Iran, Global Day of Action, Iran protests, 
Iran demonstrations
David Goldman/AP Photo
Saarar Azadi, of Brooklyn, N.Y., is comforted by a fellow demonstrator during a rally in New York against the Iranian government as part of the "Global Day of Action" protests, July 25, 2009.

Amid New Controversy and Protests, How Will Iran Respond?

July 28, 2009 07:00 AM
by Sarah Amandolare
Renewed international accusations of ongoing Basiji militia injustices have prompted a slew of predictions for Iran's immediate and long-term future.

Global Day of Action Spurs Peaceful Protests

Among the protesters on the Global Day of Action on July 25 was "[a] group of 42 Arab human rights organizations," including organizations from Iraq, Syria and Palestinian territories, WashingtonTV reported. Rallies and protests were held in at least 55 cities calling on Iran to release opposition demonstrators. CBS News has video footage of the protests from around the world.

Days earlier, an anonymous member of the Iranian Basiji reportedly spoke with The Jerusalem Post about the militia's system of rape and execution of women. He also discussed his decision to release two Iranian teens arrested during demonstrations in June, which led to his detention by Iranian authorities. According to the Basiji member, "many other police and members of the security forces" have dealt with the same situation, The Jerusalem Post reported.

In light of the emboldened protests and accusations against the Basiji militia, which is intensely loyal to the Supreme Leader Khamenei, speculation is mounting as to what will happen next in Iran. According to Reuters, statements made today by opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi suggest that "pro-reform protests" will continue, indicating that trouble is simmering and could soon reach the boiling point again.

The swearing in of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Aug. 5 is likely to fuel further unrest. 

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Opinion & Analysis: Potential fallout of a weakened regime

On The Huffington Post, Mark Fowler discussed a potentially devastating "long term impact" of the elections: a loss of confidence in the Supreme Leader. Writes Fowler, "the challenge to the Islamic Republic as we know it is real."

In a column for Radio Free Europe, Mehdi Mozaffari makes similar claims. "The entire structure of the Islamic republic is under question," he writes. Mozaffari is a political science professor at Aarhus University and heads the Center for Studies in Islamism and Radicalization (CIR). He suggests that no matter how rulers manage Iran's situation, "the days of the Islamic republic in its current form are numbered."

Mozaffari also discusses the Supreme Leader's dependence on the Basiji-affiliated Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC), which is disliked by Iran's wealthy population and their unofficial spokesman, former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Khamenei could become "a hostage to the IRGC" while further alienating rich Iranian businessmen, many of whom live in Dubai and prefer capitalist policies denied by Ahmadinejad. "The question is what the IRGC can or will do," Mozaffari writes.

On July 20, Rafsanjani appeared in public for the first time since the disputed elections, calling for the release of imprisoned demonstrators and for "a free debate about the election on state TV," former BBC Tehran correspondent Jon Leyne reports.

But the ruling regime is unlikely to back down. According to experts interviewed by the BBC, the Supreme Leader and Ahmadinejad consider compromising under pressure a weakness, and are carefully calibrating their "use of force." Therefore, despite the opposition's "steely determination," Leyne predicts, "this is going to be a long, hard fight."

Background: Challenges faced by key players in Iran

Reuters AlertNet offers a roundup of the latest moves by the opposition, the government's response and distinct challenges faced by Khamenei and Ahmadinejad. The opposition movement, led by Mousavi, Mehdi Karoubi and reformist former President Mohammad Khatami, still contends that the elections were unfair. All three have "urged senior clerics to help secure the release of people detained after the election."

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