Sunday, December 20, 2009

Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, 1922-2009. R.I.P.

Iran's Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri has died. He was 87.

Montazeri played a significant role in the Iranian Revolution. The Ayatollah Khomeini would eventually designate Montazeri as his successor. However, by 1987, Montazeri had become critical of the Revolution and called for the legalization of political parties. Later, he would criticize the execution of political prisoners and chided Khomeini for his fatwa against Salman Rushdie. In March 1989, Khomeini removed Montazeri as his designated heir. Khomeini died less than three months later and was succeeded by Ali Khamene'i and remains Iran's Supreme Leader to this day. Montazeri was placed under house arrest between 1997 and 2003 for his criticisms of Khamene'i.

Montazeri did not spare Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from criticism either. He criticized Ahmadinejad's nuclear and economic policies in 2007 and again during the aftermath of Iran's "elections" this past June. Montazeri said "no one in their right mind could believe" the outcome.

He would also call for three days of public mourning following the killing of Neda Agha-Soltan. His last public statement came last month during the 30th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution. Montazeri said that seizing the American embassy in Tehran had been a mistake.

Montazeri's funeral is scheduled to be held tomorrow in Qom. Given that thousands are expected to attend one wonders if the procession will turn into a protest against Khamene'i and Ahmadinejad. Even if it doesn't it would come as no surprise to me if the Revolutionary Guard or the Basij were to provoke the mourners and clash with them.

So why would the regime risk doing such a thing? Whatever condemnations might come of it the Iranian regime knows there is no one prepared to stop them. They are not afraid of President Obama nor anyone else.

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