Tens of thousands of Iranians ignored a ban on public rallies by the regime and came out on Tuesday to protest the arrest of reformist opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi, both of whom were candidates in the fraudulent June 2009 presidential election.
Tuesday’s protests, which took place in Tehran, Mashhad, Isfahan, and Shiraz, came in defiance of the massive police and anti-riot squad presence the regime has deployed in recent days.
[Read “Iranian Crackdown Thwarts Opposition — for Now”
Cell phone videos obtained by former Revolutionary Guards officer Reza Kahlili on Tuesday showed protesters in Isfahan and Shiraz calling for the resignation of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“Ben Ali-Mubarak — now it’s time for Seyed Ali,” the protesters chanted, comparing Iran’s Supreme Leader to ousted Middle East leaders Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.
In Tehran, thousands of protesters chanted “death to the dictator” in cell phone videos posted at Kahlili’s website.
The opposition Saham News website reported that at least 79 people were arrested during Tuesday’s protests, which regime officials have attempted to downplay.
Talking to reporters early on Tuesday, Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said
he believed that "a limited number of people, influenced by anti-revolutionary groups, were intending to do something,” but that “no specific incident happened on Tuesday in Tehran. His comments were carried by the semi-official Fars news agency.
The regime also is refusing to confirm the arrests of Mousavi and Karroubi, saying only that they have been detained but are not currently in prison.
The European Union has prepared a list of 80 top regime officials, prison guards, and militia leaders it plans to cite for human rights violations.
Many of the individuals on the list have already been cited by the U.S. Department of Treasury for sanctions, but the EU list is unusual in that it includes the names of wardens of the specific wings of several prisons where political prisoners are known to be held, as well as the names of unit commanders involved in the crackdown on protesters.
So far, the Obama administration has failed to provide any active support for the pro-freedom movement in Iran.
In congressional testimony on Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged the need to counter Iranian efforts to steer the popular uprisings sweeping across the Middle East in Iran’s favor, while acknowledging the lack of an effective U.S. policy toward Iran.
“We are in a competition. I just stress over and over again, we’ve got to be there. We’ve got to fight back,” Clinton said in reference to Iran.
“We have to go chapter and verse about everything that Iran is doing that abuses the rights of their own people and exposes their hypocrisy as they try to somehow identify with the legitimate aspirations for democracy and human rights in this region,” she said.
But Clinton also noted that the administration has “modulated” its human rights message because Iran would “basically paint anybody who opposed them as American stooges.”
Both Democrats and Republicans questioned Clinton about the failure of the State Department to implement sanctions against Iran or against companies providing assistance to Iran.
House Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen questioned Clinton about five companies that were granted waivers from the sanctions by the State Department under a special rule of the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions and Divestment Act. Based on “these companies’ vague pledges to cease all investment” in Iran’s oil and gas industry, Ros-Lehtinen said “We must ensure that companies violating U.S. sanctions are not let off the hook.”
Rep. Howard Berman, the ranking Democrat on the committee, joined in the criticism. “We have not yet sanctioned any non-Iranian bank or energy company, even though we know several are engaged in sanctionable activities,” Berman said at the hearing.
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