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Iran Elections Expose Simmering Clerical Disharmony
by Karina Araos Bookmark and Share

West Attempts at Franchised Street Revolution for Regime Change Fails
The Iranian people have been under US led Western siege since 1979 when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini led Shia revolution ousted Shah Reza Pehelavi, US gendarme in the Middle East. The memories of 444 days of hostage taking of US embassy personnel in Tehran by the Iranian student revolutionaries and 1953 CIA and British MI6 organized coup which ousted Iran's nationalist and popular Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq for his nationalization of British and other Western oil interests continue to color and bedevil the two sides perceptions and mistrust. According to a recent media report, Reza Pehelvi's Queen Diba said that Washington, which had refused asylum to its ally the Shah were inclined to exchange him for the US hostages.

West, not wisely, perhaps saw in the recently concluded Presidential elections an opportunity to meddle, weaken and malign the regime in Tehran and if possible bring about a change. But it appears to be ill- timed and ill considered. Embarrassment to the ruling oligarchy in Tehran, yes. But a pro-West regime take over is most unlikely. Washington, stuck in the Iraqi quagmire, is pulling out and has little chance of success in mountainous and gritty Afghanistan either, a graveyard of empires in the past, in spite of US troops surge. Western capitalism is on fast decline.

Perhaps, the factions in ruling clerical 'republican oligarchy thought that with US in a weakened position, it was time for jostling for power by unfreezing the internal political equations crystallized since 1979. On one side appears the supreme leader Ali Khamenei, President- elect Mahmoud Ahmedinejed, Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Basiji militia and assortment of clerical groups.  Mir Hossein Mousavi, the main challenger 's main backing comes from wily rich Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani clan and many in the clerical hierarchy while millions from the urban younger generation want change and more freedom. According to some reports another group under Parliament Speaker Alirajani, himself a son of an Ayatollah is emerging .

Perhaps the reported declining health of Ali Khamenei led the contenders for succession to use the opportunity of elections to stake their claims .Behind the demonstrations and public postures, perhaps haggling among the contenders as in a carpet bazzar might be proceeding. At his first major speech on Friday ,19 June, after the elections, Khamenei was conciliatory. While ruling out new elections firmly he praised the various faction leaders including Mousavi and Rafsanjani.

Members of Iran's influential National Security Council told the opposition leader Mir Hossein Moussavi on 28 June that his repeated demands for the annulment of the June 12 election results were "illogical and unethical." The council met with Moussavi along with former presidential candidates Mehdi Karrubi and Mohsen Rezaie, and former Iran President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who now chairs the Assembly of Experts.

After the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iranians approved in a referendum a new constitution which combines elements of unelected religious leadership and democracy. In recent years, Iran's conservative body of appointed institutions have faced a challenge from reformist politicians directly elected by the people, but the supreme leader remains the final authority in the country.
The supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is the highest ranking political and religious authority in the country. He appoints the chiefs of posts such as the commanders of the armed forces, chief judges, prosecutors as well as six of the Islamic jurists who sit on the 12-member Guardian Council.

Ali Khamenei was selected by the Assembly of Experts in 1989.The Assembly is an 86-member chamber that monitors the highest religious leader's performance. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Khamenei's predecessor, was the inspiration and leader of the 1979 Islamic Revolution that overthrew of the Shah.

The elected president is subordinate to the appointed supreme leader and oversees economic policy and the management of national affairs. The president can sign agreements with foreign governments and approve ambassadorial appointments and, as such, is responsible for the functions of the executive. He selects the Council of Ministers which must be approved by parliament. He also chairs the Supreme National Security Council, which co-ordinates defense and security policy, although the supreme leader still has the final say on the running of the armed forces, defense and nuclear and foreign policy.

From the beginning, not all Iranians fully supported the revolution, its agenda and ham handed and many times its brutal implementation. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was a rallying point for all against the Shah ;the corroding corruption, the excesses of the Savak secret police and its backers, the CIA and USA, the hopes and aspirations of the youth for social justice, the masses suffering from inflation and sudden oil wealth driven inequities.

