Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Thursday praised the 1979 Islamic Revolution for weakening what he called the tyrannical grip of oppressive powers. His words came a week before the nation celebrates the anniversary of last year's presidential election that was marred by widespread and deadly street protests.
The Supreme Leader addressed a Tehran crowd to mark Iranian women's day and the death of Fatemah, daughter of the Prophet Mohammed.
His popularity has reportedly waned significantly since last year's disputed June 12th presidential election, and analysts say Ayatollah Khamenei has been trying to bolster his image by recalling the legacy of Iran's revolution and its defiance of the West.
He said that the great and arrogant powers of the world are agitated by the victory of Iran's revolution and the personality of the Islamic republic's revolutionary founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. He accused Western nations of plotting against Iran but said the country has defeated them.
Iranian government television showed old videos of Ayatollah Khomeini in what analysts say is a bid to reclaim legitimacy, after repeated popular challenges to the government.
Top opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi have applied for permits to protest on June 12 what they call the fraudulent re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, last year.
Dozens of students have been arrested during months of subsequent unrest and several of their leaders have reportedly gone on hunger strikes to protest the conditions of their detention. Student opposition websites complain of harassment by the government and of purges of students and professors.
Mehrdad Khonsari of the Center for Arab and Iranian Studies in London says the Iranian government and its leaders are struggling to mobilize their dwindling supporters to fend off opposition protests on June 12.
"Ayatollah Khamenei's major problem is that of trying to square the circle," he said. "He, on the one hand, wants to use the anniversary of the death of [Ayatollah Ruhollah] Khomeini [this week] to try to mobilize any semblance of public opinion in Iran that is still respectful or supportive of the initial phase of the revolution in order to build a momentum which can fend off the kind of public reaction that they are expecting on the 12th of June, which would be the anniversary of the presidential election, last year."
Khamenei is expected to lead Muslim prayers on Friday, a year after his decisive sermon in support of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election. His address will also mark the 21st anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Khomeini.