Chip Cummins – Wall Street Journal June 14, 2010
Iranian officials, including the country's most powerful opposition cleric, rallied behind the regime Sunday following last week's fresh United Nations sanctions and after security services managed to suppress protests intended to mark the anniversary of last year's contested presidential election.
Opposition supporters emailed accounts and videos of isolated protests and clashes across Iran Saturday, a year after the vote that triggered the worst internal unrest since the Iranian revolution. But security services fanned that out across many cities in a dramatic show of force, and streets were mostly quiet. Protest leaders who had sought permission to demonstrate in Tehran, reversed course late last week and advised supporters to stay at home.
Saturday's quiet anniversary represented the latest setback for the opposition, whose leaders have struggled to bring people back onto the streets after security forces increased efforts earlier this year to silence them.
Some analysts said the timing of last week's fresh United Nations sanctions against Iran might have played into the regime's hands in suppressing the planned protests, possibly weakening a recent appeal by opposition leaders to win over Iran's economically disenfranchised. Mustafa Alani, a security analyst at the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center, said the U.N. vote allowed Tehran to paint itself as the defender of the Iranian people in the face of foreign economic pressure.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's insistence that Iran has the right to develop a peaceful nuclear program is deeply popular, and many Iranians have bristled at past U.N. and U.S. sanctions. Even leading opposition figures have rallied around the policy.
On Sunday, top opposition cleric Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani joined regime hard-liners in condemning the U.N. sanctions. Mr. Rafsanjani, a former president, is an outspoken critic of Mr. Ahmadinejad. While he was silent on the election anniversary in comments carried on his website and reported by state news agencies Sunday, he lashed out at the new sanctions. "Nowadays, we can see new things in the way arrogant powers treat the Islamic Republic of Iran," he told the country's powerful Expediency Council, a committee of clerics, which he heads, that has the power to name and remove the supreme leader.
Opposition websites, including Iran's Human Rights Association, said about 200 people were arrested over the weekend.
Last updated 19/06/2010