Analysis: Leaderless Iranian opposition seen lacking strategy

Sun Sep 25, 2011 1:07pm GMT

By Parisa Hafezi

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's reformist opposition has watched with admiration as revolutions have toppled three Arab leaders, but despite divisions in the ruling elite it looks incapable for now of taking its protest movement back out onto the streets.

Mass protests against the 2009 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad marked the worst unrest since the Islamic Revolution three decades earlier, but were quelled with lethal force by the state's security apparatus, headed by the elite Revolutionary Guards.

While Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei swiftly endorsed the election result, splits emerged in the ruling establishment as some, including lawmakers, criticised the government for mishandling the protests and using force to silence the 'Green' opposition.

Attempts to revive street protests have fizzled. The opposition, which says its fight for a freer Iran will continue, is following the Arab uprisings with a mixture of envy and regret for its own failure, analysts and moderate former officials say.

"The opposition is leaderless and lacks any strategy. The opposition leaders are under house arrest. Dozens of prominent reformists are jailed. Their supporters have no choice but to wait and see," said a close ally of opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi, who asked not to be named.

Mousavi, a former prime minister, and Mehdi Karoubi, a cleric and a former parliament speaker who also stood against Ahmadinejad, have been placed under house arrest since February and denied any contact with the outside world.

The authorities, who deny the election was rigged, have jailed many senior pro-reform politicians, closed a dozen reformist publications and banned at least two moderate parties since the vote.

The government is permitting less and less political dissent by banning media coverage of the opposition, according to journalists working for local newspapers. The opposition continues to communicate over the Internet despite a web-filtering system designed by the authorities to curb its online activity.   Continued...

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