Things continue to bubble away in Iran, as news reports now say that Iran’s army arrested 36 officers who had planned to attend a prayer service Friday where former President Hashemi Rafsanjani provided the sermon. From the Guardian:

The officers were rounded up on Friday morning by army intelligence agents who had caught wind of the plan. They are said to have been arrested at their homes and taken to an unknown location.

Peiknet, a Farsi website, said the officers had agreed the action at a weekly prayer meeting the night before at the Shah Abdolazim religious shrine in Shahr-e Rey, on Tehran’s southern outskirts. “They decided to attend the Friday prayer in their military clothes as a sign of protest against the cruel massacre of people by the basij and revolutionary guards and to show their objection against this process and support for the people,” the site said. It named 24 of the officers, who included two majors, four captains, eight lieutenants, six sergeants and four warrant officers.

The arrests expose the authorities’ sensitivity to signs of mutiny among the various branches of the security forces.

Reports last month suggested that a senior revolutionary guard commander, General Ali Fazli, had been arrested for refusing to obey orders to suppress protests against election result. The reports were later denied but some sources say Fazli remains under pressure to toe the line.

Rafsanjani used the sermon to attack the authority of the regime’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. Police assaulted hundreds of thousands of protesters after the prayer service with tear gas. A photo gallery of the protests Friday can be viewed at TPM. In another sign of growing unease within the regime, a moderate (and in Iran that is a relative term) member of President Ahmadinejad’s government, appointed recently, was forced to resign his position under pressure from hardliners according to a report in the LA Times today:

The Ahmadinejad aide, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, who was minister of tourism in Ahmadinejad’s first term, was publicly reprimanded last year after he said that Iran had no quarrel with the people of Israel, just its government, a position deemed too soft by Iran’s anti-Israeli leaders. Ahmadinejad’s decision to name him as his first vice president sparked an immediate furor among hard-line clergy and pressure groups. “The news of your appointment by the legal president has plunged into deep surprise a large number of idealistic students who endured the widespread wave of defamation launched by opposition against Mr. Ahmadinejad and backed his candidacy,” the Union of Islamist Students said in statement addressed to Mashaei on Saturday. “While reaffirming our support for Mr. Ahmadinejad, the best choice for president, we believe that your immediate resignation from the post of first vice president would be the only way to serve fundamentalism,” it said, adding menacingly, “You will be on the receiving end of the dire consequences of this appointment.”

I’d have resigned too if I thought the man who appointed me as his vice president had so little control over his followers that he would allow veiled threats against my life to be made publicly. Clearly, President Ahmadinejad is able to exercise less and less control over his supporters and other hard line fundamentalists as the current crisis continues to unfold. Perhaps he appointed Mr. Mashaei as a test case of his authority. If that was indeed his purpose, he failed that test.

The LA Times also reports that “Rafsanjani traveled to Mashhad to meet with senior clergy including several top-ranked grand ayatollahs and the head of the judiciary . . .” It cited as its source a conservative news website in Iran. The Times also reports that more protests are planned for Tuesday. With support for the regime obviously shaky among the much of the population (at least in the urban areas), members of military, the Revolutionary Guard and the high ranking members of Iran’s ruling clergy, I expect events to continue unravel with more violence and oppression from the government a near certainty.

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