by Chris Bodenner

Hossein Ali Montazeri, the most senior cleric in Iran, has issued a series of fatwas against Khamenei and his regime, calling them "illegitimate" and defying Islam. Cue propaganda:

Raja News, which is a strong supporter of Ahmadinejad, claims that Ayatollah Montazeri has been “sick for several months,” suffering from “imbalance and severe memory loss.” [...] According to their reports, statements that are supposedly from Montazeri are in fact being written by other people. “Mohsen Kadivar, who is outside Iran, along with one of Montazeri’s sons are primarily responsible for creating these fatwas and statements, using Montazeri’s stamp and publishing them through anti-revolutionary media and have probably downgraded Montazeri’s role to a low level political element.”

Tehran Bureau's Muhammad Sahimi says the fatwas "are bound to greatly influence the thinking of other ayatollahs." One such leader is Rajsanjani, who, according to Mousavi's Facebook page, is planning to deliver the Friday prayers this week. Scott Lucas is psyched:

So the perfect storm of the opposition from “without”, the public challenge symbolised by the leadership of the Presidential candidate Mousavi, and the opposition from “within”, the private manoeuvring of former President Rafsanjani, may be imminent.

Rafsanjani, having refused to lead prayers in recent weeks and limited his pulbic appearances, re-emerges dramatically on Friday, and a vast crowd of demonstrators marches to the University of Tehran to welcome and applaud him. It turns the regime’s public displays an ayatollah, even the Supreme Leader, setting out the appropriate line to the acclaim of followers against it.

This plan also has the clever beauty of complicating the regime’s response. Does it dare tell Rafsanjani that he cannot speak on Friday? Do security forces dare block marchers who, after all, are only trying to worship as “good” Muslims?

This, in short, could be the largest mass gathering since 15 June, complete with the presence of Rafsanjani, Mousavi, and Khatami. Start counting down the days….

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