W. Thomas Smith, Jr

The violent crackdown continues in the wake of Iran’s disputed June 12 presidential elections in which – according to the Wall Street Journal – “hard-line clerics have rallied behind Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in supporting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's declared landslide poll victory.”

Hardly a “victory,” much less a “landslide,” so-say supporters of opposition candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and and Mehdi Karroubi, who have “challenged the vote, alleging widespread vote-rigging.”

Despite restrictions on media, at least 20 people have reportedly been killed and hundreds wounded by Basij militia forces. Some sources suggest the death toll is much higher. And it doesn’t appear as if the mullahs, Ahmadinejad, and their cronies are going to let up until any hint of expressed opposition is crushed.

Additionally, according to the Kuwaiti newspaper Alseyassah, the leadership of Lebanon-based Hizballah is appealing to the Iranian regime – literally the hand that feeds Hizballah – to use all means to quash the opposition movement in Iran. Alseyassah also reports “a number of troops of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC] in Kuwait, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria have been recalled to Tehran ... to join the Tha’r Allah [Vengeance of God] forces … These special forces are in charge of protecting the regime."

Saturday, I discussed Iran with Middle East expert Dr. Walid Phares – director of the Future of Terrorism Project for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies – for the initial Q&A in what will be an ongoing series of interviews, Three Questions for Dr. Walid Phares, providing timely perspective on Middle East issues and international terrorism as events unfold.

W. THOMAS SMITH JR.: Considering the large pro-democracy turnouts in recent elections in Lebanon and Iran – and the now seeming desperation on the part of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to quash all dissent – is the IRGC, its Quds force, Hizballah, etc., on the ropes? Does the West now have a strategic opportunity here?

DR. WALID PHARES: The Iranian people have a unique opportunity to liberate themselves from 30-years of oppression embodied by the Vilayet e-Faqih Jihadist regime with its Pasdaran and Basij militias. Such windows of opportunity come only once every one or two decades, and many young Iranians understand this. Hence we have this explosive uprising in the streets of Tehran, and we will continue to see urban opposition for a long time inside Iran.

W. Thomas Smith, Jr

W. Thomas Smith Jr. is a former U.S. Marine rifle-squad leader and counterterrorism instructor. He is the author of six books, and he has covered war and conflict in the Balkans, on the West Bank, in Iraq, and Lebanon. Visit him online at http://www.uswriter.com.
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