A defeated presidential candidate and a top dissident cleric have warned that Iran risks internal collapse from the deep political divisions sparked by last month’s bitterly-disputed election.
Mohsen Rezai, a former head of the elite Revolutionary Guards who came third in the presidential election, appealed for unity in the face of a “plot to cause an internal collapse... and weaken Iran.”
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election in what his rivals branded a rigged election set off the biggest wave of massive public unrest since the 1979 revolution and rattled the very foundations of the Islamic regime.
“The continuation of this situation is taking us towards a collapse,” Rezai, who is secretary of the top arbitration body the Expediency Council, said in a message on his website on Sunday.
Top dissident cleric Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri issued a similar warning, saying a regime which cracks down on its people with clubs was “despicable” and could face the same demise as the ousted shah.
Rezai had initially joined in the opposition complaints to Iran’s electoral watchdog the Guardians Council over Ahmadinejad’s landslide election victory on June 12, but later withdrew his objections.
The other two defeated candidates, former prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi and reformist ex-parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi, continue to claim the election was rigged despite the Guardians Council endorsing the results.
Hundreds of thousands of Iranians took to the streets of Tehran and other cities in protest after the vote, prompting a brutal crackdown by security forces which used clubs and tear gas against demonstrators.
The authorities also arrested hundreds of reformists, journalists, political activists and protestors, shutting down opposition newspapers and disrupting telephone and Internet services.
At least 20 people were killed in the unrest and many more wounded, according to official figures.
Iran reacted to the global outrage by blaming the West, particularly Britain, for stoking the unrest and trying to destabilise the country. It continues to hold a local employee of the British embassy and a French lecturer in connection with the protests.
Rezai called for unity among all Iranian leaders and insisted that the defeated candidates and the hardline Ahmadinejad should “sit together” for the sake of the national interest.
“Those who made mistakes in the recent incidents must compensate, and those who were harmed should forgive,” said Rezai, who led the Revolutionary Guards for 16 years until 1997.
Montazeri, who was once tipped to succeed revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, warned that the regime could face the same fate as the US-backed shah who was toppled in 1979.
“The state belongs to the people.... When the shah heard the voice of the people’s revolution, it was already too late,” the elderly Montazeri said on the liberal website www.khandanha.eu.
“It is to be hoped that the people in charge now will not let themselves reach the same situation, but will become more amenable to the nation’s demands as soon as possible,” he said.
“A regime that uses clubs, oppression, aggression against (the people’s) rights, injustice, rigged elections, murder, arrests, and medieval or Stalin-era torture, that gags and censors the press, obstructs the media, imprisons intellectuals and elected leaders on false allegations or forced confessions... is despicable and has no religious merit.”
Montazeri, one of the main architects of the Islamic republic who fell from grace in the 1980s after he became too openly criticial of political and cultural restrictions, said the people had the right to remove those who remain in power by “force, fraud or forgery.”