Ayatollahs support revolt in Arab world while crushing it at home

Protesters: "It's the season for revolts; it's the end of Khamenei"

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22 Feb 2011
Ayatollahs support revolt in Arab world while crushing it at home

A bizarre competition has surfaced in Iran between the hard-line Shi'ite clerical regime and the opposition Green Movement over who can claim solidarity with recent populist movements in Arab countries, even as street protests in the Islamic Republic show new signs of life after being brutally repressed by security forces last year.

"Mubarak, Ben Ali, now it's time for Sayed Ali," protesters chanted on Sunday, demanding the removal of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The protesters were attacked by Basij militia and police, but opposition organizers say they're not deterred.

Their numbers and spirit have received a boost by charges that the regime is being hypocritical, claiming to support street demonstrations in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world while crushing similar protests in Teheran.

"We called for a demonstration to show our movement is alive and to stop the Iranian government's propaganda abuse of pro-democracy movements in the region," opposition leader Mehdi Karrubi said in a recent statement calling for new demonstrations.

"The enemies try to say that the popular movements in Egypt, Tunisia, and other nations are un-Islamic, but certainly these popular movements are Islamic and must be consolidated," Khamenei declared before a gathering of Shi'ite and Sunni scholars at an international conference on Islam on Sunday.

Similar protests were reported in almost every major Iranian city, including Isfahan, Shiraz, Tabriz, and Rasht, with reports of violent clashes, injuries, and multiple arrests.

Meanwhile, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, spoke before a meeting of reporters and officials in Qatar on Monday, assessing that Iran's behavior in the region, while dangerous, does not explain everything.

"Iran, I still believe, is a country that continues to foment instability in the region, take advantage of every opportunity," said Mullen. But "from my perspective that has not been the principal focus of what happened in Egypt or what happened in Bahrain or any of these other countries. Those are by and large internal issues, as opposed to issues fomented by some external forces, (although) there's always concerns in this region with Iran and certainly the U.S. has them as well as all the regional players."

Elsewhere, Radio Free Europe reported on Monday that Ahmad Maleki, the head of Iran's consular office in Milan has become the latest Iranian official to resign and defect to the Green Movement to protest what he called the Iranian government's "barbaric actions against the Iranian nation," adding that there are "many others in the [Iranian Foreign Ministry] who are unhappy with the government."


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