- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 25, 2009

CAIRO | A flood of security forces using tear gas and clubs quickly overwhelmed a small group of rock-throwing protesters near Iran’s parliament Wednesday, and the country’s supreme leader said the outcome of the disputed presidential election will stand - the latest signs of the government’s growing confidence in quelling unrest on the streets.

As the election showdown has shifted, demonstrators are finding themselves increasingly scattered and struggling under a blanket crackdown that the wife of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi compared to martial law. In Wednesday’s clashes, thousands of police suppressed hundreds of Mousavi supporters.

The statement by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that the June 12 election of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would not be reversed was accompanied by a vow that the nation’s rulers would never yield to demands from the streets.

“On the current situation, I was insisting and will insist on implementation of the law. That means, we will not go one step beyond the law,” Ayatollah Khamenei said on state television. “For sure, neither the system nor the people will give in to pressures at any price.”

Since last week’s protests, the government has unleashed days of escalating force, including the full weight of the powerful Revolutionary Guard and its feared civilian militias on the opposition.

Social-networking sites carried claims of brutal tactics by police such as beatings with batons, but the report could not be independently confirmed.

In the battle for public opinion, the leaders also ramped up a familiar campaign: that the opposition was being aided by the United States and other perceived foes of Iran.

What began as a groundswell protest of purported vote fraud increasingly appears to be splintering into random acts of rage and frustration against emboldened and well-armed security forces determined to hold their ground.

Small groups battled police Wednesday and there were calls on reformist Web sites for a gathering Thursday at the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

But Mr. Mousavi has increasingly turned his back on mass street demonstrations, fearing the likelihood of more violence or deaths.

Wednesday’s unrest showed the lopsided odds. Groups of protesters - perhaps several hundred - tossed rocks and trash at riot police in running clashes outside parliament. The demonstrators fled as police used tear gas and fired in the air, possibly with live ammunition.

Throughout the day, black-clad security agents and police watched main streets and squares to prevent any major gatherings - a stark difference from last week when authorities generally stood aside and allowed a series of marches that brought more than 1 million people streaming through Tehran.

Mr. Mousavi’s wife, Zahra Rahnavard - a former university dean who campaigned beside her husband - said on a Web site that the crackdown is “as if martial law has been imposed in the streets.”

State television aired a show Wednesday about the dangers of the Internet and asserting that “Iran’s enemies” were using the Web to whip up dissent.

State television showed detained demonstrators whose faces were blurred out. Some of them made “confessions,” saying they had been incited by the British Broadcasting Corp. and Voice of America. They said demonstrators, not security forces, had used violence.

“We torched public property, threw stones, attacked cars and smashed windows,” said one woman, who was not identified.

State-run Press TV also said police raided a building it identified as a Mousavi campaign office and purportedly used as a base to promote unrest. The report said the suspected plotters had been arrested and are under investigation.

A conservative candidate in the disputed election, Mohsen Rezaie, said he was withdrawing his complaints about vote fraud for the sake of the country, state TV reported.


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