Khamenei’s speech ‘a threat’

Analysts’ views on speech by Iran’s supreme leader on recent disputed poll.

Khamenei expressed his backing for the poll results and his support for
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the the victor during his speech [AFP]

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, has spoken publicly for the first time about with his country’s disputed presidential election results.

His comments followed massive street protests against the poll outcome, which showed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the incument president, winning with 66 per cent of the vote.

Analysts gave their opinions to Al Jazeera on the speech made during Friday prayers at Tehran University.

Robert Fisk, from the UK’s Independent newspaper

It was a threatening speech, he basically said: ‘Enough is enough – from now on, no more street protests.’

And he didn’t give any quarter to the million people we saw [protesting] on Sunday. He didn’t even say: ‘We need a dialogue.’ Nothing.

I think what he is saying is any more marching through the streets … is going to be put down very ruthlessly indeed.

The next time there is a mass demonstration on the streets by the opposition, I would say it is going to be an extremely dangerous situation.

The supreme leader has allied himself so closely with Ahmadinejad – saying that the result was the right result, it was fair – that to attack Ahmadinejad in the future for the opposition, is to attack the supreme leader and thus the Iranian Islamic revolution.

He kept saying the victory was for the Islamic Republic because so many people voted.

The reasons people are out on the streets is that they did go out and vote and they feel that they were cheated. And that wasn’t addressed and will not be addressed any more.

And that is why we are hearing they will be responsible if they go back out on the streets again.

The whole pattern of [the speech] is ‘obey’.

Over and over again we heard: ‘The election results stand, no more demonstrations on the street – it’s over. And if it’s not over, watch out.’

This is a sermon that is basically telling people, ‘Get back in order again. Obey’.

Farzad Agha, an Iran analyst

Most of the things he said were a full endorsement of the president. Clearly even if the [opposition supporters] want to make some gestures, they will have extreme difficulty in doing that.

This is clearly a threat to the demonstrators and supporters of the opposition candidates … saying if you continue the process we will deal with you.

Thousands of people cheered as Khameini made his speech in Tehran [AFP]

He was saying that there are some foreign elements, some spies, who may use these protests and act against us [the political system] and therefore, if these things happen and continue to happen, we will tackle it.

He doesn’t seem to say anything in particular which shows that he is extremely worried. It looks like everything is fine, we have the ability to deal with it.

He didn’t make any concessions apart from the fact that he praised the opposition candidates, saying that they are part of the system but at the same time they have to be careful in what they are doing.

I believe that [the opposition] will continue their protests and they will continue demanding that the opposition candidates, especially Mr Mousavi, be tougher and more straightforward in their position.

I think the opposition candidates and especially Mousavi supporters have a very good case and, in fact, probably this speech will further infuriate them.

Although it may not result in sudden outbursts on the street, I am sure that somehow it will show itself.

Because clearly the supreme leader did not acknowledge the presence and this wave of people in the past six days who were protesting the results of the election. He didn’t even acknowledge that in some way they had some rights.

That will probably play into the hands of supporters of Mr Mousavi and will have its consequences.

The supporters of Ahmadinejad now feel that the supreme leader has supported them … therefore, they will somehow try to emphasise the correctness of their position. And this will cause a lot of confrontation, clearly. 

Ali Younes, writer and Middle East analyst in Washington, DC

Khamenei’s speech was no surprise for those  who anticipated that the supreme leader was highly unlikely to back down from his earlier endorsement of Ahmedinejad’s win.

He also left no doubts that another election is out of the question.

That said, Khamenei left a breathing room for the opposition in which they can contest the results – but only through the legal channels and through … the Guardian Council which is set to investigate the opposition claims.

Khamenei was conscious of the fact that the huge streets protests, the first in the history of the Islamic republic and the first in a presidential election, might set a dangerous precedent on the future of the Islamic Republic.

He therefore appealed to the people’s common sense that their actions are not in the best interests of the country and this is a critical and sensitive phase the country is going through.

Khamenei is also conscious of the fact that there is an undercurrent of opposition to his own rule as a supreme leader on the grounds of his religious qualifications.

The Iranian constitution stipulates that the supreme leader must be a “Grand Ayatollah” and Khamenei was not when he assumed the leadership.

Moreover, some in the opposition have hinted at this issue in a subtle ways, using coded terms such as “change” and “amending the constitution”, in order to limit the powers of the supreme leader or even abolishing the post.

But the real catalyst for this massive turn out of protests is actually dire economic conditions and the bleak future Iranians are facing.

Under president Ahmedinejad, inflation rose to 24 percent, unemployment numbers increased and Iranians saw their lot was not improving, despite last summer’s surge in oil prices and huge increase in oil revenues.

Ahmedinejad had promised before he was elected that he will improve the economy.

He did not.

A very important aspect of the speech was Khamenei’s subtle criticism of Ahmedinejad for his harsh words during the election campaign toward Ali Akbar Hashemie Rafsanjani, the powerful former president, who is considered the real power behind Musavi.

This gesture toward Rafsanjani is a signal that the supreme leader is trying to win over Rafsanjani and convince him to end the crises and call off his support for the opposition.

Many Iranian experts believe that Rafsanjani used his wealth to finance Musavi’s campaign through his many businesses and wealth.

This gesture is a clever realpolitic by Khamenei who in his public praise of Rafsanjani, is attempting to drive a wedge between him and Mussavi.

Iranian opposition leaders, particularly Musavi and Mehdi Karrubi, are left with several choices to make.

Their predicament is to either heed the supreme leader’s call by ending their street protests and use the legal channels instead, or defy the supreme leader and continue calling their supporters out to the street which is highly unlikely due to the high risks of bloodshed against the protestors and the risk to their own lives if they were deemed by the government as inciting riots against the state.

Mussavi and the opposition will, in the mean time, call on their supporters to stay home and put off any confrontation with the government, allowing back channels negotiations to take their course before deciding to whether confront the state head-on, which is highly unlikely, or swallow defeat and move on, which seems to be the case at this point.

Hamid Dabashi, a professor of Iranian studies at Columbia University

I was not surprised, he [Khameini] stuck to his guns, he supported the regime, he reiterated that we were under attack by foreigners, the UK in particular.

He seems to be in denial about what is happening.

He has said that the Guardian Council is going to address any issue over the election, whether it was rigged or was not rigged, but he prejudged the decision of the Guardian Council by giving his unequivocal support to [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad.

This is a clear drawing of a red line that cannot be crossed.

Whether Mousavi is willing to cross it remains to be seen, he has said to his supporters that he will stay with it until the end, but what precisely that end is we don’t know.

Nor is Mousavi in complete control of the movement, of the volcano that has been unleashed, so we have to be cautious – wait and see how things are going to pan out.

We have to keep in mind that Mousavi is a very well-respected figure of the Islamic revolution, he was the prime minister for eight years, he is not discredited by any means.

I have no question in my mind that the movement that we are seeing, these demonstrations, are a political force that has to be reckoned with.

What we see in demonstrations is that they are holding their ground and they are going to proceed. But the question that remains is, this started as a non-violent civil disobedience, will it remain that way?

What you have to bear in mind is that Mousavi is not Ayatollah Khomeini [Iran’s former supreme leader] sitting in Neauphle-le-Chateau and issuing communiques for people to follow and not caring about how many people get killed.

People have already been injured, people have already been killed, and communications between the activists are not very reliable, so it is perfectly possible that the organised demonstrations might dissipate, but it also possible that they will go on.

What Khameini has done is put the blame over any future bloodshed on leaders such as Mousavi. That means they are ready for a very bloody crackdown and that is a very worrying situation.

Source: Al Jazeera