Clerical discontent challenges Iran leader

A major question looking ahead will be whether discontented clerics will aggressively push their criticisms behind the scenes, and whether their followers who look to them for spiritual guidance will rally behind the reformist political opposition.
Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, who claims to have won the June 12 elections, has made clear he will push ahead with his campaign against the government. The opposition says official election results that showed a landslide victory for incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were fraudulent.
But how he can push his campaign remains unclear. The dramatic protests that brought hundreds of thousands to the streets for days have been shattered by the crackdown by police, Revolutionary Guards and Basij militiamen, in which at least 20 protesters and 7 Basiji militiamen were killed and over 1,000 arrested. The options for political action likely will remain limited.
The show of divisions among clerics over the election has been stunning, though some have chosen to make clear their opposition by silence.
Among the nine ayatollahs holding the topmost clerical rank — “marja’ taqlid,” or a “model for imitation” — only one has congratulated Ahmadinejad on his election victory. Three of them have spoken out overtly against the election and the wave of arrests.
One of them, Grand Ayatollah Youssef Saanei — who normally comments little on political affairs — warned on Friday that “d… >>>

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