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Iranian Government and State-Run Media Escalate Conflict

Faezeh Hashemi, daughter of Ali Rafsanjani

Faezeh Hashemi, daughter of Ali Rafsanjani

It appears that the Iranian government is getting increasingly desperate. Earlier today several relatives of former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashimi Rafsanjani, including his daughter, were arrested and detained for a time. According to The New York Times,

Mr. Rafsanjani, one of the fathers of the Iranian revolution, has been locked in a power struggle with Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and worked closely with the reform movement during the disputed presidential election. Sunday morning, state television said five members of his family had been detained, including Mr. Rafsanjani’s daughter, Faezeh Hashemi. Later, family members said all had been released.

The detentions suggested that Mr. Khamenei was facing entrenched resistance among some members of the elite. Though rivalries among top clerics in Iran have been a feature of Iranian politics since the 1979 revolution, analysts said that open factional competition amid a major political crisis could hinder Mr. Khamenei’s ability to restore order.

Now the Washington Post is reporting that the Iranian state-controlled media is calling losing presidential candidate Mir Hussein Mousavi a “criminal” and claiming that protesters are members of a terrorist group based in France, Mudjehadin-e khalq.

Authorities appeared to be seeking to blame the violence on radicals. State television charged that “the presence of terrorists . . . was tangible” in Saturday’s events. It asked viewers to send videoclips of protestors in order to help authorities to arrest them.

Scenes of the violent protest were shown frequently on Iranian state television and in a special broadcast the rioters were said to be members of the Paris based Mudjehadin-e khalq organization, an Islamist Marxist group that is labeled by the United States as a terrorist organization. After siding with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war and a series of terrorists attacks, the group has little support among most Iranians.

Audio clips were played of alleged telephone recordings in which people said to be members of the organization urge others to get information about the protests to Western news organizations. Despite the media claims, involvement of the group seems highly unlikely since supporters are rare in Iran.

In addition, the Post reports that Mousavi has not made any public appearances today, and his followers are very worried that he may be arrested. The Post says that it is becoming clear that there is power struggle going on in the Iranian government between Rafsanjani and Ayatolla Khamenei. Continue reading

Witnessing the Courage of Iran, Part 2

BBC photo from Tehran today

BBC photo from Tehran today

Here is a new thread on the courageous Iranian protesters and their fight for freedom. Please use the comments to post any news you have and to discuss the ongoing situation.

Roger Cohen has a new report from Iran at the New York Times. He thinks Ayatolla Khamenei may have miscalculated with yesterday’s hardline speech followed by the bloodshed today.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, had used his Friday sermon to declare high noon in Tehran, warning of “bloodshed and chaos” if protests over a disputed election persisted.

He got both on Saturday — and saw the hitherto sacrosanct authority of his office challenged as never before since the 1979 revolution birthed the Islamic Republic and conceived for it a leadership post standing at the very flank of the Prophet. A multitude of Iranians took their fight through a holy breach on Saturday from which there appears to be scant turning back.

Khamenei has taken a radical risk. He has factionalized himself, so losing the arbiter’s lofty garb, by aligning himself with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against both Mir Hussein Moussavi, the opposition leader, and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a founding father of the revolution.

He has taunted millions of Iranians by praising their unprecedented participation in an election many now view as a ballot-box putsch. He has ridiculed the notion that an official inquiry into the vote might yield a different result. He has tried pathos and he has tried pounding his lectern. In short, he has lost his aura.

Cohen also notes the continuing involvement of Iranian women in the protests. Continue reading