Tehran marked the last day of 2009, Thursday, by sending tanks, armored cars and Revolutionary Guards special units driving into Tehran and taking up positions in its center for the second time since demonstrators took to the streets after the June presidential election.
This ominous development in the regime's crackdown on pro-democracy voices was first reported by DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Iranian sources.
Toward evening, the Jaras Website, which is run by opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi's following confirmed that "hundreds of military forces and tens of armored vehicles …are moving toward Tehran."
Twenty-four hours earlier, another opposition website Rahesabz ran this alarming report: "Members of the Revolutionary Guards and the intelligence ministry picked up Mousavi and (Ayatollah Mehdi) Karroubi in the city of Kelar-Abad to protect them from the anger of the people."
The state news agency IRNA said that the two senior opposition leaders had fled Tehran.
Wednesday night and Thursday morning, their families denied they had fled the city. However, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Iranian sources confirm that neither has been seen since these reports began to appear.
They must be presumed to have either fled or been arrested.
The mystery of their whereabouts deepened after two days, in which neither leader showed up or relayed any signs of life directly or by video or through the Internet.
Thursday, Dec. 31, after rounding up prominent dissenters during the week, various Iranian officials continued to accuse opposition leaders of grave offensives punishable by execution.
Yet diplomatic engagement is the be-all and end-all of US policy
That night, the opposition was back on the streets in force to face the Revolutionary Guards and their tanks.
That day too, British media claimed that Peter Moore, a 36-year old IT consultant from Lincoln, who was suddenly freed in Baghdad the day before, had been taken to Tehran straight after 40 gunmen in police and government uniforms had seized him and four other Britons two and a half years ago from the Iraqi finance ministry in Baghdad.
The hostages were said to have been held by Iranian Revolutionary Guards. His fellow hostages are either dead or missing.
Neither the brutal suppression of unarmed demonstrators in Tehran nor the practice of hostage-taking, which UK foreign secretary called "heinous," has galvanized the free nations of Britain, the United States, France or Germany into an all-out drive to find out what has happened to Iran's missing opposition leaders or take up the cause of the thousands of political prisoners facing savage abuse and death in Iran's jails.
It is business as usual in relations between the West and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Tuesday, Dec. 29, President Barack Obama condemned the "iron-fist brutality" of the regime's crackdown on unarmed demonstrators calling for the institution of civil rights and justice in Iran. But he stopped short of offering the encouragement of active American championship of their plight or even stating that the Iranian government's behavior warranted punishment.
The Washington Post quoted an administration official as saying that Obama was engaged in a difficult balancing act: The aim of any sanctions is to force the Tehran government to the negotiating table, rather than to punish it for either its apparent push to develop a nuclear weapon or its treatment of its people, says the paper.
For Tehran, this attitude is taken as a free pass to carry on as usual, our Iranian sources report.