New York Times: In an implicit rebuke to Iran’s ruling elite, a conservative presidential candidate warned Sunday that the political and social rifts opened by the disputed June 12 vote and subsequent crackdown could lead to the nation’s “disintegration” if they were not resolved soon.
The New York Times
By ROBERT F. WORTH
Published: July 13, 2009
BEIRUT, Lebanon — In an implicit rebuke to Iran’s ruling elite, a conservative presidential candidate warned Sunday that the political and social rifts opened by the disputed June 12 vote and subsequent crackdown could lead to the nation’s “disintegration” if they were not resolved soon.
The candidate, Mohsen Rezai, made his warning in a long statement about the election and its bloody aftermath, in which he called for reconciliation and spoke about the danger of “imprisoning” the legacy of the Islamic Revolution in divisive and shortsighted politics. The statement was posted on his Web site.
Although his message was largely nonpartisan, Mr. Rezai hinted that the government response after the election had been unfair, and he urged protesters to continue their work in legal and nonviolent channels.
Like the three other opposition candidates, Mr. Rezai, a former chief of the elite Revolutionary Guards, initially said he believed that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s landslide victory involved ballot-rigging. Mr. Rezai later withdrew his legal challenge to the results, citing the need for unity.
Mr. Rezai’s statement is the latest sign that opposition to Mr. Ahmadinejad — despite the violent crackdown on street protests and stern warnings by government leaders — has not faltered. On Sunday, Iran’s Expediency Council delivered a victory to opposition supporters by upholding a law that would prevent government officials from simultaneously serving on the powerful Guardian Council, which is responsible for approving candidates and certifying election results.
Opposition candidates and their supporters complained that the Guardian Council could not play a neutral role while some of its members were officials deeply loyal to Mr. Ahmadinejad.
The Expediency Council’s ruling — reported earlier by the semiofficial Fars news agency — was also a clear victory for the former president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, now the council’s president and a major supporter of Mir Hussein Moussavi, the leading electoral challenger to Mr. Ahmadinejad.
Mr. Rafsanjani is expected to deliver Friday Prayer this week for the first time since the elections, several reform-oriented Web sites reported. Mr. Rafsanjani’s role as a behind-the-scenes opposition figure has been much debated, with speculation that his status would suffer because of his support for Mr. Moussavi. His return as prayer leader — if it happens — would appear to underscore his continued influence in circles of power.
Other conservative figures have made gestures in recent days indicating their displeasure with the government’s tactics or their desire for more forgiving policies. On Saturday, Ayatollah Reza Ostadi, a senior member of a conservative clerical group, delivered a stinging criticism of a cleric who had organized a rally supporting Mr. Ahmadinejad, the Mehr news agency reported.
Mr. Ostadi also announced that he would stop delivering Friday sermons and teaching seminarians, citing health reasons. Also on Saturday, an adviser to Mr. Ahmadinejad urged the nation’s leaders to be more tolerant of dissent. And last week, a senior conservative political figure, Asadollah Asgaroladi, said those who voted for the opposition must be listened to.
Also on Sunday, reformist Web sites reported the death of a 19-year-old demonstrator thought to have been in prison. The Web sites included photographs of the man, Sohrab Arabi, and said his mother had identified him from photographs provided by the government. He was shot dead by security forces after a rally in Tehran on June 15, the Web sites reported. The reports of Mr. Arabi’s death renewed widespread claims that the number of protesters killed during the unrest was much higher than the official government figure of 20.
Nazila Fathi contributed reporting from Toronto, and independent observers from Tehran.