Khomeini provided that unflinching moral and spiritual bulwark against the Shah's armed-to-the-teeth military machine and his capacity to deny whatever concessions were demanded, and what was held out in the end as too little and too late. Many Iranians who opposed the hardliner clerics and their killjoy agenda were eliminated, forced to flee ( most of the them and their descendents are now active in Diaspora ) or went underground. Even in 1980, disenchanted, only one fourth of Iranians went to the parliamentary polls. Expectedly, many clerics, some even senior to Khomeini, like Shariatmadari, favored political parties and more freedoms. But by sheer force, the radical conservatives took over power, sometimes in spite of Khomeini.

A hubris driven, relentlessly arrogant , aggressive and hostile Washington rebuffed all attempts for cooperation by Iranian leaders like President Khatami, notably in 2003 and thus strengthened the position of conservative elements in the Iranian ruling elite. This factor was greatly responsible for Ahmedinejed's victory in 2005 against Rafsanjani.

In the final analysis, what did the post-revolution period bring to the Iranians? Suffocating social curbs, little freedom and dwindling living standards in an oil-rich country. (Yes, Ahmedinejed did disburse oil revenues among poor in the country side) It was made worse by US policy of embargo and isolation, to teach Iranians a lesson for 1979. Now the opponents of President Ahmedinjed are making use of the 1979 tactics i.e. skillful use of Karbala - where Imam Hussein and his army and family fought and died for Islam - and other Shia imagery and caricaturing the ruling elite as the sultan or the caliph.

Unlike the picture painted by corporate western media ,while under duress of dress code and other restrictions ,the women in Iran are quite free and equal partners in economic and political life and fight for their rights. Once women demanding equal freedom as men even gate crashed into football stadium, where only men were let in to felicitate a returning Iranian team which had won abroad.

A Hindutva ideologue journalist Swapan Dasgupta was quite struck by what he saw in Iran in 1999. He said, 'Much more of a discovery was the remarkable extent to which the Iranian economy was powered by women. The sartorial restrictions ' the ubiquitous head scarves and the occasional full chador ' appeared as needless restrictions on personal freedom. However, it was remarkable that this insistence on modesty in a completely male-dominated establishment hadn't succeeded in reducing women to complete subordination. In office after office, particularly in the private sector, it was clear that women were the driving force. 'Our men are useless,' a woman graduate nominally attached to an embassy told me bluntly, 'Without women this country would be in an even worse state. Maybe she was exaggerating but I suspect she was pointing to something that Iran-watchers have been slow to realize: the growing mismatch between the economic role of women and their role in the power structure' In many faculties in the universities more girls than boys are enrolled.

Yes, there is great yearning among young men and women, imbued with Western culture and values who want more freedoms like yuppie generation everywhere. They are perhaps being exploited in the fight between the ruling factions for demonstrating, encouraged and abetted from abroad by the Diaspora and western propaganda machines like BBC and CNN as well as the print media in the West , mostly corporate or government controlled. Unfortunately Indian media is a poor copycat of the west in this and other matters breathlessly recycling what BBC, CNN or Economist or New York Times gurgle.

A young bachelor Asian diplomat, who was posted from Tehran to Bucharest, full of good looking but pragmatic girls, could not establish personal intimate relationships. He had found no such difficulty in Iran's capital Tehran, in spite of the moral police .The clever Iranians, who invented Takkyia, can find ways to go around obstacles. Finally the Asian diplomat called over his Iranian girl friend to Istanbul to spend some time together.

A big power in pre-colonial era, Iran remains a key player which ha , can and would influence events in the region. US led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have unwittingly strengthened Tehran's power and reach. Washington first removed anti-Shia fanatic Sunni Taliban in the east in Afghanistan and then installed ironically a pro-Iran Shia dominated regime in Baghdad after the removal and lynching of Iraq's President Saddam Hussein under its watch. Iran's alliance with Syria, financial and other support to Shia Hezbollah which has deep roots in Lebanon and support for Hamas in Gaza, elected in 2006 in the freest elections in Palestine testify to Tehran's influence in the region and are obstacles in Western plans to dominate the strategic space and energy resources in the Middle East.

