A turning point

What is already clear is that this is an incredible day in the history of Iran’s revolution. As many predicted, the surge of Iran’s young population would eventually become too big to hold back and today the dam clearly burst. You have to salute the bravery of those that went to march: they really didn’t know whether it was going to be peaceful or a bloodbath. It was interesting to read one student on Twitter deliberating over whether he should go or not. Eventually he wrote: “We’re going. It’s worth taking the risk.”

It is possible, of course, that Khamenei and Ahmadinejad are just letting the opposition vent their  steam. But I don’t think so, the genie is out of the bottle.

Today has proved just how weak Khamenei, the “supreme leader”, is. He declares the election to have been fair and square, then two days later agrees the Guardian Council should investigate fraud allegations. He declares today’s protests illegal and warns Moussavi’s followers of the consequences. They ignore him in their hundreds of thousands – at the very least. The pictures I am seeing suggest this protest rivals anything seen during the revolution itself – and I was in the thick of almost all of those. The only thing that would have beaten it to my mind was the crowd that greeted Khomeini when he returned from France (and I was in the thick of that too!).

Indeed I am now reading more than one suggestion on the web that Ahmadinejad is no longer the main target of the protest movement, but the supreme leader himself. Enter the silent but undoubtedly highly active Ayatollah Rafsanjani, still smarting from Khamenei’s humiliation of him last week. Word on the web (yup, please keep that salt handy) is that he has been among the clergy in Qom whipping up support and has been attempting to call a meeting of the Assembly of Experts to challenge Khamenei’s actions. For all we know the assembly might already have met, and the fact that today’s demos went ahead is the result. One report had Rafsanjani telling Khamenei: I made you, I can still break you.

That is conjecture of the highest order, I have to emphasise. But ask yourself why Moussavi, having reportedly been put under some form of house arrest and, in his own words, come under intense pressure to accept the veracity of the official vote count, suddenly gets a late night audience with Khamenei on Sunday night and is addressing today’s huge rally in Tehran and calling for a fresh election?

But here’s another question that I really have no answer for, but strikes me as quite important. Supposedly, overwhelming millions voted for Ahmadinejad. So where are they to protest that Moussavi and his followers are wrong? True there were demos in  support of him Sunday, but they didn’t strike me as a resounding  affirmation. Yet he should surely never have to fall short on numbers: the regime has found no difficulty in the past  tossing a few coins to the peasants to board a demo bus or two hundred. Bring your own rocks used to be the only stipulation in my day.

Without some form of mass counter-demos for Ahmadinejad in the next day or two, one would have to wonder what he is up to? He can’t rely solely on the cops, revolutionary guards, basij and, according to oft-repeated rumour, Lebanese Hesbollah Arabs to do his dirty work. He needs to show the country is really with him, or the game is surely up.

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