Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned opposition leaders Friday of a “harsh response” if they continued speaking out against the government, a move that analysts said opened the way for their possible arrest.
Although analysts have warned that arrests seemed imminent before, several of them said Friday that they took this warning more seriously because it was issued at Friday Prayer — an important political platform — and because it followed the forced shutdown of the offices of two of the opposition’s leaders this week, as well as the arrests of their top aides.
Those leaders, Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hussein Moussavi, have been leading a movement to try to invalidate the results of June’s presidential election, which they say was stolen. Both men ran in the election, and Mr. Moussavi, a former prime minister, was considered the chief rival to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose re-election was blessed by Ayatollah Khamenei despite massive street protests.
On Friday, a Web site linked to Mr. Moussavi, rahesabz.net, quoted Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, an influential politician who sided with the opposition, as saying that Ayatollah Khamenei had already issued an order for Mr. Karroubi’s arrest. A person close to Mr. Rafsanjani, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the subject, confirmed the report, but said the order was issued at least two weeks ago. [continued…]