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Iran threatens to deliver a punch -

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Iran threatens to deliver a punch

Eleanor Hall reported this story on Tuesday, February 9, 2010 12:31:00

ELEANOR HALL: Iran's supreme religious leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei is threatening to deliver a
punch that will leave the West stunned on the anniversary of the Iranian revolution later this
week.

But an Iran analyst says the Iranian regime is far more worried about the opposition inside the
country than about the international community.

Despite the regime arresting thousands of opposition protestors and executing two of them in the
last week, the Opposition Leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, is calling for his supporters to again come
onto the streets and he has just made some highly provocative statements about the regime.

Patrick Clawson is a Persian speaker and is the director of Iran Security Initiative and the deputy
director of research at the Washington Institute. He has written more than a dozen books on Iran
and has testified before several US congressional committees. He spoke to me this morning from
Washington.

PATRICK CLAWSON: The leaders in Iran are completely preoccupied with the Thursday anniversary of
the Islamic Revolution because they know that on their day there are going to be millions of people
on the street. The only question is how many of them will be supporting the Government and how many
will be opposing it.

ELEANOR HALL: And yet we have just seen the execution of two opposition protestors. Do you think
given that, that people are likely to respond to this call by Mousavi?

PATRICK CLAWSON: Well, Mousavi's statement that he was embarrassed and ashamed that he was not also
in jail like his friends and his statement when his car was threatened by some hooligans and he got
out of the car and said if your orders are to kill me, kill me. I am prepared to be a martyr.

And many people know this and admire it and it has done wonders for his popularity. So there is a
lot of people in Iran who, frankly, are no longer scared of the authorities.

ELEANOR HALL: How likely do you think that there will be violent confrontations?

PATRICK CLAWSON: What we saw in the last big demonstrations on December 27th this year, Holy Day of
Ashura, is that the crowds were not scared and they would not back down and in fact they charged
the police and if that is the attitude of protestors again this Thursday then we are likely to see
quite a bit of violence.

ELEANOR HALL: You say that the Government is completely preoccupied with these protests. Is there a
sense that positions are hardening on both sides?

PATRICK CLAWSON: There are so many reasons for everybody to compromise and yet we just don't see
any indication that the trial balloons that have been sent up have got endorsement on either side.
I just don't see that the moment the individuals on either side being able to do what is in their
best interests, namely to compromise.

ELEANOR HALL: And you say there are many reasons to compromise. Why won't they do it?

PATRICK CLAWSON: Well, both sides have vivid memories of what happened in the 1978/79 Islamic
Revolution and there the Shah waited so long to compromise that by the time he did compromise this
was widely interpreted both by his followers and by the revolutionaries as a sign that the Shah's
days were numbered and that he would soon fall and indeed he did.

And so that picture is in the minds of both the current power hardliners and the current opposition
and if the Government were to compromise that could well be the beginning of the end.

ELEANOR HALL: Well the Opposition Leader Mousavi is reported to be making some extremely
provocative statements about the Government saying the regime's intimidation is threatening the
Iranian revolution. He is even saying that the tyranny of the regime has turned the '79 revolution
into a failure.

Just how provocative is this?

PATRICK CLAWSON: Well, that was an extraordinary stunning interview that he gave the other day
because he, after all, was a key figure in those early years of the revolution and indeed his image
in politics was formed by his role as prime minister during the war when he was widely seen as the
upholder of the values of the revolution, the embodiment of the values of the revolution.

And so for somebody who is so identified with the sacrifices of those war years, time to stand up
and say that the revolution has been a failure is really an extraordinary indictment of the current
political leadership.

ELEANOR HALL: Why do you think Mousavi is making that statement now?

PATRICK CLAWSON: Well, it happens to be true and that the revolution did not fulfil the hopes for
people who made it and that is stunningly obvious and one of the reasons why people turned to
Mousavi as an opposition candidate in this last round is because he is a man with very considerable
personal integrity and he is going to tell you the truth even when it hurts deeply.

ELEANOR HALL: The Government won the elections in June. They were obviously contested but the
Government won and the Government has cracked down heavily since. How vulnerable is it now, do you
think?

PATRICK CLAWSON: Well, I would have said that the Government isn't that vulnerable but the
Government doesn't agree and the supreme leader in particular is absolutely terrified and he is
convinced that this foreign hand of the BBC or his latest enemy the Germans are behind all these
protests and that they stand a good chance of winning.

Well, I suspect he knows something about his country perhaps even I don't know about it and that is
his worry.

ELEANOR HALL: How dangerous is it for Iranians and indeed for the rest of the world to have, as you
put it, a terrified leader?

PATRICK CLAWSON: Well, he is also a horrific miscalculator. I mean the things that he has done
since June have systematically undercut his own position. What terrifies me is this guy seems to be
so isolated behind a layer of advisers who don't tell him the truth and he is letting his fears
determine policies that he could do, well, very provocative things which are not in his interest.

ELEANOR HALL: What sort of things worry you the most?

PATRICK CLAWSON: Oh, in the medium term I am concerned about the nuclear program. We have had some
successes evidently in slowing it down and I hope we have even more successes but certainly the
idea of having somebody who is as much of a risk taker and as ignorant about the outside world and
as stubborn as this guy in charge of dangerous nuclear capabilities, it is not a very comforting
thought.

ELEANOR HALL: So where realistically do you think things will end up after this week?

PATRICK CLAWSON: Well, this will be a very telling week. We will know a heck of a lot better on
Saturday than we do today what is likely to happen.

If the Government handles things well and they have many, many ways in which they could handle
things well, then the protest movement may simmer along and eventually will have some
accomplishments but fade. But if the Government continues to mishandle things as badly as they have
the last six months, seven months now, then we could have a very interesting time in Iran.

ELEANOR HALL: That is Patrick Clawson from The Washington Institute where he directs the Iran
Security Initiative and you can hear a longer version of that interview on our website.