Thursday, June 25, 2009

Iran: Cracks in the Wall?

It is well known that there are rifts in the Iranian leadership. While no one in power there loves the US or Israel, there are some who want to take some of the rough edges off of Ahmadinejad's rule. The latest reports from Press TV, a news agency that broadcasts from Iran hint at a new stage in the violence. According to Press TV, eight members of the hated Basij militia were killed in a recent demonstration. Press TV reports as follows.

"Twenty people including, eight Basij members, have been killed during the post-election unrest in Tehran, Iranian officials say.

All the Basij members were killed by gunfire, indicating that there were gunmen fomenting unrest among protesters, the officials said.

The volunteer Basij forces were among the main targets of the rioters during the recent protests in Tehran.

Iranian police have arrested a rioter who attacked an unarmed Basiji member during the post-election protests in Tehran. "

How were the Basij members killed? Are there factions beside the Basijis who are now armed? For the past few days, it looked like they had the upper hand with armed strength. Could the balance of power be changing? In another story on Press TV, the Iran government seems to be embarassed by reports of attacks upon Teheran's main university. A government spokesman promised to seek and punish the attackers. Press TV reports as follows.

"Iran's Minister of Science, Research and Technology says that punishment will be meted out to those who recently attacked a number of Iranian universities.

Mohammad Mehdi Zahedi said Thursday that a fact-finding commission had been formed to investigate the violent attacks, which left many students seriously wounded and hospitalized.

The attacks also led to the destruction of the students' private properties and university equipment.

The violent attacks were carried out after the announcement of the disputed June 12 election results by unidentified men, causing an outrage among academics, student communities and the public."

Is the government serious? Will they really find the attackers? One thing is sure. They are losing not only hearts and minds but men as well.

In another development, a religious leader named Ayatollah Makarem appears to be calling for reconciliation. In the following Press TV coverage, he seems to hint at some sort of compromise.

Senior cleric Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem-Shirazi has called for Iran's presidential election dispute to be settled through "national conciliation".

"Extremely bitter events have occurred in the days following the magnificent 10th [presidential] election, and certain adventurists took advantage of the disputes between the honorable candidates," Grand Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi said in a statement published on his website on Thursday.

The octogenarian professor of theology said that the recent events "have caused deep regret and sorrow in all Iranians loyal to the Islamic establishment and the revolution,... and have gladdened the enemy."

"Under these circumstances, where both our friends and enemies are observing the situation in our country, it is incumbent upon us to fully maintain calm and not to allow adventurists to disturb public order and destroy public and private property, and, as the great Leader of the Islamic Revolution has emphasized, the problems must be solved through legal means," added the Grand Ayatollah.

Although his language was couched in terms that would not threaten Ahmadinejad, the following words in his speech seemed to leave the door open to a compromise.

"Definitively, something must be done to ensure that there are no embers burning under the ashes, and (to ensure) that hostilities, antagonism and rivalries are transformed into amity and cooperation among all parties."

The longer the unrest continues in Iran, the more fundamental will be popular opposition to the very idea of a theocratic state. The government may be trying to cut its losses.

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