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Tense calm on eve of anniversary of disputed Iran election

One year after the disputed Iran election that returned President Ahmadinejad to office, many say the revolution and the regime have lost legitimacy. Green Movement opposition leaders, who called off a rally, are facing growing criticism of their tactics.

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Also sending a message were opposition leaders Mr. Mousavi and fellow presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi, who in a joint statement on Thursday called off their plans for a silent rally. The two men have been fighting increasing criticism from opposition activists who expect more direct leadership as well as the risk of irrelevance, due to their limited ability to speak to followers. Another problem for some regime opponents is their stated adherence to upholding the rule of the Supreme Leader and to making reforms inside that system.

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They canceled the rally, the joint statement read, after receiving information of the “reorganization of hard-liners and their henchmen to attack defenseless masses.” The result was a request to “protesters to pursue their rights and seek their demands through less costly means.”

Mousavi and Mr. Karroubi sought to reassure the opposition: “The movement is alive and the real pride belongs to those who are still continuing their rightful protest despite all threats, dangers, insecurities, and knowing well the … consequences.”

“This is the worst year for Ayatollah Khamenei in the whole history of the Islamic Republic, because he faces serious challenges at home, and now he faces these UN sanctions,” says analyst Torfeh. “He’s been pretending the situation has gone back to normal, but he knows this normalcy is only because they have been pressuring people, and putting people behind bars, and killing them point blank.”

Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endownment in Washington, wrote in a recent analysis that, “For two decades, Khamenei deceptively cultivated an image of an impartial and magnanimous guide, but his defiant public support for Ahmadinejad exposed him as a petty, partisan autocrat. Among the unprecedented slogans of last summer’s street protests were thunderous chants of ‘Khamenei is a murderer, his leadership is void!’ ”

While senior Iranian officials and officers have downplayed the dangers anymore from the Green Movement – even declaring victory last February over the “leaders of the “sedition” – they can’t stop talking about these former luminaries of the revolution who they believe have strayed from its path.

And some observers argue that the word “victory” might be premature, regardless of what happens on the June 12 anniversary.

“It’s just building up. It’s not going away,” says the once-imprisoned professional, referring to the hidden popular strength of the opposition. For the regime, “it’s a Catch-22, a vicious circle for which they have no way out. If they do loosen up, they are going to be walked over, and [now] that’s without a doubt.”

He reckons that only his first interrogator in Evin prison – who would often repeat the simplest questions in that first nine-hour session – truly believed that he was engaged in trying to foment a “velvet revolution” to overthrow the government. It was a common charge.

“I was brought up in the revolution,” the professional says. “As a fact, I know that soldiers never win. Even if on one day they force people back, they haven’t actually won.

“They start losing when they’ve gone home the second night, and third night, and look at the bigger picture,” he adds. “They see their own family, their family sees them, and that’s when they start losing. That’s the erosion that will [matter] when the [next] fight breaks out.”