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Monday 20 July 2009

Persian Mirage – 2

While many in the UK have moved their focus to helicopters, opinion polls and the routinely unreliable summer weather, the post election dissent in Iran rumbles on. Last Friday, another face from the country’s past weighed in with an address at Tehran University’s prayers.

Ali Akhbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is one of Iran’s most senior clerics and a past president of the country. He is also on less than ideal terms with the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. So perhaps his assertion that the revolution had “lost popular support” was not a surprise. Also not a surprise is the lack of attention given to Rafsanjani’s address by Iranian television, and the clashes between opposition supporters and the authorities afterwards.

However, despite all attempts at censorship, the news has got out, as the Guardian noted at the weekend. Once again, it seems, much of the rest of the print media is looking elsewhere.

Does it matter? Most certainly. As I observed last month, this is a country rich in oil, adjacent to Iraq and Afghanistan, and deeply distrusting of the UK and USA. Moreover, its nuclear ambitions and the anti Israeli rhetoric of incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have served to increase tension across the region. It would be in nobody’s interests to have another Middle East conflict flare up.

Rafsanjani, meanwhile, has challenged Khamenei with his assertion that “Where people are not present or their vote is not considered, that government is not Islamic”, which might just suggest that he considers the election to have been less than free and fair.

As ever, this is for Iran to sort out. But we should keep an eye on developments.

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