Sunday, December 6, 2009

Supporters of the Iranian Regime's Rulers Decry Infighting

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The Washington Post

With authorities threatening a harsh response to new anti-government demonstrations planned for Monday, prominent supporters of Iran's system of religious rule are urging leaders to soften their approach to protesters and end high-level infighting that they say is paralyzing the country. Violent crackdowns by security forces are turning demonstrators who do not oppose the Islamic republic into extremists intent on bringing down the country's leaders, according to members of Iran's political establishment. Saying they fear for the nation's future, they are stepping up demands that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other top officials work out a compromise with their political opponents. "When you attack moderates, you breed radicals," said Amir Mohebbian, a former politician who shares Ahmadinejad's ideology but is critical of his policies. "Our leaders should say to the core of the protesters: 'We are not against you.' Otherwise our system might be in danger." Iran's top leadership has been deeply divided since Ahmadinejad's disputed June 12 election victory, which led to street protests and the arrest of about 100 leading opponents. Leaders not only differ on whether to crack down or attempt to engage the opposition, but they also disagree strongly on foreign policy.

Iran recently failed to provide a unified answer to a nuclear trust-building deal backed by the U.N. atomic watchdog agency -- a deal that Ahmadinejad defended but that other power players turned down. "The gaps are being deepened because some of our elite are not careful," said Saeed Aboutaleb, a former member of parliament who once supported Ahmadinejad but now opposes him. "This problem won't be solved as time passes; rather it will be increased," he wrote last month in Iran's Ettemaad newspaper. During a live televised debate in May among presidential candidates, Ahmadinejad attacked Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president who heads two key supervisory councils, charging that Rafsanjani's family was corrupt. Ahmadinejad and his supporters among Revolutionary Guard Corps commanders and hard-line clerics strongly disagree with Rafsanjani's more pragmatic view of Islamic rule, which is shared by other politicians who played key roles in Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution. The attack, part of a broad campaign aimed at discrediting Rafsanjani and his followers, brought simmering internal differences to the surface.