Iran's Khamenei throws down hard line with protesters
On Friday, the supreme leader raised the stakes by giving Ahmadinejad full support and insisting that there was no fraud in the election.
Iran's supreme religious leader threw his weight behind the disputed landslide victory of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Friday, calling the vote "God's blessing," ruling out any fraud, and ordering an end to massive street protests.Skip to next paragraph
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In what may prove a pivotal point in the post-election crisis that has shaken Iran for nearly a week, Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei took an uncompromising stand at Friday prayers.
"If there is any bloodshed, leaders of the protests will be held directly responsible," declared Ayatollah Khomeini, speaking to an overflowing crowd of tens of thousands at Tehran University that was bolstered by a large contingent of basiji ideological militiamen.
Defeated candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi has brought hundreds of thousands of Iranians onto the streets for peaceful protest in recent days, harnessing public outrage that first burst into riots and clashes when results were announced last Saturday.
Another march is slated for this Saturday, though it has already been declared illegal by authorities – as have each of the previous rallies. But now all future marches will be higher stakes and held in direct defiance of Iran's most powerful authority.
"This was expected. All these activities of last week, the restrictions and repressive measures, all point to one thing: no compromise, to an iron fist," says a political analyst in Tehran who could not be named for security reasons.
He said there was still much horn-honking on the streets of Tehran, and travelers on the road west of the capital were showing green – Mousavi's campaign color – and flashing victory signs.
"These are small signs, but it means that many people express a willingness to keep it up," says the analyst.
But Khamenei's message was very clear about consequences, he said: "Especially his last few words, when he became very emotional and talked about his disabled body, and whatever credit and dignity he has, he is ready to offer it to the revolution and Islam – it's something like an unannounced war.
"One thing is sure, it is like a warning – a threat," the analyst continues. "The obvious thing is to expect the motorbikers to be out there to punish people and send them home – unless Mousavi comes up with something different. He has mentioned [before] he will have a sit-in protest in [1979 revolution leader Imam] Khomeini's shrine – which would not be a street demonstration."
Protesters are 'enemies'
Khamenei praised all four candidates as men he knew, often for decades, who were each committed to the Islamic system he leads, which came to power by Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.
But he accused the protesters – who have so far been careful to limit their demands to annulling the official results – of being enemies trying to topple the regime, and subject to "espionage machines working for Zionists and the Americans." Khamenei also had harsh words for the British, whom he labeled "the most treacherous" Western power.