At first glance, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei might seem a happy man. The pro-democracy movement had promised that last Thursday, the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, would be a turning point for the cause of freedom. But Mr. Khamenei’s regime contained the mounting opposition.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) controlled Tehran with the help of tens of thousands of club-wielding street fighters shipped in from all over the country. Opposition marchers, confined to the northern part of the city, were locked into hit-and-run battles with the regime’s professional goons. An opposition attempt at storming the Evin Prison, where more than 3,000 dissidents are being tortured, did not materialize. The would-be liberators failed to break a ring of steel the IRGC threw around the sprawling compound.
With the Internet shut down and foreign radio broadcasts jammed, the regime imposed its own version of events. State television showed large crowds chanting “Death to America” while marching in front of giant portraits of the Supreme Leader.
And yet, despite all of this, Mr. Khamenei’s message thanking the pro-regime marchers after the “glorious events of the day” had a surprisingly subdued tone. He has reason to feel unhappy.
For the first time the regime had to transform Tehran into a sealed citadel with checkpoints at all points of entry. The IRGC was in total control. Code-named “Simorgh,” after a bird in Persian my…