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In Qom, Iran's supreme leader Khamenei aims to cement leadership over clerics

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made a high-profile visit to Qom today to demonstrate his leadership over a religious establishment divided by last year's election.

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“This revolution is supported by the people, it is a popular one," said the supreme leader. "If people hadn’t been present on the scene, if there had been a great gap between the people and the [ruling system, it] would not have been able to stand up to the enemy.”

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The “enemy” is usually code for the United States, Israel and the West, but has been increasingly applied to the internal “leaders of sedition.”

Top among them are Ahmadinejad’s two main election challengers, former prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, and former parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi, as well as former two-time president Mohammad Khatami – all of whom have refused to accept the results.

They led what has since been called a Green Movement of popular opposition to the election results, though street protests have disappeared under the weight of the regime’s repressive tactics.

The “enemy,” Khamenei said on Tuesday – including “mercenaries and lackeys inside the country” – had since the 1960s targeted faith in God, and later loyalty to the Islamic regime through “promiscuity” and “fake mysticism” and “promoting different ideas.”

“They make rumors to drive a wedge between the people and the [ruling system], and to dishearten the people they try to sow the seeds of hatred and sow the seeds of suspicion among the people,” Khamenei said, according to a simultaneous English translation on state-run PressTV. “Whatever great achievement is done within the country, they just use it as a tool and launch a propaganda campaign against it. If there are weaknesses, they magnify them and do not show the strong points.”

For young people, especially, Khamenei said, they wanted to “darken the bright future ahead.” All those enemies of the Islamic Republic – despite “great investments” in the effort – had failed to “separate the people from the [regime],” even during the election last year.

Khamenei brushes aside residual concerns about election

Scores and possibly hundreds were killed in the crackdown by security forces and pro-regime militants. The Islamic Republic faced one of its more severe political crises in nearly three decades.

Speaking in Qom, Khamenei publicly brushed off any residual concerns. The high election turnout of near 85 percent, he said – which many Iranian voters at the time attributed to opposition efforts to unseat Mr. Ahmadinejad at the ballot box – was a strategic show of support.

“In fact, it was a 40-million-strong referendum in favor of the Islamic establishment, and in favor of the elections; that was the reason the enemy got enraged and they wanted to provoke sedition to deal a blow to that,” Khamenei said.

“People stood up to that sedition movement,” he added. “Last year’s sedition actually vaccinated the country against microbes, which can be political or social microbes….and increased [people’s] insight.”

Some clerics skeptical of 'infallible' leader

Khamenei’s speech sought to convince clerics who might still harbor doubt about how Iran’s system of an infallible and supreme religious leader, known as velayat-e faqih, is supposed to work.

Senior clergy opposed to Khamenei’s actions are the exception to the rule, says Khalaji.

“We can say that the religious institutes in Iran, the Shiite clerical establishment, is the wealthiest, the richest and the strongest in his own history. So they love this regime. At the same time, they hate this regime,” adds Khalaji.

“Why? Because Khamenei and the rulers of the Islamic Republic are becoming less and less popular [and] the social capital of clerics is the trust of the people, so they don’t want to be associated…in a way that the unpopularity of the regime damages people’s trust.”