The Iranian regime’s biggest threat may come from the inside

Internal combustion

Immediately after the Mashai appointment [as first deputy president] was made public, a chorus of conservative voices demanded its repeal, claiming that Mashai’s apparent sins were unforgivable. A few months ago, he had been accused of saying Islam does not have the ability to cope with twenty-first-century problems, and that Iranians have no natural enmity against the citizens of Israel. Ahmadinejad ignored demands for firing Mashai, defending him as one of the most pious men he has ever had the good fortune to meet. Aside from family ties, the two men share a passion for the messianic return of Shiism’s Twelfth Imam.

Khamenei soon sent Ahmadinejad a hand-written note declaring the Mashai appointment null and void. It was a Hokm-e Hokumati, the equivalent of a Papal Bull in Catholicism. Even then, Ahmadinejad chose to ignore the order for a week. The delay caused a minor rebellion in the cabinet, with several ministers, including the powerful ministers of intelligence, labor, and Islamic guidance, demanding that Ahmadinejad sack Mashai. Instead of heeding their advice, Ahmadinejad reportedly left the cabinet meeting in anger, sending Mashai back to chair the rest of the meeting. A few days later, he dismissed the dissenting ministers.

Of the group, the firing of Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejeyee is the most sensitive and important, since the ministry has become a surprising weak link in the regime’s apparatus of oppression. During Khatami’s presidency in the mid-90s, some of the ministry’s rogue elements, particularly those responsible for murder of opposition figures, were tried. Under Mohseni-Ejeyee, appointed by Ahmadinejad to the job in 2005, the ministry has been openly opposed to the broadcast of tortured “confessions” of those arrested during last month’s protests, all forced to admit that they had been pawns in a Western master-plan for a “velvet revolution” in Iran. Through leaked stories and occasional comments from “inside sources,” the intelligence ministry has been supporting the claims of the opposition–that the rebellion has been locally bred (rather than engineered by meddling foreigners), the result of perceived irregularities in the election. It is not surprising that after firing Mohseni-Ejeyee, Ahmadinejad went over the ministry of intelligence and said he was unhappy with their work. Even his effort to appoint one of Mohseni-Ejeyee’s deputies as acting minister backfired when the man refused to accept the job. Ultimately, Ahmadinejad has been forced to become the acting minister himself for the rest of his term. [continued…]

Iran broadcasts ‘confessions’ by 2 opposition figures on trial

A day after Iranian authorities began a mass trial of more than 100 government opponents, state television broadcast a chilling segment in which two defendants — both prominent reform figures — said they had “changed” since being arrested, and disputed widespread claims that their publicized confessions had been coerced through torture.

The segment was broadcast shortly after a Tehran prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, who is running the trials, released a statement warning that anyone criticizing the trial as illegitimate, as many opposition figures have done, would also be prosecuted.

The two steps reflected an intensified effort to intimidate Iran’s opposition movement before President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is inaugurated for a second term on Wednesday. [continued…]

Iranians on verge of seizing new era

A cell phone text message circulating in Tehran describes “some of the things banned in the Islamic republic: shouting ‘God is Great,’ attending Friday prayers, reading the Fatiha [the opening chapter of the Koran] and putting on a wake for the dead.”

The references are everyday practices in the life of a Muslim that the government has blocked supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi from doing since June 12.

Members of a paramilitary group called the Basij have shot in the direction of citizens chanting “God is great,” fired tear gas at Mousavi supporters attending Friday prayers and last week prevented Mr. Mousavi from reading the opening verse of the Koran over the grave of a protester — this in an overwhelmingly Muslim country whose government says it promotes and protects Islam.

But Iranians are continuing to chant “God is great” from their rooftops at night — as they did during the 1978-79 revolution — and to venture into the streets by the thousands to face off against baton-wielding motorcycle-mounted enforcers. [continued…]

Ahmadinejad’s opponents snub election ceremony

With a mass trial of more than 100 putative dissidents under way, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was formally endorsed Monday as Iran’s leader for a second term. But several of his most prominent opponents, who have called his re-election fraudulent, stayed away from the event, news reports said.

The ceremony, conducted by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, came one day after state television broadcast a chilling segment of the trial in which two defendants — both prominent reform figures — said they had “changed” since being arrested and disputed widespread claims that their publicized confessions had been coerced through torture. [continued…]

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