The rise of Iran and its allies has been watched in dismay by Washington's subservient Sunni Arab allies in the region, who normally do not hold elections or rig them, with not a squeak heard from the West .Many have sizable Shia populations. They are watching the current events in Iran in fear and awe .After Hezbollah had repulsed the so called 'invincible' Israeli commandoes in South Lebanon in the 2006 war ,Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and Iran President Ahmedinejed became the top most popular leaders even among the Sunni Arab masses sending shivers down the spine of Sunni rulers in the region.

With a population nearing 70 million, just a fourth India's size in area and strategically located, Iran's reach to influence regional and world events remains as durable as ever. But Iranians, an ethnic mix, may not easily stand the test of territorial and linguistic loyalty. Only half speak Persian, a quarter, like Kurds etc, allied languages, the rest mostly Turkic Azeri. Iran has twice the number Azeri speakers as Azerbaijan. It has one fourth the number of Turkomens compared to Turkmenistan. Then there are Arabs and others, even Dravidian Brahui-speaking Balochis. Mousavi the challenger, like Ali Khamenei is Turkic -Azeri speaking. So religion , apart from its ancient civilization remains a major cementing factor in the nation state.

The Parthians, Achemenean and Sasanians of Persia had contested the Roman and Byzantine empires with Palestine, Syria and Iraq mostly under their sway. Iran remained strategically crucial even during the colonial era during the rivalry between Russian empire and the British empire, the latter ruled from India, before Washington supplanted London as the premier western imperial power after WW II.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Tehran has become even more crucial in the ongoing struggle between US led West and the East to gain control over former Soviet republics in the Caspian and central Asia and their resources. Revived under Vladimir Putin, Russia and China, a rising economic power house, realizing the implications of western strategic moves of replacing the rulers in the region with puppets through franchised street revolutions as in Serbia, Georgia , Ukraine and failed attempts closer home in Belarus, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan have joined hands and strengthened the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), originally established to coordinate efforts against smuggling ,border problems and terrorism .It is now evolving into an organization to counter the eastward expanding NATO, which would like to put its soldiers right at the borders of Russia and China and surround them further.

Iran, with Observer status in SCO and keen to become a full member, is the keystone in the strategic calculus of the West-East confrontation in the Middle East, the Caspian and the central Asian region. Hence, somewhat ludicrous attempts for a regime change in Tehran by the West , which compares the demonstrations in Tehran with the 1979 revolution while hoping for a 1953 like shift. An impossible proposition by any stretch of imagination.

Ahmedinejed in Yekaterinburg for SCO summit

It was noteworthy that in spite of the massive demonstrations and tense situation at home, Ahmadinejed attended the SCO summit in the Siberian city of Yekaterinburg .

The "age of empires has ended" and the "international capitalist order is retreating," declared a beaming Ahmadinejed, speaking in Yekaterinburg before an audience that included the top leaders of member SCO countries Russia, China, and others and Observer countries leaders like Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari .

In a closed-door meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev , Ahmadinejed reportedly explained his position on the recently concluded elections. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Rybakov later told journalists that Iran's elections was an "internal affair," adding that "we welcome [Ahmedinejed] on Russian soil and see it as symbolic that he made his first visit to Russia. This allows hope for progress in bilateral affairs." Thus clear lines have been drawn in the West East confrontation.

US franchised revolutions in former Communist and Socialist countries

Like Macdonalds and other franchises , US and the West have developed a model for regime change via street revolutions to install puppet rulers. Let me quote from my article of 5 January , 2005 after elections in Ukraine UKRAINE: ANOTHER KEY STAGE IN EAST 'WEST STRATEGIC BATTLE

'West's Franchised revolutions:

'Elections are a moment of triumph,' said USA Today. It added that ' the potential is clear: Ukraine's Orange Revolution was fueled by young voters in Kiev, who created Web sites and wrote rap songs to inspire voters. They ate at the McDonald's off Independence Square and lined up at Coca-Cola kiosks for drinks. The Orange Revolution is the latest in what appears to be a slow trend toward more democracy among the former Soviet republics and satellite states, including Georgia in 2003, Serbia in 2000 and years earlier in the Czech Republic and Poland.'

