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Iran Revolutionary Guards Say They'll Crush Protests
(Bloomberg) -- Iran's Revolutionary Guards said the security forces will crush further protests over the disputed presidential vote, as the country's elections supervisory body acknowledged some balloting discrepancies. "The saboteurs must stop their actions" or face "the decisive and revolutionary action of the children of the nation in the Revolutionary Guards, the Basij, and other security and military forces, to put an end to the chaos," the state-run Mehr news agency cited the Revolutionary Guards as saying today in a statement.

Police attacked hundreds of protesters with tear gas and fired shots into the air as they broke up a rally in central Tehran's Haft-e-Tir square shortly after the Guards' warning, the Associated Press said.

The 125,000-strong Guards, tasked by Iran's clerical rulers with protecting the Islamic Revolution, have their own ground, air and sea forces. Club-wielding members of the Basij volunteer militia, which is linked to the Guards, have played a role in suppressing the protests against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's June 12 victory. Opponents say the ballot was rigged. "This shows that it is very serious and can destabilize the regime," Yossi Mekelberg, director of international relations at Regent's College, London, said in an interview. Without the Guards' intervention, the protests won't stop, he said.

Security forces deployed in Tehran to prevent further demonstrations after hundreds of thousands of Iranians took to the streets during more than a week of rallies that saw at least 17 people killed, according to the government. Police arrested as many as 457 people during clashes in the city on June 20, state-run Press TV said.

Guardian Council
The clerical Guardian Council, the top election body, acknowledged that the number of ballots cast in 50 districts surpassed the number of eligible voters in those areas, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported today. Council spokesman Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei said the discrepancies, in areas with a total electorate of about three million, may have sprung from voters being allowed to cast their ballot in cities or provinces other than those where they live.

The Council has rejected a call from Mir Hossein Mousavi, the main challenger in the disputed election, for a new vote, offering only a partial recount of ballots. "Crossing the red lines and pursuing scenarios to agitate the public is an obvious sign of threatening the national security and endangering the interests of the establishment and Iran," the Guards said in their statement, adding that the protests tell "a story of a big conspiracy against the revolution and the Iranian nation."

Supreme Leader
The Guards, who answer directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and act as a counterweight to the army, warned the international community including the U.S., U.K. and Israel to stop stirring unrest in the country. Iran has accused foreign nations of provoking the protests, a charge denied by Western diplomats.

The U.S. designated the Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force a terrorist organization in October 2007, accusing the paramilitary group of supporting attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq. The focus of the Quds Force has been assistance to Islamic militant groups in other countries.

The U.K.'s Foreign Office said today it will withdraw temporarily family members of its diplomats in Tehran, because they have been unable to continue their normal lives. The ministry isn't advising other Britons to leave, though it said it is monitoring the situation with "the utmost vigilance" and advised against all except essential travel to the country.

Splits in Elite
The Guards' intervention came as splits within Iran's ruling elite deepened after police arrested relatives of an ex- president and Parliament's speaker said that most Iranians questioned Ahmadinejad's electoral victory.

Security forces detained five relatives of former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of the most influential politicians in the country, state media said yesterday. They were released later. Bolstering the opposition, Speaker Ali Larijani, who served as Iran's nuclear negotiator until 2007, criticized the top election body for siding with Ahmadinejad and said most Iranians don't accept the results. "There is some serious dissatisfaction within the ranks," said Ilan Berman, an analyst with the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington. "Anytime a regime begins to eat its own, it signals significant transformation."

Rallying Support
Rafsanjani is believed to be rallying support within the clerical establishment for former Prime Minister Mousavi, 67. "The ball is in the opposition's court," said Kaveh-Cyrus Sanandaji, an Iran expert from Oxford University in the U.K. "The supreme leader and Ahmadinejad have proven they are willing to use violence against all dissent."

At Friday prayers in Tehran University on June 19, Khamenei reaffirmed Ahmadinejad's electoral victory. The president was re-elected for a second four-year term with 63 percent of the vote to Mousavi's 34 percent, according to the official tally.

Iran's rial strengthened 0.4 percent to 9,853.15 to the dollar, compared to 9,894.6 at the close of trading on June 19. The currency's rate is managed by Bank Markazi, the central bank.

