AT least 10 people were killed in the latest clashes to shake Tehran, state television said on Sunday, as Iranian leaders took aim at Western ‘meddling’ in the post-election tumult that has triggered the biggest crisis since the Islamic revolution.
The opposition deepened the split in the country’s Islamic rulers, with defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi firing off an unprecedented criticism of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei after a day of deadly violence in Tehran.
State television said 10 people were killed and more than 100 wounded in Tehran on Saturday, blaming ‘terrorists’ with firearms and explosives, bringing the overall toll reported by state media in a week of clashes to at least 17.
Struggling to contain the massive street protests unleashed since the disputed June 12 election that returned Mahmud Ahmadinezhad to office, Iranian leaders lashed out at Western nations, foreign media and the exiled opposition.
World leaders have voiced mounting alarm over the unrest, but have hesitated to openly support the Mousavi-Rafsanjani led opposition, since President Obama wishes to be able to negotiate with whichever side triumphs.
Witnesses yesterday said security forces were patrolling areas of Tehran but there did not appear to be any opposition gatherings or demonstrations of the type that have engulfed the capital every day for a week.
The foreign media has been barred from covering the demonstrations as part of tight new restrictions on their work.
Ahmadinezhad bluntly told the United States and Britain to stop interfering after Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki accused London of plotting for the past two years to sabotage the election.
‘By making hasty comments, you will not have a place in the circle of the Iranian nation’s friends. Therefore, I recommend you to correct your interfering positions,’ Ahmadinezhad said in a statement.
The BBC said its correspondent in Tehran had been ordered to leave within 24 hours while the authorities warned the British media of further action if the ‘interference’ continues.
Dubai-based television channel Al-Arabiya also said its Tehran bureau had been ordered to remain closed indefinitely for ‘unfair reporting’ of the election.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said he rejected the charges that protesters were being ‘manipulated or motivated’ by foreign countries.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said his country was ‘worried’ by the loss of life in Iran, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a recount.
In his latest comments on Saturday, US President Barack Obama, who has appealed for dialogue with Tehran after three decades of severed ties, called on Iran to stop ‘all violent and unjust actions against its own people.
‘The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching.’
Iran’s deputy police chief Ahmad Reza Radan blamed ‘thugs’ from the exiled opposition group the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (PMOI) for the violence.
Mousavi, leading the massive wave of mainly middle class public opposition to the vote that returned Ahmadinezhad to power, on Saturday accused the country’s rulers of ‘cheating’ and warned of a dangerous path ahead.
He unleashed his broadside against Iran’s all-powerful leader, after police firing tear gas and water cannon clashed with thousands of protesters who defied an ultimatum from Khamenei for an end to their street protests.
Witnesses gave accounts of brutal violence against protesters on Saturday by the Basij, the volunteer Islamic militia at the forefront of the crackdown, while the authorities blamed ‘terrorists’ armed with guns and explosives.
Mousavi, who was premier in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution, lashed out at Khamenei in an unprecedented challenge to the man who has ruled over Iran for 20 years.
In his first public appearance since the vote, Khameini on Friday ruled out any election fraud and warned that opposition leaders would be responsible for ‘blood, violence and chaos’ if there was no end to protests.
But the moderate Mousavi, 67, reiterated his demand for a new election, saying that ‘cheating’ threatened the very foundations of the republic.
He warned in a statement on his newspaper’s website that if people were unable to defend their rights peacefully ‘there will be dangerous ways ahead.
‘We are not against our sacred system and its legal structures. This structure protects our independence, freedom and the Islamic republic,’ he said.
‘We are against deviation and lying and we seek to reform that, reform to return to the pure principles of the Islamic revolution.’
Scores of reformists and political activists have been rounded up by the authorities since the violence exploded. The latest arrested two journalists who worked for a variety of reformist newspapers, a colleague said.
The head of Iran’s security council, Abbas Mohtaj, on Saturday delivered a stern warning to Mousavi, whose supporters have been turning out wearing scarves and headbands in green, his campaign colour.
‘Should you provoke and call for these illegal rallies you will be responsible for the consequences,’ he said.
Iran’s electoral watchdog, the 12-member Guardians Council, said on Saturday it was ready to randomly recount up to 10 per cent of the ballot boxes from the election.
Karim Sadjadpour of US-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the ‘previously sacred red lines’ were being challenged in Iran – where 60 per cent of the population were born after the revolution.
He said it was ‘unprecedented’ for people to question the legitimacy of the institution of the supreme leader.
Meanwhile, Iran’s Expediency Council head Al Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s daughter, Fa’ezeh, has been released after being briefly arrested for participating in an illegal rally in Tehran.
Fa’ezeh Hashemi along with four other members of the former president’s family had been reportedly arrested for having participated in an illegal rally ‘in Tehran’s Azadi Avenue and inciting and encouraging rioters’ on Saturday, June 20.
Rafsanjani’s daughter was the last of those detained to be released on Sunday evening.
The other four, which included Fa’ezeh’s daughter, Hoseyn Mar’ashi’s wife, daughter, and sister-in-law – Mar’ashi is a cousin to Hashemi Rafsanjani’s wife – were released earlier on Sunday.
Moreover, Hashemi Rafsanjani’s children are reportedly barred form leaving the country.
Earlier in June, President Mahmud Ahmadinezhad had accused Rafsanjani and his immediate family of corruption during a televised debate with his main rival Mir Hossein Mousavi.
The Mousavi-Rafsanjani block represent a section of the Iranian bourgeoisie who wish to have a much more rapid privatisation programme in Iran, to further enrich itself, and a much more conciliatory attitude abroad to make a deal with US and UK imperialism.
Ahmadinezhad’s support is based on the rural poor and sections of the urban poor, who have no interests in a compromise with imperialism.
Both wings of the Islamic bourgeois regime favour strong action against working class militancy inside the country and oppose the rising power of the trade unions.
The fact that the two wings of the regime have been unable to prevent their civil war emerging into the open is a result of the depth of the crisis of the Iranian economy, and the massive pressure being imposed on the Iranian bourgeoisie by imperialism.
Meanwhile the anger of the restive middle class who want their place in the sun, and the fury of the urban and rural poor who have experienced no benefits from Iran’s oil wealth are providing the forces that are clashing in the streets.
The essence of the situation is that the Iranian bourgeoisie, which is now split, divided and on different sides of the barricades, cannot provide a way forward for the Iranian people.
Only a socialist revolution in Iran, led by the working class, can do this.