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Iran's panic attack

Iran | Internal opposition is doing what diplomats cannot

Issue: "Fighting poverty," March 13, 2010

All is not as it appears in Tehran. What was meant to be a celebration of 31 years of Islamic theocracy last month turned into another bloody confrontation, and the regime's leaders are still recovering. Proclamations that all is well could not conceal the street-level revolution caught by Google Earth and pocket video during Feb. 11 events planned by Iran's Islamic leaders that turned into riots against the regime. In more recent days, reports Iranian expert Michael Ledeen of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, top brass have been replaced: Gen. Ali Fazli was fired as head of the Revolutionary Guards' Tehran brigade, while Gen. Azizollah Rajabzadeh was let go as police chief of greater Tehran after only six months. Rajabzadeh "went out of his way to blame the Guards," said Ledeen, for the street violence in Iran's capital over the past months, saying that Tehran police "did not even kill a single person."

The inner turmoil helps to explain Iran's outer belligerence when it comes to its nuclear capabilities. It's been over six months since the UN demanded that Iran hand over its enriched uranium and let a UN agency oversee its conversion into fuel rods for nuclear energy. During that time, Iran has continued making fuel and announced last month it will enrich uranium to a level of 20 percent-a process that could take a year and is well beyond current levels allowed by the UN's International Atomic Energy Administration (IAEA). Iran claims that 20 percent enriched uranium is required for its nuclear reactor. The problem: Once uranium is enriched to that level, experts say, it will take Iran only six months using its present facilities to move to 90 percent-the level required to produce a bomb.

As enrichment continues, diplomatic delays continue to work in favor of Iran's nuclear program and the current regime. Growing internal opposition, however, is forcing the regime to lose its cool.

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