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As Ahmadinejad Tightens Grip in Iran, Mousavi Faces Tough Choices

Their refusal plays into the hands of the president's camp, which, strongly supported by state media, has launched a campaign against Mousavi, the protesters and his advisers. According to the official narrative of this campaign, opposition unrest was fomented by Iran's foreign enemies -- including the United States, Great Britain and Saudi Arabia -- in an attempt to overthrow the regime.

The Iranian government and its allies are gearing up to use those accusations to bring to court some political opponents, a move aimed at silencing the opposition for a longer period, analysts here say. The Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights said Sunday that more than 2,000 people are in detention and that hundreds more have gone missing since the election.

"We are very worried about my husband's fate," said Mahdieh Mohammadi, wife of journalist Ahmad Zeidabadi, a government critic. He was arrested the day after the election. "When you know nothing at all for the past two weeks, naturally you start to worry about everything."

State media have rolled out a daily serving of alleged plots and conspiracies involving Mousavi supporters. They refer to the protesters as "rioters" and "hooligans." Mousavi's aides are linked to plans for "a velvet revolution" meant to overthrow Iran's complex system of religious and democratic governance. Some demonstrators have been forced to make televised statements in which they admit to being the pawns of foreigners.

The head of the parliament's judicial commission has said that Mousavi could be put on trial. Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a staunch ally of Iran's supreme leader, called Friday for "severe and ruthless" punishments for the "leaders of the agitations," asking the judiciary to try them as those who "wage war against God." Such crimes are punishable by death under Iran's Shiite Islamic law.

Khamenei has said that those organizing the "riots" will be held responsible for the "violence and bloodshed." He has openly supported Ahmadinejad, breaking with the Islamic republic's tradition of the supreme leader being above the fray.

The Revolutionary Guard Corps, whose power mushroomed after the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001 and 2003, respectively, is in position to gain even more sway in the government. The 120,000-member corps acts as a praetorian guard, protecting Iran's Islamic ruling system, and its commanders are close to top Iranian leaders. In recent years, the corps has added divisions, expanded its intelligence operations, helped professionalize the voluntary militia known as the Basij and taken greater control of the borders.

"We are now in a security situation. That is increasing their influence," said Mohebbian, the analyst, who is critical of both main presidential candidates. "Mousavi's extremist actions have made it easy for military people to get involved in politics, which is always bad for democracy."

Former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, an Ahmadinejad rival who supported Mousavi, on Sunday broke his post-election silence and called for an investigation into complaints of election irregularities.

"I hope those who are involved in this issue thoroughly and fairly review and study the legal complaints," Rafsanjani said.

Special correspondent Kay Armin Serjoie in Tehran contributed to this report.


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