Crackdown

When Ayatollahs Cry

Did the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei signal his supporters to lash out at protesters on Friday? While Khamenei explicitly demanded an end to the demonstrations in his speech, the opposition may be most concerned about the Supreme Leader's emotional state. At one point in his sermon he "began lamenting his physical condition and weeping," causing his thousands of assembled worshippers to follow suit. According to the Los Angeles Times, a similar gesture preceded a violent crackdown on student protests in 1999, leading observers to fear that Khamenei's tears are a signal to loyalist shock troops to attack demonstrators. Opposition leaders are expected to hold marches today despite the Ayatollah's explicit orders to stop, the first test of this ominous new stage of election conflict.