Bait and Blame in Iran

Surprise, surprise. Khamenei whitewashes, err, sanctions election of Ahmadinejad, warning opposition leaders that they will be “responsible for bloodshed and chaos,” if they don’t shut down opposition rallies. The blame baiting continues, following accusations from Iranian leaders of U.S. intervention. According to today’s HuffPost:

Iran directly accused the United States of meddling in the deepening crisis over a disputed presidential election and broadened its media clampdown Wednesday to include blogs and news Web sites. But protesters took to the streets in growing defiance of the country’s Islamic rulers.

In contrast, there may be division in the mullah ranks. The Lede blog recounts New York Times U.N. Correspondent Neil MacFarquhar’s report of an underlying power struggle among Iran’s clerics. He notes that lead cleric and former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a Moussavi supporter, may play a pivotal role:

One of the country’s most influential clerics, Mr. Rafsanjani has been notably silent since Mr. Ahmadinejad was declared the winner last week, and there has been speculation that Mr. Rafsanjani is in Qum trying to muster clerical opposition to the country’s leaders. But those reports are difficult to confirm with any authority.

Mr. Rafsanjani leads the 86-member Assembly of Experts, whose duties include endorsing the performance of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who on Saturday called the election’s outcome “a divine blessing.” In theory, the group has the power to remove him, but that has never been done and any attempt to do so would probably further inflame the situation, analysts said.

The analysts say about a third of the Assembly members are loyal to Mr. Rafsanjani. Of the other members, perhaps a quarter are considered loyal to Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, a mentor to Mr. Ahmadinejad and a staunchly conservative figure who has suggested that allowing the public a voice in elections serves only to sully God’s laws. The rest are viewed as independents who could vote either way.

Meanwhile, Middle East expert Fawaz A. Gerges discussed social underpinnings in Iran yesterday morning on CNN, with John Roberts. A Sarah Lawrence professor, Gerges explained that young women and youth in general want more reforms than even the opposition leader Moussavi offers. He is an excellent source for cultural analysis in Iran. Gerges is a frequent CNN guest. Check out this transcript page from the day of the Iranian election. In it, Gerge provides good background on the workings of Iran’s culture today.
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