THOUGH it has crushed street protests, jailed dissidents, mounted show trials and hardened censorship, Iran’s ultraconservative, military-backed government remains shaky as it faces a string of testing challenges, including a looming diplomatic showdown over its nuclear ambitions. For sure, it has a physical hold on the Islamic Republic. Its increasingly militarised look, its uninhibited resort to coercion, its domination of parliament and the state-controlled press, and the tacit approval all this gets from Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, show its determination to prevail at any cost. But opposition has not faded. Not only do the two defeated reformist presidential candidates still insist they were cheated, but other powerful figures, including top clerics, persist in decrying the abuse of human rights.
A recent blast came from Hosein Ali Montazeri, a grand ayatollah, now 87, once tipped to succeed the Islamic Republic’s founding father, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, as supreme leader. Expressing deep shame in a widely disseminated letter, he called on fellow clergymen to denounce the government so as to preserve the reputation of Islam. In an apparent response, police in the Shia seminary city of Qom detained three of his grandsons, along with relatives of other dissident clerics.
A lot of ordinary Iranians, including many who used to back the conservatives, scorn Mr Ahmadinejad’s claim to have foiled a foreign plot. Instead, the… >>>