Iran Election Guide

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Iran Mystery: So How Big Was This Week's Support for Ahmadinejad?

On Tuesday I set out in updates: "You Make the Call. Claimed photographs of mass crowds for President Ahmadinejad in Karaj today."

Well, I was trying to make a call based on photographs, which I first saw in the Islamic Republic News Agency, such as this:

There were other pictures in Mehr which also showed large crowds, but Press TV offered no images from Ahmadinejad's procession and speech.

Yesterday Tehran Bureau published a first-hand report from "A Correspondent":

I went to Ahmadinejad's big rally-and-fire-spitting extravaganza in Karaj today. It was probably the largest gathering he's had, so far as his provincial visits go. There were around 22,000 people present. It was also the first time in two decades Sepah, the Revolutionary Guards, provided security for a government rally in full uniform. There were about 250 officers I could count on the ground. Overall, there were about 3,500 security personnel -- Sepah, NAJA, Basij -- on rooftops, lining the street, at the stadium.

We heard they had spent $100,000 on billboards and banners the previous week for an event that got cancelled for security reasons. They must have spent the same amount this week. That's a hefty sum in Iran.

Last night, residents of Karaj's Gohardasht district burnt some of those billboards and banners. Many have been arrested. Gohardasht is considered the heartland of the Greens in Karaj. It is solidly middle class and they are all very militant.

What was striking about the rally today was how phlegmatic the eight to ten thousand people inside the stadium were. Nothing roused them from their stupor. I think the economic crisis is sapping their already dulled spirits.

Yet Tehran Bureau illustrates the story with more of the photographs from Iranian media, showing far more than 22,000 in the street around the President:

So how wide and deep is the support for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? You make the call....

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