Iran protests bigger threat than Iraq war -Guard

Thu Jun 10, 2010 6:49pm IST

* Comments reflect establishment's refusal to allow dissent

* Anniversary of disputed election on Saturday

By Robin Pomeroy

TEHRAN, June 10 (Reuters) - Iran's post-election protests one year ago posed a bigger threat to the Islamic Republic than the devastating 1980s war with Iraq, the head of the elite Revolutionary Guards was quoted as saying on Thursday.

Iranian authorities are preparing for a potential revival of the unrest on Saturday -- the anniversary of the election -- when opposition leaders have asked for permission to hold peaceful commemorations.

In comments that underline a continued refusal to brook any dissent, the Revolutionary Guards' commander said the protest movement had been a worse threat to the regime than the invasion by Saddam Hussein's Iraq in 1980 and the ensuing eight-year war.

"Although last year's sedition did not last more than around eight months, it was much more dangerous than the imposed war which Saddam began against us through the support of the international community," Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari was quoted as saying in Iranian media.

"Because of the grace of God and the prophet-like guidance of the supreme leader and people's vigilance, we put this bitter incident behind us and the enemies found out the revolution cannot be diverted through these methods," he said.

The Revolutionary Guards were instrumental in quashing last year's protests which the hardline government of re-elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said was "sedition" stirred up by foreign powers seeking regime change.

The Guards are fiercely loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who said last Friday that any Iranians who backed the "disgraceful events of the past months" cannot be true followers of the Islamic Republic's founder Ruhollah Khomeini.

Millions of people took to the streets to protest the poll result -- which many believed was rigged -- and to show support for the defeated moderate candidate Mirhossein Mousavi. Protests were suppressed by violent crackdowns, detentions and even executions.

The post-election turmoil in the world's fifth largest oil exporter -- the worst since the 1979 revolution -- exposed deep divisions in the political and clerical elite, with hardliners scrambling to curb demands for a more democratic system.

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