On Friday, the supreme leader raised the stakes by giving Ahmadinejad full support and insisting that there was no fraud in the election.
Iran's supreme religious leader threw his weight behind the disputed landslide victory of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Friday, calling the vote "God's blessing," ruling out any fraud, and ordering an end to massive street protests.
In what may prove a pivotal point in the post-election crisis that has shaken Iran for nearly a week, Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei took an uncompromising stand at Friday prayers.
"If there is any bloodshed, leaders of the protests will be held directly responsible," declared Ayatollah Khomeini, speaking to an overflowing crowd of tens of thousands at Tehran University that was bolstered by a large contingent of ideological militiamen.
Defeated candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi has brought hundreds of thousands of Iranians onto the streets for peaceful protest in recent days, harnessing public outrage that first burst into riots and clashes when results were announced last Saturday.
Another march is slated for this Saturday, though it has already been declared illegal by authorities – as have each of the previous rallies. But now all future marches will be higher stakes and held in direct defiance of Iran's most powerful authority.
"This was expected. All these activities of last week, the restrictions and repressive measures, all point to one thing: no compromise, to an iron fist," says a political analyst in Tehran who could not be named for security reasons.
He said there was still much horn-honking on the streets of Tehran, and travelers on the road west of the capital were showing green – Mousavi's campaign color – and flashing victory signs.
"These are small signs, but it means that many people express a willingness to keep it up," says the analyst.