Meanwhile, in Iran:
The revived student protests, begun on 7 December, gained broader footing with the death of the noted reformer, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri. The regime’s decision to turn loose Basiji militia on mourners, many of whom were not protesters, at memorial ceremonies in mosques in Qom and Isfahan appears to have shocked and alienated erstwhile supporters.
The unexplained killing on Sunday of Ali Mousavi, nephew of the reformist leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, has created a new totem and a new series of flashpoint ceremonies, following today’s funeral, that will mark, as is customary, the third, seventh, and 40th day of his death. Also in prospect are 15 more national religious holidays following Ashura and a number of political anniversaries – all possible focal points for anti-government protests.
As the Iranian-Israeli Middle East analyst Meir Javedanfar has pointed out, more killings of demonstrators will entail more funerals and yet more protests – a tested cycle of dissension that preceded the Shah’s downfall. “The protests now seem to carry the potential to turn into a full-scale civil disobedience campaign, not unlike the first intifada the Palestinians initiated against Israel in 1987.”