By YAAKOV KATZ
Whether it is genuine or not, a document detailing preparations for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's escape from Iran is causing quite a stir in the blogosphere regarding the future of the Islamic regime.
On Wednesday, a letter, on what appeared to be the official stationary of the Islamic republic's National Security Council, detailing the preparations being made to quickly smuggle Khamenei and other top aides out of Iran, started circulating on social network sites on the Internet.
"We would like to inform you of the inspection, check-up and preparation of the aircraft, destination Russia, for the purpose of transporting the Supreme Leader, his esteemed family and various Iranian Revolutionary Guards officials should the commanding forces lose control," the letter stated, stamped by Dr. Saeed Jalili, current secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and the country's chief nuclear negotiator.
The letter was reminiscent of the Shah's escape from Iran in 1979 following violent demonstrations to overthrow his government.
The authenticity of the letter has been challenged and Israeli observers of Iran said it was likely circulated as part of the opposition's "psychological warfare" efforts aimed at motivating protestors to keep rioting despite the regime's violent crackdown.
"It is meant to make them feel that they are succeeding and to continue despite the violence," one veteran observer said.
On Wednesday, students clashed with pro-government Basiji militiamen on the campus of a Teheran university and security forces continued to round up dissidents as Iran reeled from the aftershocks of last weekend's deadly protests.
Iranian authorities have arrested more than 1,000 protesters, dissidents, activists and journalists in the last two days and broadcast non-stop calls for government supporters to head to the streets Wednesday to rally against those that "desecrated" the holy day of Ashura.
The outcome of the demonstrations is still unclear but some Israeli officials believe that the process, that started following the elections in June, is irreversible and that the regime will ultimately fall.
One indication is that there are already reports that officials in the Iranian police force and military are refusing to crack down on the demonstrators, claiming that they were hired to "protect the Iranian people" and not fight against them.
"The people are not afraid," explained one Israeli observer. "The regime will fall. Now it is only a question of time."
AP contributed to the report.
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