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Iran arrested 70 university professors who favor a reform of the country's political system overnight, spreading its crackdown beyond protesters on the streets to members of the country's political and intellectual elite.
The Associated Press – citing a web site close to Mir Hussein Mousavi, the centrist presidential candidate who observers both inside and outside Iran say had the country's June 12 election stolen from him – reported that the professors were arrested shortly after attending a meeting with Mr. Mousavi.
Even as the regime did so, Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, once the hand-picked successor of the father of the Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei, condemned his government's behavior. This came amid signs that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the populist and anti-Western president who claimed victory in the election, was losing some of his old supporters.
There [were] also indications that the disputed election has caused a rift among former Ahmadinejad supporters. Several Tehran newspapers reported Thursday that only 105 out of 290 members of parliament attended a victory celebration held by Ahmadinejad on Tuesday. Among the no-shows was Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani.
Writing in Lebanon's The Daily Star, columnist David Ignatius predicts that in the short term "the thugs who claim to rule in the name of God" will carry the day, but that the brutal opposition crackdown, now symbolized by the murder of young protester Neda Soltan, whose death was caught on video, will ultimately lead to fundamental change.
They have exposed the weakness of the clerical regime in a way that Iran's foreign adversaries – America, Israel, Saudi Arabia – never could. They have opened a fundamental split in the regime. The rulers will try to bind this wound with force, and salve it with concessions, but neither approach will make the wound heal.
Though President Barack Obama has said that he's committed to expanding dialogue with Iran, evidence of how difficult Iran's brutal crackdown will make that goal continued to emerge, with the US announcing its invitation to Iranian diplomats to attend July 4 celebrations at overseas missions has now been withdrawn, no matter that no Iranian diplomat had yet accepted the invitation. "So much for hot dog diplomacy," writes The Washington Post.
"July 4th allows us to celebrate the freedom and the liberty we enjoy," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said. "Freedom of speech. Freedom of religion. Freedom to assemble peacefully. Freedom of the press. So I don't think it's surprising that nobody's signed up to come."
Gibbs added: "Given the events of the past many days, those invitations will no longer be extended."
Juan Cole, a University of Michigan professor of Middle Eastern history writes on his blog Informed Comment that the Obama administration has limited scope to support the opposition movement.
Obama will likely be as helpless before a crackdown by the Iranian regime as Eisenhower was re: Hungary in 1956, Johnson was re: Prague in 1968, and Bush senior was re: Tiananmen Square in 1989. George W. Bush, it should be remembered, did nothing about Tehran's crackdown on student protesters in 2003… As an oil state, the Iranian regime does not need the rest of the world and is not easy to pressure. So Obama needs to be careful about raising expectations of any sort of practical intervention by the US, which could not possibly succeed.