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Going “Soft” on Iran

BRUSSELS – 2010 will be a crucial and uncertain year for the Islamic Republic of Iran – and for its relations with the European Union. The domestic hostility towards the regime that erupted in the aftermath of the disputed presidential elections last June has not died away, but has become stronger and more determined.

The Ashura riots of last December and the violent suppression of protests during the recent anniversary to mark the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution were some of the fiercest to date. The regime’s sharp crackdown ahead of the anniversary did not stop thousands from marching in the streets, despite the threat of swift retribution. The likelihood of more arrests, trials, and bloodshed is a concern for many in the international community.

More ominously, following riots the regime put 16 opposition members on trial for taking part in the demonstrations, with prosecutors indicating that some would be charged with the offense of mohareb , or “making a war against God” – a capital crime.

The heavy-handed approach adopted by the regime is causing friction among even its loyalists. A former member of Iran’s parliament, Javad Ettaat, argues that the “government is contravening the principles of Islam by using an iron fist against protesters.” Mohammad Taghi Khalaji, a cleric and devoted follower of Ayatollah Khomeini, was arrested on January 12 after saying at a Tehran mosque that Iran’s leaders should repent for their actions.