Dueling Demonstrations in Tehran

Borzou Daragahi reports from Tehran that supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came out in the tens of thousands to chant “Death to America,” “Death to Israel,” and “Khamenei is our Leader.” This rally, called for 4 pm, was meant to upstage one scheduled at 5 pm by supporters of Mir-Hosain Mousavi. The latter crowd instead staged a small quiet march on Vali Asr Street in the north of the city. (Update: I’m told the Mousavi march was actually enormous.

Grand Ayatollah Hosain Montazeri, once thought likely to be Khomeini’s successor, called for 3 days of mourning for the 12 demonstrators killed on Monday. Montazeri broke with the regime, rejecting an authoritarian interpretation of the ‘guardianship of the jurisprudent’ or mandatory clerical rule, and is under house arrest in Qom.

On the other hand, Ali Larijani, the speaker of the Iranian parliament who quit as Ahmadinejad’s negotiator on nuclear issues because of the president’s confrontational style, nevertheless rallied to his side on Tuesday.

I’d say that there are three factions: the hard liners, the pragmatic conservatives, and the reformists. Larijani is a hard liner, so what he said is not surprising. If the pragmatic conservatives continue to back Mousavi, however, that is a real challenge to the regime.

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