Amid scattered deaths and rising protests, the showdown in Iran continues to build. The Iranian regime’s crackdown is gathering momentum, with reports of sweeping arrests of opposition figures, militia raids on university campuses, and threats from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps that protestors are liable to be executed. (A contingent of pro-Ahmadinejad backers marched in Tehran yesterday, chanting: “Rioters should be executed!”) According to Reuters, the Guard statement said:
“We warn the few elements controlled by foreigners who try to disrupt domestic security by inciting individuals to destroy and to commit arson that the Islamic penal code for such individuals waging war against God is execution.”
Of course, the “elements” are hardly “few,” they are not “controlled by foreigners,” and their actions have been overwhelmingly nonviolent, dignified, and restrained rather than trying to “destroy” and “commit arson.” Yet the threat is plain.
Ibrahim Yazdi, the dissident veteran of the 1979 revolution who is a leader of the Freedom Movement of Iran — and who I interviewed at length at his home in Tehran the day after the rigged election — is reportedly sought by the Iranian security forces, who came to home to arrest him. He was not there, according to the report. The Washington Post reports that more than 170 opposition figures have been arrested, including senior officials.
The anti-Ahmadinejad coalition is deep and broad. It includes conservative, Old Guard founders of the Islamic Republic, who view Ahmadinejad with disdain and who resent the coming to power of his coterie of Revolutionary Guard commanders; the large and growing majority of Iranian clerics and senior ayatollahs, many of whom have long viewed the Leader, Ayatatollah Ali Khamenei, as an upstart and usurper since he was elevated to his position 20 years ago; nearly the entirety of Iran’s business class, especially those involved in high-tech, aviation, oil and gas, and heavy industry, who blame Ahmadinejad for his catastrophic mismanagement of the economy and for the crippling economic sanctions; the entire class of Iranian reformists, from more liberal-minded clerics like former President Khatami to more centrist ex-officials such as former Prime Minister Mousavi, the presidential candidate; a large contingent of Iranian women, energized by the role of Zahra Rahnavard, Mousavi’s wife, who I met in Tehran, who campaigned vigorously for her husband and for women’s rights; and of course, the educated elite of Iran, including students, artists, filmmakers, intellectuals, writers, and musicians.