Yes, the same tactics were applied by the US triumphantly in Serbia in 2000 to topple Slobodan Milosevic. Michael Kozak, the US ambassador in Minsk, then sought to emulate the success in elections in Belarus against the authoritarian Alexander Lukashenko, but failed.

There have been many write ups in The Guardian, Globalsearch and other websites which have documented western agencies' support to Ukraine President Yushchenko. According to New Statesman Yushchenko was supported covertly by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Freedom House and George Soros' Open Society Institute, the very entities, which had helped oust Shevardnadze last year. The NED has four affiliate institutes: The International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), and the American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS). They' provide technical assistance to aspiring democrats worldwide."

'In Ukraine, the NED and its constituent organizations funded Yushchenko's party Nasha Ukraina (Our Ukraine), as well as the Kiev Press Club. Freedom House, along with 'The Independent Republican Institute (IRI) ' were involved in assessing the "fairness of elections and their results". IRI had its staff in "poll watching" in 9 districts, and local staff in all 25 districts. "There are professionals outside election monitors from bodies such as the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, but the Ukrainian poll, like its predecessors, also featured thousands of local election monitors trained and paid by western groups. ... They also organised exit polls which gave Yushchenko an 11-point lead and set the agenda for much of what has followed."

'Of course, western media and governments are committed to the "Freedom of the Press". They organize exit polls and then feed disinformation into the Western news chain, create and fund "pro-Western", "pro-reform" student groups, who then organize mass displays of civil disobedience. (Read Traynor, in Guardian) 'In the Ukraine, the Pora Youth movement ("Its Time") funded by the Soros Open Society Institute is part of that process with more than 10,000 activists. Supported by the Freedom of Choice Coalition of Ukrainian NGOs, Pora is modeled on Serbia's Otpor and Georgia's Kmara. The Freedom of Choice Coalition acts as an Umbrella organization. It is directly supported by the US and British embassies in Kiev as well as by Germany, through the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (a foundation linked to the ruling Social Democrats).

'The exit polls are important because they help seize the initiative in the propaganda war with the regime, invariably appearing first, receiving wide media coverage and putting the onus on the attacked regime to respond. And how to react when the incumbent regime tries to steal a lost election. The advice was to stay calm and cool but organize mass displays of civil disobedience, which must remain peaceful but could invite violent suppression. [Mousavi declared his victory even before the polls were complete]

'The US has now adapted and perfected the latest communication techniques to apply to post-Soviet states to bring about desirable changes. "Instruments of democracy" are used to topple unpopular dictators or unfriendly regimes, once a successor candidate friendly to the West has been groomed. The Central Intelligence Agency-sponsored Third World uprisings of the Cold War days to remove prime minister Mohammed Mossadaq of Iran, who had nationalized its oil resources, and of Salvador Allende of Chile, which brought US favorite General Augusto Pinochet to power, a man whose crimes are still being catalogued and looked into, are now pass'. ' [US President Obama in his address to Muslims in Cairo recently admitted Washington's role in ousting Mossadaq]

Election results and facts and figures

The interior minister, Sadeq Mahsouli, declared an overwhelming victory of 62.63% to Mir Hussain Mousavi's 33.75%.The turnout was a record 85 percent of Iran's 46.2 million eligible voters. Two other candidates received only a fraction of the vote. In 2005 Ahmedinjed had won only in second the round but by almost the same margin against Rafsanjani who is the main backer of Mousavi , apart from bleeding hearts in USA and Europe promoting democracy in Iraq in Middle East and elsewhere. Allowed two terms only all presidents have won twice so far . Even Western media agreed that the President was very popular in the rural areas where people benefited from his policies. If Mousavi's rally was attended by 100,000 Iranians in uptown Tehran aka South Delhi then Ahmadinjad's rally attracted 600,000 people in down south Tehran aka East Delhi Trilokpuri and Patpatganj poor areas .But the latter was not covered by Western media .

