United in Iran

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has finally managed one major accomplishment: forging a consensus among protesters, reformers, and conservatives alike that it's time for him to go. They fear as long as he stays, the violence will grow--perhaps ultimately threatening the Islamic Republic itself.

During last week's bloody clashes, protesters who once called for an electoral recount demanded instead the death of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The national police chief accused them of "fighting against Islam"--a capital crime. As such lethal rhetoric mounts, Iran's majority in the middle is looking for a way out. Reformist leaders worry their increasingly strident supporters play into the hands of the hardliners. "It's not in our interest to chant against Mr. Khamenei," says Ezatollah Sahabi, a prominent activist. "This government is trying to push us towards radicalism in order to crush us." As for conservatives, while they're putting up a united front in public, their distaste for Ahmadinejad is growing. Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, a former Revolutionary Guards commander, recently complained that if Iranians had a proper place to express their discontent they wouldn't take to the streets. Another former Guards commander, Mohsen Rezaei, recently apologized for the fact that "because of legal constraints, my friends and I cannot do anything to put an end to this situation except advise those in power." Sources close to conservatives say that some leading figures are now pressing Khamenei to dump Ahmadinejad in order to preserve his own position.

In the meantime, the increasing public violence is shocking both camps. The two sides have more and more in common than they know--and the tumult on the streets may finally force them to realize it.

United in Iran | News