The growing Iranian fissure

THE GROWING IRANIAN FISSURE…. The New York Times reports today on a new effort by Iranian religious leaders to question the legitimacy of the recent presidential election.

The most important group of religious leaders in Iran called the disputed presidential election and the new government illegitimate on Saturday, an act of defiance against the country’s supreme leader and the most public sign of a major split in the country’s clerical establishment.

A statement by the group, the Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qum, represents a significant, if so far symbolic, setback for the government and especially the authority of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose word is supposed to be final. […]

“This crack in the clerical establishment, and the fact they are siding with the people and Moussavi, in my view is the most historic crack in the 30 years of the Islamic republic,” said Abbas Milani, director of the Iranian Studies Program at Stanford University. “Remember, they are going against an election verified and sanctified by Khamenei.”

Labeling Moussavi and his allies “traitors” becomes that much more difficult when the “most important group of religious leaders in Iran” is bucking the Ayatollah on election results recently labeled a “divine assessment.”

The group’s statement came the same day Moussavi published a 24-page dossier online, written by a commission appointed by Moussavi, detailing allegations of electoral fraud. The report “accused influential Ahmadinejad supporters of handing out cash bonuses and food, increasing wages, printing millions of extra ballots and other acts in the run-up to the vote.”

Also yesterday, a special adviser to Ayatollah Khamenei accused Mousavi of being a “foreign agent” working for the United States. The WaPo called it “the highest and most direct [accusation] issued by an Iranian official since the June 12 election.”

Can an arrest be far behind?

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.