A military truck carrying a missile and a picture of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is seen during a parade marking the anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), in Tehran September 22, 2015. (Photo by Raheb Homavandi/Reuters/TIMA)
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Ahead of two key elections in Iran in February, the Supreme Leader's hard-line allies have cracked down on activists, journalists and artists to try to tighten their grip on the country's faction-ridden politics, officials and analysts say.Iran's economic hardships persuaded Khamenei to support Rouhani's efforts to reach the nuclear deal, under which Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for an easing of sanctions on its flagging economy.The analysts say the hard-liners hope that the wave of arrests will help to tighten their grip on power and protect Khamenei's authority from being challenged by the president with the elections just weeks away.An election win in Iran's parliament and the Assembly of Experts, a religious body with nominal power over the supreme leader, would give Rouhani's faction too much power and influence in the country, hard-liners believe.However, some doubt that Rouhani, who represented Khamenei on the Supreme National Security Council for more than two decades, has the stomach to confront the leader and his hard-line supporters to improve Iran's human rights record.
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