Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Obama's Failed Diplomacy: Tehran Ignores Message Of Hope And Change

Ahmadinejad opponents shout protests from rooftops

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Protesters battled police and shouted their opposition from the rooftops Sunday, but President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed the unrest as little more than "passions after a soccer match" and brought huge crowds to a rally to defend his landslide re-election.

Just after sundown, cries of "death to the dictator" echoed through Tehran as thousands of backers for Ahmadinejad's rival, Mir Hossein Mousavi, heeded a call to bellow from the roofs and balconies. The deeply symbolic act recalled the shouts of "Allahu Akbar," or God is Great, to show opposition to the Western-backed monarchy before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The scenes summed up the showdown over the disputed elections: an outwardly confident Ahmadinejad exerted control, while Mousavi showed no sign of backing down and could be staking out a new role as powerful opposition voice.

His charges that Friday's vote was riddled by fraud brought sympathetic statements from Vice President Joe Biden and other leaders. Mousavi made a direct appeal with Iran's ruling clerics to annul the result, but the chances were considered remote.

With his wide network of young and middle-class backers, Mousavi could emerge as a leader for Iran's liberal ranks and bring internal pressure on Ahmadinejad and Iran's theocracy to take less confrontational policies toward the West.

But the struggle Sunday was on the streets in the worst unrest in Tehran since student-led protests 10 years ago.

Demonstrators were back on the streets with the same tactics: torching bank facades and trash bins, smashing store windows and hurling rocks at anti-riots squads in Tehran. Police responded with baton-wielding sweeps—sometimes targeting bystanders—and the regime shut down text messaging systems and pro-reform Internet sites.

There was no official word on casualties.

Authorities detained top Mousavi aides, including the head of his Web campaign, but many were released Sunday after being held overnight.

Iran's deputy police chief, Ahmad Reza Radan, told the official Islamic Republic News Agency that about 170 people have been arrested. It was not known how many remained in custody.

Mousavi has urged his supporters to channel their anger into peaceful acts of dissent. But the official clampdown on the Internet links blunted the reach of the message. At the same time, Mousavi went to the pinnacle of power to try to reverse the election decision.(source)

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