After the results ,Ali Khamenei urged all Iranians "including yesterday's competitors" to support the re-elected president. He described the count as a "real celebration", praised the high turnout of 85% and called for calm. "Enemies may want to spoil the sweetness of this event... with some kind of ill-intentioned provocations," said Ali Khamenei.

Commented a western paper .'There were, of course, some important constituencies that took satisfaction from the outcome. Domestically, Mr. Ahmadinejad appealed to the fears of the more pious and poor who found change unsettling. This included those alarmed by the days of political street carnival preceding the election and those (not just men) put off by Mr. Moussavi's attention to the traditional, second-class role of women in this paternalistic quasi-theocracy.

'They were joined by the civil servants, police officers and paramilitary troops, and the pensioners who all enjoyed the incumbent's oil-financed generosity to his base, by those who relished his name-naming attack on corruption and by those who took some pride in his defiance of the West, however ham-handed.

'Outside Iran, the result was comforting to hawks in Israel and some Western capitals who feared that a more congenial president of Iran would cause the rest of the world to let down its guard against a country galloping toward nuclear weapons capability. Moussavi, while promising a more conciliatory foreign policy, did not disavow the country's nuclear-processing project, which Iran insists is for civilian ends alone. { John Kerry , head of US Senate foreign affairs committee and presidential loser in 2004 admitted that Iran had the right to enrich Uranium for power generation under NPT}

'Among downcast Iranian journalists and academics, the chatter focused on why the interlocking collective leadership of clerics, military officers and politicians, without whose acquiescence little important happens in Iran, decided to stick with Mr. Ahmadinejad. Did they panic at the unexpected passion for change that arose in the closing weeks of the Moussavi campaign? Did Mr. Moussavi go too far in his promises of women's rights, civil freedom and a more conciliatory approach to the West? Or was the surge an illusion after all, the product of wishful thinking?

But soon all hell broke loose specially abroad ; in USA in right wing circles and Neo-Cons ,Europe encouraged by the defiant stand taken by Mousavi , no doubt cheered by his supporters at home . Almost echoing the steps laid out for a US franchised street revolutions ,even before the close of the voting Mousavi declared victory .He warned of "tyranny" and protested that the result was rigged . "The result of such performance by some officials will jeopardise the pillars of the Islamic Republic and will establish tyranny," he added.

Propaganda abroad and demonstrations in Iran

According to Mehdi Yahyanejad, manager of a Farsi-language news site based in Los Angeles, 'Twitter's impact inside Iran is, there is lots of buzz, but once you look . . . you see most of it are Americans tweeting among themselves.' The Alexa rankings confirm that Twitter's penetration in Iran is nearly 0%.

[In a blog entry, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone cited Iran as a reason for delaying "a critical network upgrade" .The maintenance, as originally scheduled, would have disrupted Twitter service in Tehran The State Department's request to postpone upgrading contrasts with comments from President Obama that the United States would not get involved in the matter.]

Western media led by BBC and European leaders went ballistic about the so called 'stolen election', basing reports mostly on twitters. Unfortunately such western disinformation is lapped up by lazy and enslaved Indian media barring some exceptions. Indian media led by The Indian Express treat York Times columnist Thomas Friedman like a media icon. Friedman seized on the Mousavi campaign's green color scheme and declared the movement "Iran's Green Revolution to end its theocracy".

Among other things , he had said ,'This war [in Iraq] is the most important liberal, revolutionary U.S. democracy-building project since the Marshall Plan. ... it is one of the noblest things this country has ever attempted abroad." 'New York Times 30 November 2003. More than a million Iraqis have been killed since the invasion and brutal occupation , creating more than a million widows , 4 million orphans , 4 million refugees and destroying the country for generations .There is little coverage of this in western or Indian media .Every other day dozens of people are being killed in Iraq , more than 200 this week ,but western media has instead gone in overdrive over 17 Iranians killed in street revolutions , encouraged and inspired by the west.

