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Iranian Government Cracks Down Further On Opposition

Scores reportedly arrested as state media accuses foreign press of fomenting recent protests

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The Iranian government is cracking the whip on opposition supporters after two days of intense and sometimes bloody demonstrations in Tehran and elsewhere.  Scores of opposition activists and political leaders are reported to have been arrested.

The Iranian government reaction after two days of opposition protests was swift and deliberate, after its forces were put on the defensive and sometimes humiliated during recent events.  Scores of opposition activists were arrested and state media went on the attack.

Iranian government TV accused the foreign press of fomenting the recent opposition protests, characterizing them as rioting and destructive acts against the state, the people, and property.

Iran's deputy police chief Ahmed Rida Radan insisted the government did not fire on demonstrators during Sunday's protests, despite eyewitness accounts to the contrary.  He noted that a few people were killed in isolated incidents.

He says it is unfortunate that a number of people were killed during these events, including someone who fell off a bridge, two others who were run over by a car, and a third who was shot to death in mysterious circumstances.  The police, he insists, did not fire on demonstrators.

Independent accounts published on the Internet have detailed a number of incidents in which demonstrators where killed by Iranian security forces.  

State run Iranian TV showed images of what it called government supporters in the hospital, claiming they were attacked by the opposition.

One 30-something man with a swollen eye and bruised lip complained he was minding his own business when he was attacked by opposition supporters.

He told the government-run television he was participating in Ashoura ceremonies to mark the 7th Century slaying of a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, when people stopped him and began insulting him.  A driver, he says, ran him over because he supports the government.

State-run al-Alam TV also showed President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad looking calm and asking matter-of-factly why the West is against Iran, in a veiled reference to alleged foreign involvement in the recent opposition protests.

As you can see, he says, the point of Ashoura is obvious: the arrogant nations of the world have no logical reason to oppose the Iranian people, because the message of Ashoura is for freedom, security and peace for all peoples.

A message from opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi, which was posted on the Internet, asked how the government could spill the blood of its people on the Shi'ite holy day of Ashoura.

Analyst Ali Nourizadeh of the London-based Center for Arab and Iranian Studies says the government crackdown will deepen antagonism between it and the opposition and ultimately will not work, since the tactic has been tried before and failed.

''The regime tried.  They arrested leaders of the [opposition] Green Movement and nothing happened.  It continued, because they make a big mistake.  They think that this movement is alive because of its leaders.  Actually, the people took control and the leaders are following the people, and a government cannot kill all its people or arrest all its people," Nourizadeh said.

Independent Iranian Web sites are now reporting that some top former government ministers have been arrested along with prominent anti-government activists.  Opposition websites also say they have increasingly come under cyber-attack.

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