The Islamic republic state would not cheat
Iran’s supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has raised the stakes in the ongoing confrontation between his government and those demonstrating against the results of last week’s election:
TEHRAN — In his first public response to days of protests, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, sternly warned opponents Friday to stay off the streets and denied opposition claims that last week’s disputed election was rigged, praising the ballot as an “epic moment that became a historic moment.”
In a somber and lengthy sermon at Friday prayers in Tehran, he called directly for an end to the protests by hundreds of thousands of Iranians demanding a new election.
“Street challenge is not acceptable,” Ayatollah Khamenei said. “This is challenging democracy after the elections.” He said opposition leaders would be “held responsible for chaos” if they did not end the protests.
His remarks seemed to deepen the confrontation between Iran’s rulers and supporters of the main opposition candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi, who have accused the authorities of rigging the vote.
Ayatollah Khamenei urged dissenters to pursue their complaints about the June 12 election only through legal channels, insisting that the turnout — officially put at 85 percent — showed the ballot to be a reflection of the national will.
Speaking in front of an audience of thousands that included President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he endorsed the president’s policies and insisted that the margin of victory — 11 million votes — accorded to Mr. Ahmadinejad in the official tally was so big that it could not have been falsified. “How can 11 million votes be replaced or changed?” he said.
He went on: “The Islamic republic state would not cheat and would not betray the vote of the people.”
That certainly looks to me as though it’s setting the stage for an increasingly violent response to the demonstrators on the part of the Iranian authorities.
He also singled out the United States and the United Kingdom for criticism, blaming the two countries for inciting Iranians against their government.
Now it may simply be a case of who swerves first. The demonstrators may give up; the government may give up; some formula may be found for bringing Mousavi back into the fold; or the government forces may forcefully end the demonstrations.