Iran’s President Calls For More Trials

August 28, 2009

Today, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for the leaders of the opposition to be prosecuted for post-election unrest. 

“Those who have organized, provoked, and implemented the desires (protests) of the enemy should be dealt with decisively,” he said in a speech before thousands of people at Tehran University. 

During its first decade in power, the Islamic Republic of Iran was authoritarian in nature: it had strict limits on political participation. But the political system has experienced a loosening of restrictions since the 1990s. Societal pressure from women and younger voters has renewed emphasis on civil society, conforming to laws, and democracy. But even with those democratic demands, there was still a fair amount of uniformity in the state’s government. 

However, the country’s political elite are currently split in a way that hasn’t been seen since the early days of the Iranian revolution back in 1979. Consequently, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has been attempting to bring opposition protests to an end. He is trying to encourage the country to come together in a reconciliation. But the Ayatollah has damaged his image by coming out in support of Ahmadinejad and what appear to be falsified results from the recent election in June. The Ayatollah’s attempts will not work: as he is making these overtures at the same time as there are show trials going on.

Ahmadinejad’s government has rounded up top reformist party leaders, academics, journalists, and ordinary citizens who have had contact with the West. These men and women have been forced to give false confessions, and have been put on trial. The people of Iran have reacted with disbelief. But Mr. Ahmadinejad may not be holding these trials only to do damage to opposition parties. He may be holding them in an attempt to weaken the Ayatollah himself. 

Currently, there appears to be a power struggle going on between the Supreme Leader and Iran’s President Ahmadinejad. The President is still trying to link opposition dissidents with the West; however, the Ayatollah came out yesterday and stated that there was no evidence of a connection. The Ayatollah is possibly asking for reconciliation in order to regain the position that he projected in June (before the election) as a neutral mediator between the political factions. Reports out of Iran indicate that the Ayatollah is alarmed by both Ahmadinejad and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s grab for political influence. It would stand to reason that the Ayatollah would want to reassume his position of ‘neutral mediator’ because of the power that would come from such a position.

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