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Day 14 in Tehran.

Was it a coup?

Allison Hoffman
June 26, 2009

Is Iran like Venezuela? Or China? Both? Neither? How about Stalinist Russia? Discuss, for ten points, in light of today’s developments: A leading dissident and former member of Iran’s fearsome Revolutionary Guard, Mohsen Sazegara, tells NPR that his former colleagues, not the ayatollahs, were responsible for staging a military coup to keep Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the presidency. “They started to invent those fake numbers in the Ministry of the Interior,” Sazegara says in an interview with Scott Simon.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Guardian Council, which oversees elections, reiterated his earlier assertions that the violently contested results of the June 12 presidential election contained “no major violations” despite initial admissions of discrepancies in as many as three million ballots—which means Ahmadinejad is expected to be formally certified the winner on Monday, after which he will be free to continue questioning the Holocaust, comparing Israel to a cesspool, and dodging airborne clown noses at big international summits.

Reuters is reporting that hardline cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami told worshipers at Friday services that “leading rioters” should face execution. The AP reports that opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, who remains out of sight and possibly under house arrest, has agreed to request permits for any future demonstrations; Mousavi’s Web site, the main tool for communicating with his supporters, has been hacked and wiped clean. The Guardian reports that 25 journalists who worked at Mousavi’s newspaper, Kalemeh Sabz, remain under arrest, along with another 15 reporters for other agencies.

Outside Iran’s borders, world leaders gathered at the G8 summit in Italy issued a statement “deploring” the deaths of civilians, but failed to outright condemn the religious leadership of the Islamic Republic for the violent crackdowns of the past two weeks; this following a statement from Russia—which earlier this week endorsed Ahmadinejad’s re-election, a possible indication the country, a member of the United Nations Security Council, will not support new sanctions to deter Iran from building nuclear weapons—defending the Iranian “exercise in democracy.” (Iran had initially been invited to Trieste to participate in discussions about stabilizing Afghanistan, but withdrew as the violence escalated.)

But the most telling diplomatic fallout may be in the Muslim world. Reuters reports that in Lebanon, U.S.-backed politician Saad al-Hariri (son of Rafik Hariri, whose 2005 assassination triggered the Cedar Revolution), is set to be nominated as prime minister, and is rejecting demands from Iranian-backed Hezbollah for a parliamentary veto. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that Lebanese Shiites are among many across the Muslim world suddenly seeing cracks in the absolute moral authority of the Iranian ayatollahs. “The infallible leader is all of a sudden making a lot of mistakes, and this creates a lot of doubt,” Ghazi Youssef, a Shiite member of parliament in Lebanon, told the paper.

(If you’d like to review the developments of the past two weeks, The New York Times has posted an exceptionally useful timeline.)

Allison Hoffman is a senior editor at Tablet Magazine. Her Twitter feed is @allisont_dc.