Wrote Seumas Milne in the Guardian of 18 June --' the western media, whose cameras focus so lovingly on Tehran's gilded youth and for whom Ahmadinejad is nothing but a Holocaust-denying fanatic. The other Ahmadinejad, who is seen to stand up for the country's independence, expose elite corruption on TV and use Iran's oil wealth to boost the incomes of the poor majority, is largely invisible abroad.

'While Mousavi promised market reforms and privatization, more personal freedom and better relations with the west, the president increased pensions and public sector wages and handed out cheap loans. So it's hardly surprising that Ahmadinejad should have a solid base among the working class, the religious, small town and rural poor ' or that he might have achieved a similar majority to that of his first election in 2005. That's what one of the few genuinely independent polls (the US-based Ballen-Doherty survey) predicted last month, when the Times reported Ahmadinejad was "expected to win".

'But such details have got lost as the pressure has built in Tehran for a "green revolution" amid unsubstantiated claims that the election was stolen. The strongest evidence appears to be some surprising regional results and the speed of the official announcement, triggered by Mousavi's declaration that he was the winner before the polls closed. But most official figures don't look so 'implausible ' Mousavi won Tehran, for instance, by 2.2m votes to 1.8m ' and it's hard to believe that rigging alone could account for the 11 million-vote gap between the main contenders.'
Voting Fraud!

Writing in 'Counterpunch' of 22 June , Esam Al-Amin said that much of the allegations of election fraud have been just that: unsubstantiated accusations. No one has yet been able to provide a solid shred of evidence of wide scale fraud that would have garnered eleven million votes for one candidate over his opponent. More than thirty pre-election polls were conducted in Iran since President Ahmadinejed and his main opponent, Mousavi, announced their candidacies in early March 2009. The polls varied widely between the two opponents, but if one were to average their results, Ahmadinejed would still come out on top.

Officially, President Ahmadinejed received 24.5 million votes to Mousavi's 13.2 million votes, or 62.6 per cent to 33.8 per cent of the total votes, respectively. In fact, this result mirrored the 2005 elections when Ahmadinejad received 61.7 per cent to former President Hashemi Rafsanjani's 35.9 per cent in the runoff elections. Two other minor candidates, Mehdi Karroubi and Mohsen Rezaee, received the rest of the votes in this election.

There were a total of 45,713 ballot boxes that were set up in cities, towns and villages across Iran. With 39.2 million ballots cast, there were less than 860 ballots per box. Unlike other countries where voters can cast their ballots on several candidates and issues in a single election, Iranian voters had only one choice to consider: their presidential candidate. Why would it take more than an hour or two to count 860 ballots per poll? After the count, the results were then reported electronically to the Ministry of the Interior in Tehran. So the charge that the results were announced too quickly does not hold good. As for the charge that more than 50 polling stations had more than 100 % voters registered. But according to Iranian law voters can vote any where which workers away from place of registration would do.

Moreover, while Ahmadinejad belongs to an active political party that has already won several elections since 2003, Mousavi is an independent candidate who emerged on the political scene just three months ago, after a 20-year hiatus. It was clear during the campaign that Ahmadinejad had a nationwide campaign operation. He made over sixty campaign trips throughout Iran in less than twelve weeks, while his opponent campaigned only in the major cities, and lacked a sophisticated campaign apparatus.

Right to protest

To the whole world it was clear in 2000 that the US Presidential election was publicly stolen with Florida governor Jeff Bush, George Bush's brother stopping counting of votes which were predominantly in Democrat party areas. US Supreme Court for an all time black stain on its record allowed that election to be stolen. And would have US allowed the kind of statements and interference that the West is now indulging in.

Western leaders led by US President Obama have praised the bravery of protesters in Iran in the face of "outrageous" violence. This is really rich .At the drop of a hat British police raid homes of suspected Muslims, who in the absence of any proof are then released. As for the demands of Western leaders in USA, UK and Europe that Iranians be allowed freedom to protest, Prof Juan Cole of the university of Michigan who has generally supported the western viewpoint and the demonstrators said in his blog, "Moreover, very unfortunately, US politicians are no longer in a position to lecture other countries about their human rights. The kind of unlicensed, city-wide demonstrations being held in Tehran last week would not be allowed to be held in the United States.

