Clashes turn Violent, Many Arrests; Mousavi Defiant; VP Appointment reveals Split among Hard Liners

There are reports that hundreds or even thousands of protesters hit the streets late Tuesday in Tehran. There are reports of violent clashes with security forces, and many arrests are said to have been made, including of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi’s brother-in-law.

Still, Mousavi remains defiant. WaPo quotes him saying, “”You are facing something new: an awakened nation, a nation that has been born again and is here to defend its achievements.” He made fun of the hard liners’ assertions that the demonstrations were planned out by foreign powers.

In a sign of division even within the hard line camp that engineered the recent reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the official Iranian news site PressTV is reporting that a parliamentarian claims he was told by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei that Ahmadinejad must immediately un-appoint his first vice president, Esfandiyar Rahim-Masha’i. Rahim-Masha’i is viewed as soft on the Israel issue. He is the father-in-law of Ahmadinejad’s son. The first vice president is the only one of the twelve who can chair cabinet meetings when the president is out of town.

Mehr News agency reporting in Persian said Tuesday that another parliamentarian, Dr. Ahmad Tavakkoli, is also saying that he has seen a letter from Khamenei to Ahmadinejad instructing him to dismiss the recently-appointed VP.

There is something fishy about this story, since if Khamenei wanted Ahmadinejad to do something, why would he do it in a secret letter that only two MPs have seen?

Rahim-Masha’i, for his part, says he is not going quietly.

PressTV and LAT differ on the chronology here, with the former saying that Ahmadinejad reaffirmed his faith in Rahim-Masha’i before he knew of the report of Khamenei’s opposition.

One possibility is that Khamenei is displeased but does not want to weaken Ahmadinejad by publicly overruling him, at this juncture when things are already unstable. That would make sense of his sending a private letter. Maybe it was circulated to other hard liners only when Ahmadinejad declined to heed it?

In the Iranian constitution, Supreme Leader Khamenei can overrule Ahmadinejad on virtually anything, and can dismiss him at will. So if Khamenei really wants Rahim-Masha’i gone, he’ll be history.

By the way, why does AFP repeat the canards that Ahmadinejad threatened to wipe Israel of the face of the map and that he called the Holocaust a myth?

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