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Friday, June 26, 2009
BBC Report

Jeremy Bowen, The BBC's Middle East editor,
reports from Tehran today:

In the centre of Tehran there are many fewer security forces on the streets. A stadium where Basij militia - an arm of the Revolutionary Guard - were based is now being used for sport again. But the power of the regime is not far from the surface. On the main avenues black cars with the words special police painted on them move steadily through the traffic, each one containing four or five men in camouflage uniforms.

It has been much quieter these last few days. One elderly witness said she felt it was the calm of the grave. [...]

It is looking as if the supreme leader will install President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad for a second term. Longer-term, the question is whether the fracture in the ruling elite that this crisis has caused will heal.

The religious and political elite in Iran have had many internal disagreements over the 30 years since the Shah was overthrown in 1979. But never before have they chosen to take them outside the charmed circle at the top of the Islamic Republic in the way that has happened since the election.

A hint of what was coming was on display in the rancorous debates between the candidates before the vote. But that was nothing to what has followed. When you ask Iranians about the way this might go, a phrase keeps cropping up. They say it might seem quiet to an outsider, but there is fire below the ashes.

And this type of fire doesn't go out on its own, and is impossible to extinguish through force.

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posted at 9:20 AM

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