Khamenei Backs off on Charge of Western Plots; Ayatollahs Sani’i and Montazeri Attack Khamenei.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that he did not believe the leaders of Iran’s protesters against the official presidential election results were instigated by the West. He added, however, that the protesters had planned out their campaign even before the elections were held. (Since they could not have even known whether their candidate might have won, it is unlikely that they plotted out a whole social movement based on that contingency).

The supreme leader also cautioned that trials of dissidents should not be based on hearsay evidence but rather on solid evidence.

Khamenei was signalling to hard liners such as Ayatollah Misbah-Yazdi that he would not permit treason trials against the defeated presidential candidates or their supporters. Such actions have the potential to tear the country apart, and could well backfire on the regime as the show trials it is conducting against arrested protesters have already done.

In contrast, regime critics have not also backed down but rather have become if anything more vocal than ever.
Grand Ayatollah Hosain Ali Montazeri more or less called Khamenei a dictator on Thursday. Montazeri has been marginalized and it may not matter so much what he says in a direct sort of way. But Montazeri was once Khomeini’s heir apparent, and that he is openly defying the supreme leader in thisway offers a powerful model to the dissidents.

Ayatollah Yusuf Sanei has made some extremely intemperate comments about the regime. He indicated disgust with the idea that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was sworn in according to Shiite formulas in a Shiite ceremony, and yet the whole thing was a fraud. He was disturbed. At one gathering he is said to have called Ahmadinejad a “bastard” (haramzadeh). He denies that the president was the referent.

A parliamentarian admitted that the regime had tortured arrestees who had supported Mir Hosain Mousavi in steet demonstrations.

The dissident politicians are still technically extremely weak. But it surely is significant that the one backpedaling on the severity of the charges was Khamenei, while his critics have grown more vociferous.

Meanwhile, the political turmoil in Iran, or perhaps a lack of the requisite raw materials, has thrown a wrench into Iran’s civilian nuclear energy research program. (Despite what the US and Israel keep alleging, there is no evidence that Iran has a weapons development project. At the moment, it is only able to enrich to about 4%, not good enough to run a reactor.

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