Senator John McCain led the charge against Obama for not having sufficiently intervened in Iran. At the Republican National Committee convention in St. Paul, 250 protesters were arrested shortly before John McCain took the podium. Most were innocent activists and even journalists. Amy Goodman and her staff were assaulted. In New York in 2004, 'protest zones' were assigned, and 1800 protesters were arrested, who have now been awarded civil damages by the courts. Spontaneous, city-wide demonstrations outside designated 'protest zones' would be illegal in New York City, apparently. In fact, the Republican National Committee has undertaken to pay for the cost of any lawsuits by wronged protesters, which many observers fear will make the police more aggressive, since they will know that their municipal authorities will not have to pay for civil damages.

The number of demonstrators arrested in Tehran on Saturday is estimated at 550 or so, which is less than those arrested by the NYPD for protesting Bush policies in 2004.

US interference

President Obama said the United States "is not at all interfering in Iran's affairs," rejecting charges of meddling that were renewed by Iranian President Ahmadinejad. Asked how the democracy promotion initiatives square with the president's statement, White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said, "Let's be clear: The United States does not fund any movement, faction or political party in Iran. We support ' universal principles of human rights, freedom of speech, and rule of law. "State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said, "Respecting Iran's sovereignty does not mean our silence on issues of fundamental rights and freedoms, such as the right to peacefully protest." [Some cheek]

USA's National Endowment for Democracy has been active in Iran, granting hundreds of thousands of dollars to Iranian groups. From 2005 to 2007, NED gave $345,000 to the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation (ABF). The group claims 'no political affiliation' on its website, but is named for the founder of the National Movement of the Iranian Resistance (NAMIR), an opposition group to the clerical regime founded in 1980. According to the group's website, Boroumand was murdered by agents of the Iranian government in Paris, France, in 1991. The website is registered to the Boroumand Foundation, listed at Suite 357, 3220 N ST., NW, Washington, D.C

Another recipient of NED grants is the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), which received $25,000 in 2002, $64,000 in 2005, and $107,000 in 2006. The 2002 grant was to carry out a 'media training workshop' to train participants representing various civic groups in public relations. The 2005 money was given in part to 'strengthen the capacity of civic organizations in Iran', including by advising Iranian groups on 'foreign donor relations.' The 2006 grant was similarly designed to 'foster cooperation between Iranian NGOs and the international civil society community and to strengthen the institutional capacity of NGOs in Iran.

Former Pakistan Military Chief Gen Aslam Beg told Radio Pashto that according to irrefutable evidence US granted US$ 400 million to anti-Iran organization.

There is no debate over the fact that a CIA covert destabilization campaign inside Iran has been going on for two years. US Military, intelligence, and congressional sources say a secret war is being vamped to bring down the current Iranian leadership. This involves funding anti-government terrorist groups inside Iran, such as Jundullah and the MEK/MKO.

While president Obama was quick to deny interference ,arch imperialists like Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski have hinted that US interests are currently operating to advance their own agendas with regards to Iran and the Middle East.

Brent Scowcroft the United States National Security Advisor told Josh Rushing, the host of Al Jazeera's programme Fault Lines, that aiding the protesters in Iran would provoke a more intense crackdown by the government in Tehran and that the Revolutionary Guard, the militias, and so on, and the police, are completely unified. 'Isn't it naive to think that the US doesn't have some kind of intelligence operatives on the ground in Iran?' asked Al Jazeera's Rushing. 'Of course we do.' Scowcroft replied.

In any case US is not too well prepared "[The revolution] was 30 years ago," said ambassador Nick Burns, a former senior State Department official "We have a whole generation of foreign service officers who didn't learn Farsi." Apart from some diplomatic contacts with Iran on matters such as Afghanistan - before 2003 when Bush placed Iran in the "axis of evil" - and later Iraq, those contacts were uncommon and narrow in scope. "I was the point person on Iran from 2005 to 2008, and I never once met an Iranian official," said Burns. The resulting knowledge deficit has haunted attempts at easing relations.

