The clerics who control the government are hated mainly because they are corrupt and have trashed the economy. For example, because of sanctions, and bad management, Iran has not been able to build enough refineries to produce gasoline, and other refined products, for internal use. Some 40 percent of gasoline has to be imported. Cash shortages have those imports declining this year. Western nations are also threatening sanctions (because of Iranian nuclear weapons) that would bar refined petroleum product (like gasoline) exports to Iran. This would put the Iranians into a difficult position. Iran could not really threaten to halt oil exports, because they still have to import much of their food needs, and many consumer goods and essential items. But the gasoline shortage would cause enormous popular unrest. The high unemployment, and obvious wealth of the senior clergy, and their families, fuels the growing opposition. But the clerics still have the support of about 20 percent of the population (religious conservatives, opportunists) and has recruited over 100,000 Revolutionary Guards from them. As long as the Revolutionary Guards remain willing to kill Iranians, the revolution won't succeed. The Guard, however, has also become greedy and corrupt, and the clerics increasingly doubt the loyalty of these guardians of the revolution. Meanwhile, the clerics are still hoping for an attack on their nuclear weapons facilities, by the Israelis or the United States. This would greatly weaken the opposition, as most Iranians would feel compelled to support the government in the face of such an attack on the motherland.
The government brought more supporters into the capital, and speeches to these throngs called for opposition demonstrators, and their leaders, to be killed, if the demonstrations don't stop. Police are now arresting opposition leaders, "for their own protection" (from pro-government mobs).
December 30, 2009: The government brought in over 20,000 supporters to stage noisy pro-government rallies. Speeches before these groups called for anti-government leaders to be jailed or killed. Government officials warned that anti-government violence would bring retribution, including imprisonment and death, to those seeking to overthrow the religious dictatorship.
December 28, 2009: Police arrested at least ten opposition leaders, in an attempt to halt the growing public disorder and anti-government demonstrations.
December 27, 2009: Despite a clampdown on Internet, satellite TV and cell phone access, news, and pictures of the violence in the capital have gotten out. Most of those in town, including visitors there for the Ashura events, were anti-government. Riot police were used to break up large groups of anti-government demonstrators. In several cases, police used firearms, and killed eight demonstrators (and wounded over fifty). Some of the dead were beaten to death. There were also some police injured, as many demonstrators fought back. Six months earlier, on June 20, over 70 demonstrators were killed as they protested a rigged election. That anger persists against what many Iranians see as a corrupt and uncaring government. One of those killed today was Ali Mousavi, nephew of former presidential (and leading opponent of the current government) Mirhossein Mousavi. Word quickly spread that Ali Mousavi was deliberately sought and murdered by police, who are apparently trying to arrest or kill as many demonstration leaders as possible. The corpse of Ali Mousavi also disappeared, so his funeral would not provide another opportunity to demonstrate against the government.
December 26, 2009: Pro and anti-government mobs clashed in the capital, as over a million people gathered for the big Shia religious event, Ashura, which takes place on the 27th.
December 25, 2009: After three days, fourteen Iranian soldiers withdrew from an Iraqi oil well compound, located about two hundred meters from the Iranian disputed border. The Iranian troops pulled back 80 meters, and are still in what the Iraqis insist is Iraq. But Iraqi troops have reoccupied the oil well compound. There are many disputed parts of the border, usually involving oil, or some other valuable resource. Since the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988, these disputes have been dormant. But now the Iranian government (an unpopular religious dictatorship) is trying to deal with an increasingly unruly population. This stunt at the border didn't work out as expected, as it never caught on with most Iranians.
Meanwhile, in the capital, the government has agreed to allow 17 year old Iman bin Laden, the daughter of Osama and his Syrian wife, can leave the country. Last month, Iman escaped from her guards and fled to the Saudi Arabian embassy and received sanctuary. After September 11, 2001, bin Laden's Syrian wife and five children, and some of their spouses, fled Afghanistan and were granted sanctuary in Iran. But the bin Laden's have been prisoners, living under house arrest in a compound outside the capital. The prisoners now include eleven grandchildren. Osama bin Laden has at least 19 children, but at least three wives.