In Choosing Sides, Ayatollah Loses Authority
Ayatollah Khamenei's aura dims as Iranians take to the streets
By Amelia Atlas,  Newser User
Posted Jun 21, 2009 7:54 AM CDT
Supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossien Mousavi protest in Tehran, June, 20, 2009. Police beat protesters and fired tear gas at thousands who rallied in defiance of Iran's clerical government.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has lost some of the sacrosanct aura of his office by entering the political fray, writes Roger Cohen in the New York Times. Having warned on Friday of "bloodshed and chaos," Iran's supreme leader ended up with both. By aligning himself with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Khamenei has taken a huge risk, Cohen observes from the ground in Tehran—he has lost the power of "the arbiter’s lofty garb."

Khamenei's fear of "velvet revolutions" has come back to haunt him: There is nothing "velvet" about the increasing numbers of Iranians taking to the streets in protest. Iran has fought the "lonely fight" for democracy for a long time now, and last week the small amount of pluralism built into their authoritarian government "was crushed with blunt brutality." "That is why," says Cohen, "a whole new generation of Iranians, their intelligence insulted, has risen."