Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in his Friday prayers address on the crisis in the country, blamed a world media controlled by “dirty Zionists” and “most evil” British for fomenting divisions, and called upon all Iranians to accept the election results, saying that a gap of 11 million votes is infallible. But his words also revealed a clear fault line within Iran’s political elite. In his lengthy discourse on former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, Khamenei made insubstantial charges of corruption, and implicated the entire Rafsanjani family as “problematic.”
At the same time, Khamenei denied a split in the political class: “Differences of opinion do exist between officials which is natural. But it does not mean there is a rift in the system. Ever since the last presidential election there existed differences of opinion between Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani. Of course my outlook is closer to that of Ahmadinejad in domestic and foreign policy.”
As head of the Assembly of Experts, a college of clerics that elects the Supreme Leader, Rafsanjani is theoretically the only man who could depose Khamenei. He has reportedly sought a quorum for this aim. If he succeeds, there could be a tilt back towards comparative “moderates” in Iran; if he fails, many expect the full force of Revolutionary Guards and Baseej militia to be unleashed against the protesters.
Khamenei explicitly invoked this possibility. Opposition leaders who failed to halt the protests “would be responsible for bloodshed and chaos,” he threatened in his speech at Tehran University. “Flexing muscles on the streets after the election is not right. It means challenging the elections and democracy. If they don’t stop, the consequences of the chaos would be their responsibility.”
Apparently fearing this outcome, defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi has reportedly released a statement urging his supporters not to take to the streets again on Saturday June 20. If the protests go ahead, this will mark a solid week that Mousavi’s supporters have filled the streets of Tehran. (The Telegraph, International Business Times, Reuters, NYT, June 19)
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