Pressured by a fourth day of street protests, Iran is clamping down. Reporters have been confined to their rooms and they're jamming phones and radio transmissions in Iran.
Karim Sadjadpour is an Iranian expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He joined John Roberts on CNN’s “American Morning” Wednesday.
John Roberts: Where do you see this ending?
Karim Sadjadpour: It’s difficult to say, John. A lot of it depends on what the opposition leaders decide they want to do. Certainly there's a tremendous sense of outrage in Tehran. Not only in Tehran, throughout the country there’s a tremendous sense of injustice that these young people have. At the same time, it’s a country which endured an eight-year war with Iraq. People are allergic to the prospect of further carnage and bloodshed and violence. But at the moment, I think there's truly a sense of outrage and I see these protests continuing.
Roberts: The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the government have told people to stay inside. The IRGC is saying if you put up certain materials on blog sites you could face legal charges. How big of a role is the Revolutionary Guard Corps and this paramilitary organization, the Basij, playing in trying to tamp down these protests?
Sadjadpour: They're playing a definitive role. But what’s been amazing is they haven't dissuaded people from going in to the streets. Historically, when the regime has announced that the Basij and the Revolutionary Guard are authorized to use force to shoot people, that will quell the protests. But so far, we haven’t seen the protests really quelled. The other day there were several hundred thousand people in Tehran. And it just gives you an idea of how outraged people feel that they're willing to go out in to the streets and risk their lives.
Roberts: And this ruling Guardian Council, which has said it will recount certain parts of the election. Of course, Moussavi and his supporters are calling for a new election. How far do you think they will go in that? Are they playing for time here, hoping all of the protests will die down and eventually people will get tired of going out in the streets and accept the results of the election? Or might this actually lead to a new election? Can they resist the will of the people?
Sadjadpour: The Guardian Council is not like our Supreme Court. It's not an objective entity. It's essentially under the hegemony of Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader. And I think Khamenei deferred to the Guardian Council simply as a tactical move to buy time. But Khamenei may be faced with a dilemma and it may be one day soon, whether to sacrifice President Ahmadinejad or sacrifice himself. Because it’s really gotten to the point where people are calling for the head of Khamenei. And this is unprecedented in the last 20 years.
Roberts: Khamenei has been supreme leader since 1989. This is, as you suggest, all about his survival as well. Right now he’s hitched his wagon to Ahmadinejad who's got the loyalty of the Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Basij. Can you foresee any circumstances under which he might, for his own survival, throw Ahmadinejad overboard?
Sadjadpour: I think it's certainly within the realm of possibilities. And I would argue, John, Ahmadinejad doesn't necessarily have the loyalty of the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij. I was based in Iran for a couple of years and I spoke to many of these young people within the IRGC and Basij who recognize that this “death to America” culture of 1979 is obsolete today and Iran will never achieve its full potential unless there’s reform made in the political, economic, social realm. So I think we shouldn’t take for granted the fact that all of the regime’s shock troops are necessarily going to side with President Ahmadinejad.
Roberts: What will it take to initiate that huge fracture? As we see now, the Guard Corps and the Basij are on the side of the government.
Sadjadpour: We have to get inside the head of Ayatollah Khamenei…his world view is very clear. When you’re under siege, never compromise. Because if you compromise it’s going to project weakness. If he orders a mayor clampdown, I think we may start to see fissures within the regime’s shock troops.