Rafsanjani Fires Up The Iranian Opposition
Iran's simmering opposition may be about to be aroused again. As reported by the Los Angeles Times:
Reporting from Tehran and Beirut — Security forces fired tear gas and plainclothes militiamen armed with batons charged at crowds of protesters gathered near Tehran University after a Friday prayer sermon delivered by the cleric and opposition supporter Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, his first appearance at the nation's weekly keynote sermon since before the election.
Rafsanjani, in a closely watched speech, lashed out at the hard-line camp supporting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, criticized the June 12 election results and promoted several key opposition demands. However, he failed to offer a solution to what has emerged as Iran's worst political crisis in decades.
His inconclusive speech and the Muslim Sabbath clashes between security forces and supporters of opposition figure Mir-Hossein Mousavi that followed suggested the political firestorm unleashed by the marred vote would continue and that the movement it had inspired was as strong as ever.
"We could have taken our best step in the history of the Islamic revolution had the election not faced problems," he told worshipers in and around Tehran University. "We are in doubt today. Today, we are living bitter conditions due to what happened after the announcement of the election result. All of us have suffered. We need unity more than any time else."
Former Iranian President Ali Akbar Rafsanjani has called for the release of people jailed after protesting at the result of the recent election.
In his first Friday sermon since the vote, he also said large numbers of Iranians still doubted its result.
Rafsanjani is a widely respected former Iranian president. Although a Mousavi partisan, his voice carries serious weight, across many partisan lines. The brutality of the government response increasingly shows how worried they are. It's worth noting that the Shah was overthrown after his own forces unsuccessfully attempted to quell an uprising through brutal violence.