and his supporters: do they return to the streets in open defiance of Khamenei or drop their demands? Prior to today's speech, Mousavi had called on the opposition movement to gather in Tehran tomorrow afternoon for a rally, but many may now feel too fearful of a crackdown by the authorities.

So far, Mousavi has made moves that would indicate he doesn't want the violence to get out of control. With this kind of clear signal from Khamenei that it's time to put disagreements aside and march in lockstep on the election, it's difficult to imagine him sending his supporters into a confrontation with the police, the Revolutionary Guards (where there is some indication of dissent in the ranks) or the fanatical Basij paramilitaries who have been speeding around town after dark beating anyone who looks like a Mousavi supporter.

The fact is, Mousavi is an old-line revolutionary, an original mullah who took to the streets in 1979 to overthrow the Shah. Khamenei is telling him to get with the program, or get out. There is a  chance that after tomorrow's meeting with the Guardian Council on the election protests, he will concede and call on his supporters to cease and desist.

But will they? It looks to me from this distance that the protests have gone beyond what happened after the election and is now a direct challenge to the system. Even if Mousavi throws in the towel, it doesn't look like the protests will stop. And if there is a bloodletting as the regime cracks down, things will probably only get worse.

One interesting note; during the speech, Khamenei contrasted Obama's mild remarks about the election with his letter offering better relations, saying that the president's comments about the election reflected his "true nature" and he seemed to dismiss both the letter and Obama's election comments. it doesn't look like Obama's Iran overture is going anywhere anytime soon.

Tomorrow will prove pivotal. Another protest is planned and if today's numbers are a guide, it will be huge. Do the authorities have the stomach to fire on an unarmed crowd and crush the reform movement? The Chinese did. The Burmese did. And after today's sharp warnings from the Supreme Leader, there should be little doubt that the Iranian regime won't think twice about spilling a lot of blood to stifle this challenge to their authority.



 

In a much anticipated speech before Friday prayers in Tehran, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei issued a stark warning to those protesting last week's rigged election; get off the streets or suffer the consequences.

I liveblogged the last 20 minutes of the speech on my own site here.

The Guardian has the details of Khamenei's speech in this article by Haroon Siddique:

"The Islamic republic will never manipulate votes and commit treason," he said. "The legal structure in this country does not allow vote-rigging." He said that vote-rigging to the extent of the 11m votes in the official results was impossible.

He added: "If some people have doubts and evidence it should be dealt with through legal ways - only through legal ways. I will never accept illegal innovations."

Some followers of Mousavi, who support his claim to have won the election, had called for a boycott of prayers at the university because of the refusal to annul the result of the poll, but TV pictures showed thousands of people listening to Khamenei and occasionally chanting affirmation of his words.

The speech now creates a clear dilemma for Mousavi and his supporters: do they return to the streets in open defiance of Khamenei or drop their demands? Prior to today's speech, Mousavi had called on the opposition movement to gather in Tehran tomorrow afternoon for a rally, but many may now feel too fearful of a crackdown by the authorities.

So far, Mousavi has made moves that would indicate he doesn't want the violence to get out of control. With this kind of clear signal from Khamenei that it's time to put disagreements aside and march in lockstep on the election, it's difficult to imagine him sending his supporters into a confrontation with the police, the Revolutionary Guards (where there is some indication of dissent in the ranks) or the fanatical Basij paramilitaries who have been speeding around town after dark beating anyone who looks like a Mousavi supporter.

The fact is, Mousavi is an old-line revolutionary, an original mullah who took to the streets in 1979 to overthrow the Shah. Khamenei is telling him to get with the program, or get out. There is a  chance that after tomorrow's meeting with the Guardian Council on the election protests, he will concede and call on his supporters to cease and desist.

But will they? It looks to me from this distance that the protests have gone beyond what happened after the election and is now a direct challenge to the system. Even if Mousavi throws in the towel, it doesn't look like the protests will stop. And if there is a bloodletting as the regime cracks down, things will probably only get worse.

One interesting note; during the speech, Khamenei contrasted Obama's mild remarks about the election with his letter offering better relations, saying that the president's comments about the election reflected his "true nature" and he seemed to dismiss both the letter and Obama's election comments. it doesn't look like Obama's Iran overture is going anywhere anytime soon.

Tomorrow will prove pivotal. Another protest is planned and if today's numbers are a guide, it will be huge. Do the authorities have the stomach to fire on an unarmed crowd and crush the reform movement? The Chinese did. The Burmese did. And after today's sharp warnings from the Supreme Leader, there should be little doubt that the Iranian regime won't think twice about spilling a lot of blood to stifle this challenge to their authority.