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Syrian Crisis Grows, and Iran’s Inner Circle Gets Edgier

5:30 PM, May 3, 2011 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
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Dissonance in official Iranian propaganda bespeaks serious confusion at the top. However, the leaders of the Green movement, are free from such contradictions. Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, the two main presidential candidates facing Ahmadinejad on 2009, called for solidarity with the Egyptian revolution in February—and were threatened with hanging by radicals in the Iranian government. They were then put under house arrest with their wives. Fatemeh Karroubi was released for one day on Saturday, April 30, and told media the couple has no rights, with Iranian secret police officials having blockaded their residential building and invaded their apartment. She was immediately returned to detention, without telephone access, in her own home.

Iranian Sufis, unlike the Greens, never withdrew from the mass struggle against Ahmadinejad to ponder a new political strategy, and continued their public defiance of the Iranian rulers’ religious legitimacy. The Sufis have come under new attacks, reflecting Fazlinejad’s identification of them as crucial to “velvet revolutions.” When one of their leaders, Dr. Nur Ali Tabandeh, was served with a summons for violating public health laws, some 5,000 Nimatullahi-Gonabadi Sufis gathered at the end of April in the northeastern Iranian city of Beydokht to protest. As noted at the beginning of this year, the Nimatullahi-Gonabadi Sufis have undergone arrests and mistreatment by Iranian authorities since 2006, even before the 2009 election that set off the disaffection and demonstrations that prefigured the Arab Spring.

Protests in Iran beginning in 2009 and in Syria today have no roots outside the countries from which they emerged, except for a contagious desire for liberty. The extravagant Iranian paranoia about foreign threats – echoed by Bashar al-Assad – will do more to enrage the opponents of despotism than to secure the despots in their increasingly tenuous positions.

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