Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Public Respect for Ayatollah Khamenei Takes Hit on Heels of Protests

The Berman Post has been doing some phenomenal Iran blogging, continuing with today's entry, "Iranian Revolution (Day Thirty-Three)."

One of the pieces highlighted there is from today's Los Angeles Times, "Supreme Leader Khamenei Diminished in Iranians' Eyes."

For two decades he was considered to be above the petty political squabbles, a cautious elder contemplating questions of faith and Islam while guiding his nation into the future.

But Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose title of supreme leader makes him Iran's ultimate authority, has gotten his hands dirty. His decision in recent weeks to so stridently support the nation's controversial president after a disputed election has dramatically changed his image among his people, setting in motion an unpredictable series of events that could fundamentally change the Islamic Republic.

"Public respect for him has been significantly damaged," said one analyst, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Opposing him is no longer the same as opposing God."

The venerated Khamenei has even become the target of public jokes and criticism.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "commits crimes, and the leader supports him," was a popular slogan during the riots of June 20, the day after Khamenei delivered a blistering Friday sermon in which he said that the election a week earlier had been won by Ahmadinejad.

At July 9 demonstrations, protesters mocked the ayatollah's son, Mojtaba, who many believe hopes to succeed his father.

There's more at the link.

The odd thing here, of course, is that the regime's not too worried about public opinion. I'm also wondering how seriously the hardliners around Khamenei have been substantially weakened. The Times piece notes that there's something of a power struggle brewing, but reports earlier have suggested that the faction led by Khamenei's son, Mojtaba, has tightened its grip on the elite Revolutionary Guard. See my earlier entry on this, "
Mojtaba Khamenei, Revolutionary Guard, Key to Power in Iran."

See also, Atlas Shrugs, "Day 32 Iran Revolution: Twitter: 'People in Iran have but ONE weapon - Your Attention!'"