Iran: Khamenei’s Speech

Khamenei’s Speech: I stayed up late last night watching his speech online and was too tired to comment on it afterward since it ended at around 3:00 am pacific standard time. Anyway, I believe that his speech marks a major escalation in the crisis engulfing Iran today. He sided with Ahmadinejad, who was present at the Friday prayers (see the image below) given at Tehran University (along with Rezai, the other conservative candidate) and he said that the Islamic Republic does not tamper with elections. He blamed the protesters for attacking Islamist students at the university dorms and held the opposition leaders responsible for the deaths of the dozen or so people that died earlier this week. He gave a warning against future protests (although the opposition is planning rallies for Saturday) and said that he was speaking as a friend but should things continue, he will not be so friendly, hinting at a possible crackdown, one that I’ve been saying is a serious likelihood from the beginning.

Blaming Foreign Governments: He blamed foreign governments for clandestine operations in Iran. Iran, like Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, and elsewhere in the region, is without a doubt an intelligence battlefield with all kinds of agencies trying to promote civil strife. Indeed, reports indicate that the US is supporting Jundallah, an al-Qaeda-like Sunni fundamentalist group that has been launching attacks on Iranian military personnel and civilians in the Sistan-Baluchistan province in southeast Iran, and the Bush administration openly allocated funds to destabilize Iran. In no way am I saying that the protests are the result of these operations, but I’m just giving the reason as to why Khamenei may be blaming these governments. These demonstrations most certainly represent geniune frustrations that need to be addressed and Khamenei failed to address the deep-seeded frustrations prevalent among a large segment of Iranian society.

In Denial: Listing to his speech, you would think as though everything is picture perfect and that what is happening in Iran is baseless and the doing of foreigners. His strategy of blaming foreigners for what is happening domestically is not unique to Iran as ALL governments do it, but his finger pointing, refusal to listen to the grievances of the opposition, and indirect threats mark a serious escalation.  Protestors will most definitely being angered by his brushing off of their passions.

On Rafsanjani: He indirectly scolded Ahmadinejad’s attacks on Rafsanjani during his debate with Mousavi and paid direct homage to Rafsanjani. This is a classic case of politicking… he’s trying to appease one of the main opposition agitators while at the same time threatening against future protests.

His Conclusion: He ended the speech with an appeal to the emotions of his followers by mentioning that his life is ready to be sacrificed, his body is “naaghis” or damaged (one of his arms doesn’t function because of a failed assassination attempt by the MKO in the early 80s), and that he has a little “aaberoo” or dignity but that he’s willing to fight to preserve that dignity, to which many in the crowd broke down into tears and then shouted chants. I don’t want to seem dramatic, but prepare yourselves for the upcoming escalation potentially starting with Saturday’s opposition rally.  His supporters are willing both to die and kill to protect him and the system, which is the main difference between now and 1979 -  the Shah had little support and when push came to shove, his few supporters packed their bags and fled the country. These people loyal to Khamenei think that they have the biggest claim to Iran since it was hundreds of thousands from within their ranks that died defending Iran during the Iran-Iraq War and will not walk way so easily simply because giving up is, as they see it, tantamount to betraying the holy sacrifice of all those martyrs of the revolution and war.

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