Witnesses said police beat protesters and fired tear gas and water cannons at thousands who rallied in Tehran Saturday in open defiance of Iran's clerical government, sharply escalating the most serious internal conflict since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The eyewitnesses described fierce clashes near Revolution Square in central Tehran after some 3,000 protesters chanted "Death to the dictator!" and "Death to dictatorship!" Police responded with tear gas and water cannons.
The witnesses told The Associated Press that between 50 and 60 protesters were seriously beaten by police and pro-government militia and taken to Imam Khomeini hospital in central Tehran. People could be seen dragging away comrades bloodied by baton strikes.
We shall see if this shot across the bow sends the protesters home or not.
TV news reports of a bomb blast at the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini sound to me like a Reichstag fire ploy by the mullahs to discredit the protesters and excuse any violence against them.
If the protesters don't disperse and stay home, the Basij and secret police will start shooting at them.
Then, much depends on what the regular police, army, and even Pasdaran do.
Will the army and Pasdaran shoot at the people, too?
Or will they seize on rumors of foreign Arab-speaking goons acting for the government to beat and shoot protesters as an excuse to fight foreign enemies, as they see their mission.
The rumors of imported thugs aren't fantastic. Remember Saddam's Fedayeen were imported hopped-up Islamists who were there to smash the Shias in case of a revolt against Saddam, filghting at the side of Baathist party officials and secret police if the army wouldn't do the job.
There is still no way to know which way this crisis will go. And I can't even guess.
UPDATE: A report on the bombing:
A suicide bomber blew himself up near the shrine of Iran's revolutionary founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in Tehran on Saturday, Iran's semi-official Mehr news agency reported.
I don't think suicide bombing is a mark of the protesters. And it was only near the shrine, doing no damage. That sounds more like true-believer regime type--perhaps an imported non-Iranian fanatic. Not a good sign as far as regime intentions.
Although it perhaps speaks of their fragility with a need to create a good incident to inspire perhaps shaky security forces to stay on the line when the order to shoot comes down.
Again, I just have no way to judge how events will unfold.