Sunday, July 05, 2009

Key Iranian Clerical Group Says "Fraud!"

According to the New York Times, the Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qum has called the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "illegitimate":

A statement by the group, the Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qum, represents a significant, if so far symbolic, setback for the government and especially the authority of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose word is supposed to be final. The government has tried to paint the opposition and its top presidential candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi, as criminals and traitors, a strategy that now becomes more difficult — if not impossible.

“This crack in the clerical establishment, and the fact they are siding with the people and Moussavi, in my view is the most historic crack in the 30 years of the Islamic republic,” said Abbas Milani, director of the Iranian Studies Program at Stanford University. “Remember, they are going against an election verified and sanctified by Khamenei.”

The announcement came on a day when Mr. Moussavi released documents detailing a campaign of fraud by the current president’s supporters, and as a close associate of the supreme leader called Mr. Moussavi and former President Mohammad Khatami “foreign agents,” saying they should be treated as criminals.

The documents, published on Mr. Moussavi’s Web site, accused supporters of the president of printing more than 20 million extra ballots before the vote and handing out cash bonuses to voters.

Since the election, the bulk of the clerical establishment in the holy city of Qum, an important religious and political center of power, has remained largely silent, leaving many to wonder when, or if, the nation’s most senior religious leaders would jump into the controversy that has posed the most significant challenge to the country’s leadership since the Islamic Revolution.

With its statement Saturday, the association of clerics — formed under the leadership of the revolution’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini — came down squarely on the side of the reform movement.
The news has been lighter than it was earlier, both because of the media crackdown and because the resistance has moved away from the gigantic open protests and because the repression of expression has been so terrible. And things have been discouraging.

But this is positive news. It demonstrates that despite the outward appearance of calm, many clerics recognize the dangers of a military regime with Ahmadinejad's face...and are cognizant of the public's anger bubbling below the surface.

Keep in mind that the last revolution fomented for over a year. This issue was never going to be resolved in a day, or a week, or a month. Yes, the western media has moved on to endless pre-scripted elegies of an entertainer. But as everybody with any sense has said since this begun, this is not the west's story. It is Iran's.

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