In an address to a Friday congregation at the Tehran University on June 19,2009, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, again changed his position on the legality of the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the President of Iran at the elections held on June 12,2009.
2. After having endorsed the re-election in the initial days of the protest against it, he then gave the impression of taking a neutral stance by suggesting that as laid down in the Constitution, the matter should be left to the Guardian Council to decide as per the procedures laid down by the law.
3. As this did not have any impact on the anti-Ahmadinejad demonstrations all over the country, he has reiterated his original endorsement of the validity of the re-election without waiting for the report of the Guardian Council, which is enquiring into over 600 complaints received against the election and is to examine the defeated candidates on June 20, 2009. He has thus sought to pre-empt any adverse ruling by the Guardian Council. Khamenei also expressed his support to the foreign policy and the pro-poor economic policies followed by Ahmadinejad.
4.He has rejected indirectly, but definitively the demands of the protesters for the annulment of the election results and for a fresh poll and expressed his strong support for the continuance of Ahmadinejad as the President. He has warned against the continuance of the street protests, which, according to him, could be manipulated by outsiders and could lead to violence.
5. His speech was an indication of his belief that any seeming neutral stand of his could aggravate the situation and that the time had come to remove any impression of softness which might encourage more demonstrations. It was also a green signal to the Basij militia and the security agencies to start dealing with the protests more firmly even at the risk of some adverse external reactions. His message was clear: Thus far and no further.
6. The clear-cut stand taken by the Ayatollah in support of Ahmadinejad and in endorsement of the validity of his re-election creates a dilemma for Mir Hossein Mousavi, the defeated reformist candidate, and his supporters who have been demonstrating in their thousands.Till now, they have been projecting their protests as directed against Ahmadinejad and against what they allege to be his rigged victory. They have taken care not to give the impression of their protests being also against the Ayatollah and the Islamic system.
7. The continuance of the protest movement after ignoring the intervention of the Ayatollah could bring them into an undesired confrontation with him and the Islamic system. The Islamic revolutionaries, who came out into the streets in their thousands in 1978-79,were protesting against the arbitrary rule of the Shah of Iran, who was viewed by them as a stooge of the US. By continuing with their demonstrations in spite of the appeal for restraint from the Ayatollah, the present protesters would be unwittingly projecting themselves as opponents of someone (Ahmadinejad), who is widely viewed as standing in the way of a re-imposition of the US hegemony in the region and over Iran.
8. How to keep the protests focussed against the rigged elections without making it appear as directed against the post-1979 Islamic rule in Iran?That is the dilemma facing Mousavi and the protesters. Mousavi was himself a product of the Islamic revolution and had held office as Prime Minister in the initial difficult years of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. He was in the forefront of the war effort which frustrated the efforts of Saddam Hussein's Army to have the Islamic Government overthrown, with the tacit backing of the US . How can he now be seen as weakening the foundation of the Islamic system, which could play into the hands of the Americans?
9. The answers to these questions will decide the future course of the protest movement. The immediate reaction of the protesters after the address of the Ayatollah was not to relent in their protest movement and to keep it going till they have achieved their objective of a fresh election.
10.For the present, Mousavi and his supporters are going ahead with their plans for two demonstrations on Saturday and Sunday despite the refusal of permission by the Government, which is planning to suppress them. They have also appealed to the international community to demonstrate in their support on Sunday. If the Government with the help of the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij militia succeeds in suppressing the demonstrations without many casualties----the situation could take an unpredictable turn---more violence or a collapse of the movement.
11. The Revolutionary Guards and the Basij seem to be confident that once they get the green signal for action from the Ayatollah, they should be able to put down the protest movement. Some more Tweets which have come out of Iran after the Ayatollah's speech are given below. An examination of these Tweets would indicate that the protesters are concerned that the Ayatollah's public intervention in support of Ahmadinejad has made the situation very complex calling for a careful handling of it.
Mousavi - confirmed - show support for Sea of Green from balcony starting 9pm to midnight tonight -
Mousavi - Confirmed - calls for ALL the nation to stand on balconys TONIGHT and show support with 'Allah Akbar'.
Ebrahim Yazdi has been released by Gov due to poor health.
Shahab Talebani has been arrested today.
Unconfirmed reports - Revolutionary Guard has been mobilised to secure Tehran.
The situation in Iran is now CRITICAL - the nation is heartbroken - suppression is imminent.
The Gov has refused to issue a permit for Sea of Green march at 4pm on Saturday in Tehran.
Confirmed - Mousavi calls on people of the world to march on SUNDAY in support of Sea of Green.
Confirmed - Saturday Sea of Green rally - Enghelab Sq - 4pm - Mousavi, Karoubi and Khatami will attend -
Now is dawn - we must go - location not safe - thank u for supporting Sea of Green.
NEVER log on to any proxy posted on twitter - u will be traced .
Advice - travel in groups - always tell someone where u are going - dont go out unless needed .
Political situ in Iran is v/complex - for every decision there are reasons - some we cannot mention here. (20-6-09)
(The writer is Additional Secretary(retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies,Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com )