x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Ahmadinejad sworn in as protests continue

Although Iran's deputy police chief said the event took place in 'tranquility and security', state-funded media confirmed that in spite of a massive security clampdown sporadic demonstrations took place. Opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi said: 'We will continue to protest. We will never collaborate with this government. We do not want to hurt them, but we will criticise their actions. In no way will we help.'

Almost two months after Iran's disputed presidential elections, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was sworn in at the Iranian parliament in Tehran on Wednesday for his second term. Iran's Deputy Police Chief Ahmad Reza Radan said, according to the Fars News Agency "that despite enemy provocations, the swearing-in ceremony... was held in full tranquility and security. " 'In spite of the vast propaganda by satellite channels and foreign media for a gathering in front of the parliament building, no illegal gathering was held there,' Radan told FNA. The state-funded Press TV conveyed a somewhat different view of the event. "Amid a heavy security presence around Parliament blocking out opposition protests as Iran's president takes the oath of office, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad begins his second term. "Nearly two months after the election that sparked mass protests in Iran over its official result, President Ahmadinejad was sworn in on Wednesday. "According to a Press TV correspondent, thousands of security and Basij forces with their motorcycles were present in the areas around Baharestan square, near the Iranian Parliament. "Parliament News reported that more than 5,000 security forces were guarding the downtown block while other reports said officers with sniffer dogs patrolled the area searching for possible bombs. "All shops and businesses in the area were ordered to close. Security forces had cordoned off the neighbouring areas near the Majlis [parliament] hours before the ceremony began, reports said... "Despite the heavy security presence, opposition supporters held sporadic demonstrations in protest at the inauguration of President Ahmadinejad, who garnered almost two-thirds of the vote, reports said." Press TV also reported: "White House spokesman Robert Gibbs called President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the 'elected leader' of Iran when asked if President Obama would recognize Iran's disputed election. " 'This was a decision and a debate ongoing in Iran by Iranians, they were going to choose their leadership,' Gibbs said. " 'He's the elected leader,' he added. "Nevertheless, Gibbs noted that the US will not congratulate Ahmadinejad on his new term in office. " 'I don't have any reason to believe we will send any letter,' Gibbs told reporters at his daily press briefing on Tuesday." In a press gathering on Wednesday, Mr Gibbs retracted some of his remarks. "Well, let me correct a little bit of what I said yesterday. I denoted that Mr Ahmadinejad was the elected leader of Iran. I would say it's not for me to pass judgment on. He's been inaugurated, that's a fact. Whether any election was fair, obviously the Iranian people still have questions about that and we'll let them decide that. But I would simply say he's been inaugurated and we know that is simply a fact." The New York Times said: "According to news reports on Tuesday, leading members of the opposition say they have no intention of ending their protests even after Mr Ahmadinejad takes the oath. Reuters reported on Tuesday that Mr Moussavi's wife, Zahra Rahnavard, told a reformist website in Iran that 'despite all the hardship, we will continue our path to fight against the result.' "In an interview with El Pais published on Tuesday, Mehdi Karroubi, another opposition leader who ran for president and disputes the results, told the Spanish newspaper, 'neither Moussavi nor I have withdrawn.' Asked about what the two opposition leaders will do now, Mr Karroubi said: 'We will continue to protest. We will never collaborate with this government. We do not want to hurt them, but we will criticise their actions. In no way will we help.' He added that even though 'we do not consider this a legitimate government,' the opposition leaders are not interested in revolution. 'We consider ourselves part of the system,' Mr Karroubi said. 'Our disagreement is limited to the elections. We do not question the system.' " Time magazine noted: "Even if their numbers are dramatically reduced from the hundreds of thousands that first marched to cry fraud in the days immediately after June 12, the very fact that protesters are still taking to the streets - as hundreds did on August 3, while Khamenei was formally confirming Ahmadinejad - is, in itself, remarkable. After all, to protest now is to risk a cracked head, or far worse; for all the mixed signals from Iran's top echelons of power, the security forces have exhibited few qualms about doing whatever it takes to quiet the streets, including the imprisoning of an estimated 2,000 opposition supporters. And all those taking to the streets are well aware that a number of detainees have died in the regime's custody. The taped 'confessions' presented Aug 2 in the hastily convened trial of 100 detainees, ranging from notable senior political figures to demonstrators arrested on the streets, were widely viewed as forced, which sounded a further warning of what those challenging the regime on the streets might expect if they're arrested. "Equally remarkable is the fact that many of the protests that continue in defiance of Khamenei's dire warnings weeks ago that those who continue to demonstrate would be treated as enemies of the Islamic Republic are still joined by such notable establishment figures as former President Mohammed Khatami, reformist candidate Mehdi Karroubi and Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the leading opposition candidate. Khamenei's red lines have been ignored by the opposition, and his own legitimacy has been questioned as never before, whether by street protesters breaking a taboo by shouting slogans against him, or by key regime figures like former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani openly rebuking his partisan interventions as an abuse of his office. Even Ahmadinejad himself has lately taken steps that flagrantly challenge Khamenei's authority." In The Guardian, Simon Tisdall wrote: "Barack Obama's policy of engagement with Iran - the 'unclenched fist' of his January inaugural address - has about 60 days left to run. If Tehran does not respond positively and credibly to his offer of dialogue on nuclear and regional issues by the end of September, all bets are off. At that point, US and European officials say, a new international coalition will set to work on possibly the toughest sanctions imposed on a single country since Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. "The threat of punitive sanctions, with or perhaps without UN security council blessing, is designed to concentrate minds in Tehran distracted by the divisive aftermath of June's presidential election. But it also serves to discourage the Israelis - at least for now - from taking matters into their own hands by launching a unilateral military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. Israel's leaders do not believe dialogue or sanctions will work. But they calculate cynically that they must give Obama's diplomacy a chance to fail."

pwoodward@thenational.ae