Brooking Institution fellow Suzanne Maloney said that reliable information about elite wrangling was at a minimum because those with knowledge and a stake in the process were unlikely to get on "international phone lines" or the Internet to distribute the information around the globe.

Asieh Mir, an Iranian who formerly worked in government and civil society there and who now is a fellow at the US Institute of Peace (USIP), says that the battle being waged in Iran is between two factions within the regime. Even Mousavi's faction, she says, seeks a "workable democracy for Iran that holds to Islamic values" and does not necessarily want to install a democracy in the Western sense.

Iranian-American journalist and author Hooman Majd, one of the best-connected Western journalists in Iran, rejects the neo-conservative mantras as an example of ignorance about Iran and an inability to get over the Bush goal of regime change. "The neo-cons know nothing about Iran, nothing about the culture of Iran," Majd told "They have no interest in understanding Iran, in speaking to any Iranian other than Iranian exiles who support the idea of invasions - I'll call them Iranian Chalabis," a reference to now-disgraced neo-conservative darling Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi, who reportedly provided some of the bad intelligence on Iraq's weapons programs and was slated for a prominent post-invasion role in Iraq.

British interference

Tehran has singled out US poodle Britain for interference "Great Britain has plotted against the presidential election for more than two years," Manouchehr Mottaki, the foreign minister, told diplomats in Tehran. "We witnessed an influx of people [from Britain] before the election. Elements linked to the British secret service were flying in in droves."

Iran's interior minister, Sadeq Mahsouli also accused Western intelligence of backing the riots in Iran. He claimed that U.S., U.K., and Israeli interests are behind the unrest. 'Britain, America and the Zionist regime (Israel) were behind the recent unrest in Tehran,' the Interior Minister was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars News Agency. Many of the rioters were in contact with America, CIA and the MKO and are being fed by their financial resources,' he said

London's offices of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), one of the fiercest opponents of the Tehran regime, has been accused by Iran of planting a bomb at a Tehran petrol station and sending a suicide bomber to the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The NCRI, officially based in Paris might have links with British intelligence since it is affiliated to the People's Mujahedeen of Iran, a proscribed organization that remains on terrorism watch list

One of the longest running sores in bilateral ties is Tehran's allegations of MI6 backing for the Ahwaz League, a group that fights for the independence of the Arab province of Khuzestan, in south-east Iran. British agents were quite active there when the British were based in Basra.
A website, run by the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, says "Ahwaz City is in turmoil with 'many, many dead' at the hands of police and the Bassiji, supported by the Lebanese Hizbollah, according to numerous independent eye-witness accounts,"


Says Kahveji , a well informed journalist ;' The results of the election show that Mousavi had the support of 14 million people. This is a grassroots movement for change in Iran. Among this 14 million people, prominent intellectuals, writers, artists, university students, professors and educated and young urbanites are distinguishable. Crushing the protests equates to suppressing a large section of society, leaving people with utmost rage and deep resentment towards the system.

'The reality unobserved by the Western media is that today's crisis is not about people against a totalitarian regime. Rather, it is a struggle between two factions of society. One faction is seeking a dramatic liberalization of society, while the other advocates strict adherence to religious principles. This is an extraordinarily unique situation. This is tradition against modernity.

'The battle between the two was fierce and merciless during the shah's time before his ouster in 1979. It was the root cause of the revolution, and has continued to stay that way to the present, and will extend into the foreseeable future.'

If anything Ahmedinejed's 's re-election indicates the diminishing of the influence of the Clerics , since his election four years ago heralded coming into power of a pure revolutionary risen from the ranks without the powerful clerical connections most other members in the oligarchy boast of .While protests are likely to continue , there is not going to be any fresh election .How ever , Ahmedinejed should look into the claustrophobic environment that suffocates the young and upwardly mobile. He should take into account aspirations of the younger generation in the cities like Tehran , who form the middle class and are vital part in the process of economic development , which Iran badly needs.

K Gajendra Singh, Indian ambassador (retired), served as ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan from August 1992 to April 1996. Prior to that, he served terms as ambassador to Jordan, Romania and Senegal. He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies. Copy right with the author.

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