15 dead as Iran cracks down on opposition

The death of dissident cleric Hossein Ali Montazeri continues to reverberate in Iran, and the mullahs have begun a brutal crackdown to end protests.  Fifteen people are dead as the regime sent its Basiji militias into the streets.  Tehran calls the dead “terrorists”:

At least 15 people were killed during massive anti-government protests in Tehran when opposition supporters clashed with security forces in the streets, Iranian state television reported Monday.

The report said 10 people killed during Sunday’s fierce clashes in the Iranian capital were members of “anti-revolutionary terrorist” groups, apparently referring to opposition supporters.

The other five who died were killed by “terrorist groups” in a “suspicious act,” the report said, without elaborating.

Iranian security forces stormed a series of opposition offices on Monday, rounding up at least seven prominent anti-government activists in a new crackdown against the country’s reformist movement, opposition Web sites and activists reported.

Today is the Shi’ite holy day of Ashoura, which prompted opposition leader Mahdi Karroubi to question the legitimacy of the theocracy for spilling blood on this particular day.  Karroubi noted that even the Shah knew better than to commit violence against Iranians on Ashoura, a particularly provocative insult in Iran.

The dragnet appears to have aimed at Karroubi and other prominent dissidents.  The regime raided the offices of Mohammed Khatami, one of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s predecessors as President but now openly opposed to the regime.  Khatami used to fill the role of useful reformer, the kind of public opposition to the more radical aspects of the mullahcracy that proved useful to Ali Khameini and the Guardian Council as a managed release valve.  Security forces also killed the nephew of Mirhossein Mousavi, who eventually led the summer protests against the regime, as well as arresting a former Foreign Minister.

Earlier this year, Barack Obama pledged this at the UN:

America will always stand with those who stand up for their dignity and their rights – for the student who seeks to learn; the voter who demands to be heard; the innocent who longs to be free; and the oppressed who yearns to be equal.

Except, of course, when we’re on vacation…

Update: The BBC demonstrates its priorities when it asks readers to answer this question: “What will bring calm to the violence in Iran?” Gee, why not ask, “Can’t the mullahs keep their people oppressed properly?”