“Iran’s Supreme Leader Warns Protesters”
This is the most updated headline coming out of Iran’s election turmoil, in which tens of thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets in opposition to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s unethical democratic practices. Of course, these anti-Ahmadinejad rallies are old news to anyone who has paid attention to world affairs over the last couple of days. However, what appears to be relatively new on the scene is the tremendous amount of pressure that is resulting from these protests: a swath of criticism against Khamenei that Tehran’s Islamic government has yet to experience on such a large scale.
Now for the most recent news. The social unrest that has been unleashed throughout Iran’s cities over the past week has finally forced the Supreme Leader himself to address the Islamic Republic in a direct way. Speaking to the public in perhaps one of his most important Friday-sermons, Khamenei defiantly lashed out against the opposition for sparking an unwanted and unnecessary violence against Iran’s security forces. In case you happened to miss the highlights of his speech, here are a few phrases that all but characterize the Ayatollah’s belligerent behavior towards this domestic crisis.
-“Any extremist move will fan up another extremist move.”
-“If the political elite want to ignore law and break the law and take wrong measures which are harmful willy nilly, they will be held accountable for all the violence and blood and rioting.”
-“Eleven million votes difference? Sometimes there’s a margin of 100,000, 200,000, or 1 million maximum. Then one can doubt maybe there has been some rigging or manipulation or irregularities. But there’s a difference of 11 million votes. How can vote rigging happen?
-Some critics “wanted to indicate that as a doubtful victory; some even wanted to show that this is a national defeat. They wanted to give you bad taste in the mouth.”
-“Enemies try through various media, and some of those media belong to the Zionists, ill-wishers. They try to make believe in those media that there is a fight between supporters of the Islamic establishment and the opposition. No, that’s not true.”
-Chants of “death to Israel, death to America,” and “death to Britain” were shouted throughout Khamenei’s speech.
The quotations from Iran’s highest authority certainly speak for themselves. These statements not only expose Khamenei for the type of leader he is, that is a man who is completely out of touch with the population he is supposed to govern. The speech also gives the United States and Israel an extraordinary opportunity to forge a concise and united international front against the Islamic state’s threatening nuclear program. Whereas such an attempt has been routinely halted in the past by China and Russia in the U.N. Security Council, Khamenei’s self-destructive rhetoric (of which includes a public threat of force against Iran’s peaceful protesters) may raise a few questions in the minds of Chinese and Russian policymakers: One of which could very well be, “why are we protecting the Iranians from harsher sanctions when these same people continue to defy common principles of the international community (i.e. universal human rights)?
Moscow and Beijing would certainly not risk losing their credibility by siding with a clerical regime that fails to embrace their own people’s democratic wishes. With such a large amount of western foreign direct investment keeping Chinese and Russian firms afloat, both countries may wish to avoid antagonizing Americans and Europeans over a position that is slowly gaining criticism from others in the Third World.
As I have stated earlier in this blog, the rigged election and the quick crackdown by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei may be a blessing in disguise for the United States, Israel, and the Arab world. The domestic turmoil that Iran’s leadership is currently experiencing may result in a widespread opposition against the very pillars of the Islamic revolution. As the Ahmadinejad opposition continues to strengthen by the day, and as Khamenei continues to feel the heat from within his own inner-circle, this hope is gaining fruition. On a more realistic note, today’s speech by the Supreme Leader may finally bridge a gap that has far too often limited the possibility of stronger U.N. penalties on Iran’s nuclear non-compliance.
-Daniel R. DePetris
-The report from Badi Badiozamani, Christiane Amanpour, and Joe Sterling contributed to this blog.