It’s Saturday afternoon in Tehran, and the streets are generally quiet. But the aftermath of Iran’s rigged election, in which radical-right President Ahmadinejad and his paramilitary backers were kept in office, has left Iran’s capital steeped in anger, despair, and bitterness.
Last night, after the polls closed, heavily armed troops from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps were in evidence in the streets. In one area of north Tehran, where backers of opposition challenger and reformist ex-Prime Minister Mousavi are concentrated, I saw a convoy of at least fifteen military vehicles filled with armed guards idling along the side of the road. The street in front of the Interior Ministry, where votes are counted, is blocked and heavily guarded after rumors that Mousavi supporters might gather there to protest the election count.
Mousavi himself has pledged to fight the verdict, using words like “tyranny” and adding, “I will not surrender to this dangerous charade.”
To get some perspective on the crisis, today I went to see Ibrahim Yazdi, a leading Iranian dissident and Iran’s foreign minister in the early days of Islamic republic. Here is the text of the interview:
What is your reaction to the results of the election?
Many of us believe that the election was rigged. Not only Mousavi. We don’t have any doubt. And as far as we are concerned, it is not legitimate.
There were many, many irregularities. They did not permit the candidates to supervise the election or the counting of the ballots at the polling places. The minister of the interior announced that he would oversee the final count in his office, at the ministry, with only two aides present.
In previous elections, they announced the results in each district, so people could follow up and make a judgment about the validity of the figures. In 2005, there were problems: in one district there were about 100,000 eligible voters, and they announced a total vote of 150,000. This time they didn’t even release information about each particular district.
In all, there were about 45,000 polling places. There were 14,000 mobile ones, that can move from place to place. Many of us protested that. Originally, these mobile polling places were supposed to be used in hospitals and so on. This time, they were used in police stations, army bases, and various military compounds. When it comes to the military compounds and so on, if even 500 extra votes were put into each of the 14,000 boxes, that is seven million votes.
Mousavi and Karroubi had earlier established a joint committee to protect the peoples’ votes. Many young people volunteered to work on that committee. But the authorities didn’t let it happen. Last night [that is, election night] the security forces closed down that committee. There is no way, independent of the government and the Guardian Council, to verify the results.
I’ve heard people say that President Ahmadinejad is gathering so much power that he might be able to use the Revolutionary Guard and his other allies to make a coup d’etat against the state.
A coup d’etat? They’ve already made one! They’ve created a dictatorship, in fact. Do you know that last night the security forces occupied the offices of many newspapers, to make sure that their reporting on the election was favorable? They changed many headlines. They fixed the election.
The Guards are taking over everything, including many economic institutions. The ministry of the interior is increasing its control in all the provinces.
We have information that Ahmadinejad is thinking about changing the Constitution to allow the president to serve more than two terms, to make his presidency more or less permanent.
Of course, there are strong voices in the establishment that will challenge him. It is not clear that he and the Sepah (the Revolutionary Guard) will be strong enough to overcome them. But there will be clashes over this.
Where does the Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, stand in regard to this?
The problem is that there is concern about the relationship between the Leader and the Guards. To what extent can the Leader control or moderate the Guards? This is a difficult question.
After the last election , after Ahmadinejad was first elected, there were many questions raised about Ahmadinejad’s effort to isolate the Leader. We talked openly about this. This time, in preparation for the vote, they isolated him even further. For instance, in years past [former President] Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani was influential, perhaps even more influential than the leader. Now, with the slogans being used at Ahmadinejad’s rallies, things like “Death to Hashemi!”, they have created a deep rift. Khamenei has also lost the support of many high-ranking members of the clergy.
Many old comrades of the  revolution don’t trust Ahmadinejad. It is only the Sepah that supports him.
And what do you mean by “isolating” the Leader?
By monitoring and controlling the flow of information to him. Unfortunately, God will not reveal information to him directly. Where does he get his information, his data? The system works in such a way that information is very powerful. And Ahmadinejad controls the ministry of the interior, the ministry of information, the ministry of intelligence.
What do you think will happen now? So much energy was devoted to support for Mousavi, and so much hope was created. Do you think it will result in a crisis?
Certainly, we are concerned about spontaneous reactions. Iran’s youth has been engaged and mobilized. Around the country, there have already been some violent clashes.
We do not agree with violence, because violence will only give the Right an excuse to suppress the opposition.
Certainly, the gap inside Iran, politically, will be widened. Our main concern is how to keep the enthusiasm that was created for the election alive, in order to monitor and constrain the power of the government. The only way to counter it is the power of the people. We need to organize them.
In this we have an experience to guide us. During the era of the Shah, there was only one moment in which the power of the people was mobilized against the Shah and to support changes in the Constitution, and that was during the era of [Prime Minister] Mossadegh. [Mossadegh was ousted in the 1953 coup organized by the CIA and British intelligence.] In that era, there was a very powerful political movement inside the country that checked the power of the Shah. Today we have to do the same. We are nor after subversion. We do not want to change the Constitution. We do want to create a viable political force that can exert its influence.