U.S. Condemns Iran for Protestor Crackdown

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The Obama administration said Friday that the U.S. will continue to take a "caution over confrontation" approach in response to the unrest in Iran, as the country's top leader threatened those protesting the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told protestors to end their rallies against Ahmadinejad or "risk bloodshed," leading to an official crackdown on demonstrations in Tehran.

In response, Congress voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution to support Iranian citizens who "embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties and rule of law" and reject the "ongoing violence" by Iran's government and "suppression of independent electronic communications through interference with the Internet and cell phones."

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the resolution initiated by Republicans coincides with Obama's feelings on the current state of Iran, but that the U.S. will remain as detatched as possible.

"As the president has said, we're not going to be used as political foils and political footballs in a debate that's happening by Iranians in Iran," he said.

Click the player to watch CBN News Washington Correspondent Jennifer Wishon's report followed by Gordon Robertson's interview with Hormoz Shariat, the president of Antioch International Ministries.  A native Iranian, Shariat immigrated to the U.S. as a teenager.

There was an 11 million vote difference he says and asked the crowd how one can rig 11 million votes?

Khamenei blamed Great Britain and Iran's enemies in the west for promoting the protests that are rocking the country....

It was an important speech because although he's not as visible as Ahmadinejad, Khamenei is in charge.

"Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, is undoubtedly the most powerful person in the country.  He has absolute authority over all institutions of government," said Susan Maloney with Brookings Institute.

At the end of the speech, listeners chanted "we are ready to give our lives for the cause of our leader."

It's been a turbulent week.

Outside media is banned from capturing the protests but images of pro-government miltias firing into crowds, police on motorbikes -- moving through the masses with sticks and a woman standing up to them -- have been captured by protesters.

These images have promoted demonstrations of solidarity in the U.S., making the Iranian opposition a force to be reckoned with.

Some Iranians are receiving threatening phone calls from the government.

"(They're) saying to me, 'You have been protesting. If you go out again and do protest again, you will be arrested soon," a demonstrator said.

Ahmedinejad is publically dismissing the protests.

"Those who flared up tension, set fire to public places and attack people -- I described them as dust.  They are not part of the Iranian nation," Ahmedinejad said.

But the Ayatollah Khamenei appears to be taking them more seriously. He will reportedly meet officially with opposition leaders for discussions.

Perhaps because 30 years ago, the current regime was ushered in by a similar revolution.

"The demonstrations today are eerily reminiscent, in terms of numbers, of the demonstrations that led to the overthrow of the Shah of Iran," said Afshin Molavi with New America Foundations.

It's a delecate balance as Khamenei works to appease the people and maintain his balance of power among other clerics.

Time will tell if his words of assurance calm hundreds of thousands of angry voters.

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CBN News
Jennifer Wishon

Jennifer Wishon

CBN News White House Correspondent

Jennifer Wishon is the White House correspondent for CBN News based in the network’s Washington, D.C. Bureau.  Before taking over the White House beat, Jennifer covered Capitol Hill and other national news, from the economy to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferWishon and "like" her at Facebook.com/JennWishon.