Battle lines are drawn for another intense, potentially bloody day in Tehran, Iran, where protests against alleged government vote-rigging have raged all week. All of the U.S. newspapers lead with yesterday’s “final word” from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, * Iran’s supreme leader, who told a throng at Friday prayer that the election result is final and that the opposition will be held “directly responsible” for the violence the regime will unleash on any further demonstrations. Khamenei condemned killings by pro-government loyalists this week but made it clear that he supports the re-election of incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The crowd “burst into laughter,” the New York Timesreports, when the Ayatollah insisted in his “hard-line” speech that the huge margin between President Ahmadinejad and opposition candidate Mir Hussein Mousavi was too large for foul play. “Perhaps 100,000 votes, or 500,000, but how can anyone tamper with 11 million votes?” The Washington Postcalls Khamenei’s sermon “dramatic,” and the story’s lede focuses on his declaration that the protests are the work of Western nations, including the United States and Britain. The Los Angeles Timesfills in the strange happenings at the end of the speech, when the Ayatollah “began lamenting his physical condition and weeping,” apparently a sort of signal to loyalists to crack down on demonstrators. The Basij, the government’s plainclothes volunteer militia, has “already been deployed to the streets,” the Wall Street Journaladds.
Plans for a Saturday protest seem to be going forward, though the WP notes many opposition Web sites weren’t updated yesterday afternoon, and no one knows whether Mousavi will attend. The WSJ calls the situation a “test of the opposition’s resolve”; whether to continue calling for demonstrations is a difficult decision for Mousavi since the regime has promised violence to any of his supporters it catches in the streets. But whether or not their candidate shows up, many of the “green army” will be there. One 29-year-old woman, who the LAT sawsobbing through Khamenei’s speech, said she would be marching no matter the cost: “This is how countries that have freedom and democracy get it. They have to fight and die for it.”
The Ayatollah’s speech had reverberations in Washington, where both houses of Congress “overwhelmingly” passed resolutions condemning the Iranian government’s violence toward the demonstrators. Republicans used the votes to “press the White House to take sides“—Sen. John McCain said the demonstrators are waiting for a show of U.S. support—but President Obama had no official comment on the speech. “We’re not going to be used as political foils and political footballs in a debate that’s happening by Iranians in Iran,” press secretary Robert Gibbs said. But administration officials said events this weekend—namely whether or not Iran carries out its violent threats—would determine whether the president joins European leaders in a harsher condemnation.
Front-page stories in the WP and LAT report on high unemployment numbers. At above 10 percent, the District of Columbia is at its highest unemployment rate since 1983; at 11.5 percent, the state of California is at its highest rate since record-keeping began. Government jobs in D.C. typically keep its population insulated from economic downturns, but the District has a high number of low-income, low-skilled workers who aren’t qualified for most of the new D.C. jobs created under the new administration. (Those positions go to more educated residents of bordering Virginia and Maryland.) California’s unemployment is hitting men especially hard: Three out of four people who have lost their jobs since December 2007 are men, a phenomenon unnamed experts awkwardly call a “mancession.”
Republican Sen. John Ensign is accusing his former mistress’s husband of making “exorbitant demands for cash and other financial benefits,” a story you’ll find only in today’s WP. Ensign’s office said the senator’s revelation of his affair with Cynthia Hampton had nothing to do with her husband’s cash demands but came after Doug Hampton detailed his wife’s affair with Ensign in a letter to Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly.
We finally know what was wrong with Apple CEO Steve Jobs: He got a liver transplant in Tennessee a couple of months ago, is recovering well, and is expected to return to work at the end of June, a WSJ front-pager reveals. Jobs, 54, will likely work part-time for a period before resuming his full duties.
NYT film critic A.O. Scott reviews some choice examples of Iran’s “historically rich movie culture,” which has continued to flourish even under the hard-line Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “You see class divisions, the cruelty of the state, the oppression of women and their ways of resisting it, traditions of generosity and hospitality, and above all a passion for argument.”
Correction, June 22, 2009: This article originally misspelled Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s surname as “Khameini.” (Return to the corrected sentence.)