Iran opposition leader calls crackdown a wasteful exercise

Iranian opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi on Saturday accused the government of wasting public resources in a massive show of force against the opposition this month, calling the country’s hard-line leadership a “dictatorship and distortion of the Islamic Revolution.”

But in his first public comments since protests failed to disrupt the Feb. 11 anniversary celebration of the 1979 revolution, Mousavi offered few specifics on what the so-called green movement should do next.

For now, Mousavi said he and fellow opposition figure Mehdi Karroubi would press for permission to hold their own rally and reach out to more Iranians.

“Increasing the level of people’s awareness is not achieved only in street protests,” he said in an interview published Saturday by his Persian-language news website, “Boosting the level of public awareness is the main strategy of the Green movement.”

Mousavi also offered conciliatory gestures to Iranians opposed to the protesters, acknowledging their hostility toward his movement’s aims and methods in the wake of the country’s disputed June 12 presidential election.

“I oppose insulting those who disfavor the slogans of the green movement,” he said. “Everyone is not supposed to be of our view. All Iranians, except a group of murderers and machete-wielders, are our brothers and sisters. Even military and police forces are our brothers, and we know well they were forced to exercise violence.”

But Mousavi was harshly critical of the authorities. Dissecting the mechanics of the Feb. 11 rally, widely regarded as a victory for the hard-liners, he said the government “spent exorbitant amounts by mobilizing buses and trains across the country” and forced government employees to attend the rally in an attempt to overwhelm the opposition.

“Never have so many military, police and security forces been deployed in the streets on the revolution anniversary,” he said. “The violent and savage treatments in several spots in Tehran were unprecedented.”

Still, he also acknowledged that the rally was a defeat for the opposition.

“The green movement missed a historic chance because the regime eclipsed its presence,” he said. “However . . . I’m sure that this massive crackdown will deepen and broaden the movement.”

But beyond that, Mousavi offered little guidance for the opposition, instead reiterating his reformist political faction’s long-standing grievances against the Islamic Republic’s dominant hard-liners.

“Following up on such issues as freedom, human rights, anti-discrimination campaign, tolerance of opposition and fight on corruption do not constitute any offense,” he said. “And any opposition to these rightful demands indicates dictatorship and distortion of the Islamic Revolution.

“In case these demands are not met, the ongoing fall in the legitimacy of the regime will pick up speed.”