The showdown between the Islamic regime in Tehran and the opposition leaders who dared to rise up and challenge the legitimacy of the June 12 presidential election is still ahead, contrary to most Western media and intelligence claims. DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Iranian sources report that far from burning itself out, the contest threatens to be bloodier than ever.
As he celebrated his victory, confirmed now by the Guardian Council, president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cast about for ways to revenge himself on his opponents.
Wednesday, July 1, Ahmadinejad had intelligence minister Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejee on the carpet to discuss the crackdown he was planning to shut down the protest movement which the president termed “a dangerous fire that must be put out at once.” Its leaders, Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, he said must be liquidated.
Ex-president Hashemi Rafsanjani has joined them in the firing line.
Two days earlier, the intelligence minister warned Mousavi that he and members of his family went in danger of their lives if they carried their opposition to the regime any further. He reminded him of the fate on Neda Agha-Soltan, the Iranian co-ed who was gunned down by the Basij militia.
Mousavi is therefore under enormous pressure to back down and send his supporters home. So far he has refused to do so, but claims he does not know who organized the latest demonstrations. But his home is under siege by security forces who say it is for his own protection. One of Mousavi's deepest fears is that Ahmadinejad will have him put on trial and executed on the charge of causing mass deaths, thereby making the opposition rather than the regime responsible for the bloodshed of recent weeks.
Suggestions that this fate is in store for him have come from powerful sources: Head of the judiciary Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, the Prosecutor General, the wife of the government spokesman and the radical cleric Ahmad Khatami who demanded the execution of protest leaders at his Friday sermon in Tehran.
Until now, Mousavi and Rafsanjani counted on the protection of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Mousavi now fears he has been abandoned to the mercies of Ahmadinejad.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly disclosed in recent issues that Khamenei had vetoed several efforts by the president to finish Rafsanjani off by tainting him with charges of corruption, fearing that the fall of the powerful chairman of the Council of Experts would drag him down too. Now Rafsanjani does not feel safe either.
Executions begin, Ahmadinejad wants them public
The chief of Iran's security forces, Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam, announced Wednesday that 1,032 arrests had been made during the post-election street protests in the second half of June. DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources put the number much higher between 5,000 and 6,000.
Ahmadinejad wants them forced to confess to crimes against the state and collaboration with foreign intelligence agencies so that they can be hanged in public and deter further street demonstrators. Some of his advisers warn him that public executions will fan the blaze of protest.
According to our Iranian sources, at least five prominent protest leaders have already been put to death in secret in Tehran, Meshhad and Shiraz.
As a lead-in to public executions, the noted journalist Mohammad Ghuchani was put on television to “confess” that he and his friends had been trained in political resistance “in one of the countries of the region.” His face showed clear signs that he had been tortured.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly intelligence sources report that Iranian intelligence believes it has firm evidence that the training of dissidents took place at four US bases in Afghanistan and Pakistani Baluchistan under the direction of Abdolmalek Rigui, founder of the Jond e-Islam. This group has been responsible for dozens of Iranian government officials in guerrilla raids. They also hold up Internet courses in Farsi on the conduct of uprisings and mass street rallies which they say are run by Americans.
This time, the Iranian man and woman in the street is in the fight
Rafsanjani is meanwhile pursuing his campaign which, as we reported last week, focuses on the twin objectives of saving the regime from collapse and keeping himself, his family and his vast fortune safe from the machinations of Ahmadinejad.
For now, his chances of finding a compromise formula that will heal the rift in the country's leadership are slim. Both sides, the president and Mousavi's supporters, are gearing up for mass demonstrations on July 8 to mark the 10th anniversary of the student uprising. That uprising lasted for three days and was accompanied by much violence and destruction of public property.
But there is a fundamental difference between that event and the current protest movement.
Ten years ago, the students fought alone while the ordinary citizenry remained on the sidelines, afraid to get involved. Now ordinary citizens of many walks of life are raising the banner of defiance, albeit under a “part-time leader”, Mir-Hossein Mousavi.