Iran's governor at the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Mohammad Ali Khatibi, said the protests haven't affected the country's oil industry or crude exports. Iran is OPEC's second-biggest producer.

Oil Industry 'Normal'
"The recent developments in the country have had no impact on the oil industry or crude exports," state-run Press TV cited Khatibi as telling the Iran Daily newspaper yesterday. "The national oil industry is 100 percent normal."

The protests, the largest since the Islamic Revolution that ousted the shah in 1979, and the divisions within the regime mark an unprecedented challenge to the authority of Khamenei, the successor of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the Islamic Revolution. The loyalty of the security forces may be tested in the event of major bloodshed.

Mousavi urged his supporters to continue peaceful protests. Opposing lies and fraud is a right, Mousavi said in a statement published yesterday on his Web site.

Rafsanjani, 75, who heads the Assembly of Experts, a clerical body that has the power to appoint or dismiss the supreme leader, is likely to try to dislodge Khamenei, 69, said Anoush Ehteshami, a professor of international relations at Durham University in the U.K.

Rafsanjani's 'Direct Challenge'
"Rafsanjani is being forced to come out into the open," said Ehteshami. "The arrest of his family members is a direct challenge to him."

The Rafsanjani family members, including his daughter, Faezeh Hashemi, were detained two days ago in connection with the protests. The relatives were released yesterday, with Rafsanjani's daughter the last to be freed, late last night, Press TV said.

Ten people were killed on June 20 in Tehran as thousands defied Khamenei's imposition of a ban on rallies, state television reported, citing deputy police chief Ahmadreza Radan. Radan said more than 100 people were also injured in rioting. He said security forces didn't use firearms and "terrorist groups" among the protesters were responsible for the casualties. CNN television, citing workers at a Tehran hospital, said 19 people were killed. "The first priority of every nation is security," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said today at a news conference in Tehran. "It will first ensure security then turn to elections, freedom, human rights and democracy."

Media Crackdown
The Iranian government continued its crackdown on foreign media coverage of the crisis. The British Broadcasting Corp. said yesterday that its correspondent in Iran, Jon Leyne, was told by the country's authorities to leave.

Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari, 41, was arrested by security forces at his Tehran apartment over the weekend. Newsweek called in a statement for the dual Canadian-Iranian citizen's immediate release. "The stage may now be set for a violent showdown," said Michael Eisenstadt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "Past experience, however, raises questions about whether the security forces can be uniformly relied on to implement an order to violently quash the protests."

In 1994, army and Revolutionary Guards garrisoned near Qazvin, a town northwest of Tehran, refused to obey orders to fire on rioters, said Eisenstadt.

For Rafsanjani, Mousavi and their allies, the democratic legitimacy of the Islamic republic is at stake, said Hooman Majd, the author of "The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran."

"If they have the chance to seize power and oust the supreme leader, they'll do it," Oxford University's Sanandaji said.
Posted by:Fred

#5  "...One of the arrested was the IRGC commander for Tehran (a war hero who lost an eye in the Iran-Iraq war)."

would make good movie
Posted by: lord garth   2009-06-23 19:27  

#4  The fact that the IRGC statement is not attributed to anyone is significant. The authorities have been arresting officers in the IRGC for several days. One of the arrested was the IRGC commander for Tehran (a war hero who lost an eye in the Iran-Iraq war).
Posted by: Frozen Al   2009-06-23 18:52  

#3  I don't see Iran getting better until there is a popular uprising; they tear down the existing structure and start over again. They need to clean house of the mullahs who have a stranglehold on the country.
Posted by: JohnQC   2009-06-23 11:07  

#2  Their problem is that they can not play two games with contradicting strategies. If they continue to provoke the outside world with threats and terrorism, that will eventually lead to an external response. By suppressing the population internally so clearly and forcefully, the very population they will have to swim among, in any external intervention in the future, will be hostile and be the eyes and ears of their enemy. Just remember the best trained army in the Muslim world is now on their doorstep. Keep sending those bombs and agents in across the border making 'friends' and influencing people.
Posted by: Procopius2k   2009-06-23 07:51  

#1  A whiff of grapeshot.
Posted by: g(r)omgoru   2009-06-23 01:06