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« Iran's Arrest of Majid Tavakoli: "Khamenei in Hejab/We Are All Majids" | Main | EA on the Road: Talking Iran and US-Iran Relations »

The Latest from Iran (10 December): Reading the Chessboard

16 AZAR POSTER5 2015 GMT: Josh Shahryar has posted an overview with new data on the 16 Azar marches.

1930 GMT: Back from the Iran conference in Durham to find a write-up in The New York Times ( on the Internet attention to the case of Majid Tavakoli, the student leader arrested in the 16 Azar (7 December) demonstrations. It's a good piece on an important matter of Iranian "justice" and dissent, quoting Twitter-prominent activists/bloggers "madyar" and "omidhabibnia".

One correction, though. The article kindly cites me for posting Tavakoli's last entry on Facebook before he was detained. All the credit should go to Setareh Sabety, who brought the piece to Enduring America.

NEW Breaking News: Khamenei Wins 2009 “Dictator of Year”
Iran Analysis: Are Rafsanjani and National Unity Plan “Spent Forces"?
Iran: Latest Updates On Demonstrations
New Videos – Protests Continue at Tehran Universities on 18 Azar
Iran Exclusive: Clerics and Rafsanjani Plan The “Third Way” of Unity

1645 GMT: Propaganda of the Day. Javan, the newspaper of the Revolutionary Guard, says Mehdi Karroubi sent a letter to former President Mohammad Khatami declaring, "You are not part of the movement and have been useless for reformists."

Nice try, gentlemen.

1235 GMT: Rumour of Day. Following yesterday's rumour that plans had been made to fly the Supreme Leader to Russia if life became too difficult for him in Iran, this claim races our way: "Jamaran (the area in northern Iran where Imam Khomeini lived) is being fortified to defend the Supreme Leader against mutiny and provide safe escape in case of ambush"

1215 GMT: The Economic Battle. It is being reported that the Guardian Council, finding the amendments of President Ahmadinejad's subsidy reform bill unacceptable, has returned the legislation to the Parliament.

1015 GMT: An EA reader points us to yet another regime attack on Hashemi Rafsanjani, this time from Minister of Intelligence Moslehi in Qom. The reader summarises, "It is an indication that the risk of Rasfanjani turning into Trotsky is still real."

0905 GMT: What Does This Iran-Syria Meeting Mean? Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi met in Damascus yesterday to discuss bilateral defense relations.

Ritual statements followed the discussion. Al-Assad said the development of defense ties between the two countries could “contribute significantly to regional security and stability”. Vahidi said Iranian-Syrian defense ties could “play a positive role in establishing peace in the region”.

Behind the rhetoric is a political story to be explored. Vahidi's meeting followed a trip to Syria last week by the head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Saeed Jalili, which was marred by a bus explosion and rumours of strains between Iran and Syria.

0855 GMT: Green Humour Highlight. Tehran City Council member Ma’soumeh Ebtekar, celebrating 16 Azar, gave a green chocolate to the sister of the President, Parvin Ahmadinejad, and said, "Eat it so that you become Green too."

Apparently Parvin Ahmadinejad refused to eat the chocolate .

0820 GMT: A Not-So-Incidental Note on Rafsanjani. As we continue to assess whether Hashemi Rafsanjani still has political influence, the regime maintains the pressure on his family.

A group of pro-Ahmadinejad Tehran University students have issued a statement condemning Faezeh Hashemi, Rafsanjani's daughter, for taking part in the 16 Azar protests on the campus, claiming that Hashemi is not a student of this university. They have asked Iran's judiciary to take action against her.

Fars News is also playing up the claim by a member of Parliament, Zohreh Elahian, of "very strong evidence" that Rafsanjani's son, Mehdi Hashemi, had an important role in leading post-election protests and thus Judiciary has to take action against him. She also asserted that 120 MPs have written a letter to the head of Itran's judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, asking him to put the leaders of post-election protests, such as Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, on trial.

0810 GMT: I'm just catching up after being on the road to London and now to northeast England. Still have to go through all the comments on yesterday's post on clerics, Hashemi Rafsanjani, and the National Unity Plan but the discussion has already led me to re-evaluate the political dynamics in a morning analysis, "Are Rafsanjani and the National Unity Plan 'Spent Forces'"?

Meanwhile, protest is far from a spent force, although the centres of demonstrations were limited to Tehran and Sharif Universities yesterday. Inevitably, there would be a need to draw breath after Monday's 16 Azar protests. The question may now move to what is planned for the celebrations of Moharram, which beginning in just over a week. So far, no sign of specific plans for protest.

Reader Comments (32)


"the question may now move to what is planned for the celebrations of Moharram, which beginning in just over a week. So far, no sign of specific plans for protest."

I've been thinking for some days now that just as the students surprised everyone with their on-going protests following 16th Azar, I'm wondering it it would be best if they were able to spring more surprises. I sort of think #iranelection will be watching anyway - but there's always the balance between keeping the news getting out, and not giving the regime the chance to also be prepared.

I know sporadic demos are happening all the time, and I just wonder if these were increased, if that's what would wear the basij down even more? If the regime never knew what was doing to happen then they couldn't keep on having all their basij in the big cities.

I also wonder if there's a way to mobilize people to hold protests outside of the cities - without the regime's knowledge of course until it was too late.

But then again I'm reminded of the quote from Ferdowsi that when something's time has come to an end, it doesn't matter what they do, it will be bad for them . . . this is surely what we are seeing in Iran just now from a regime whose time has come to an end!

And as for Raf's unity plan . . . there's things that might have worked in August or September but way too late now!

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRoe Lassie

Obama mentioned the greens in his speech! Thank you!

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBabak Khorramdin

Perhaps not the latest FROM Iran but regarding Iran, here's a link to the text of Pres. Obama's Nobel acceptance speech, in which he mentions Iran in the context of human rights, freedom and ... sanctions!

"I believe that peace is unstable where citizens are denied the right to speak freely or worship as they please, choose their own leaders or assemble without fear. ...No matter how callously defined, neither Americas interests — nor the worlds — are served by the denial of human aspirations. ...

We will bear witness to the quiet dignity of reformers like Aung Sang Suu Kyi; to the bravery of Zimbabweans who cast their ballots in the face of beatings; to the hundreds of thousands who have marched silently through the streets of Iran. It is telling that the leaders of these governments fear the aspirations of their own people more than the power of any other nation. And it is the responsibility of all free people and free nations to make clear to these movements that hope and history are on their side.

Let me also say this: The promotion of human rights cannot be about exhortation alone. At times, it must be coupled with painstaking diplomacy. I know that engagement with repressive regimes lacks the satisfying purity of indignation. But I also know that sanctions without outreach — and condemnation without discussion — can carry forward a crippling status quo. No repressive regime can move down a new path unless it has the choice of an open door."

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

Thank you Mr Obama ! "late is better than never"

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterange paris

Dr.Ebtekar also has a very interesting blog. She comments on the inner issues of the green movement. Persian paradox

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRhonda

I'm sure I'm not the first to speculate about this, but it just occurred to me for the first time that Rafsanjani might not even be a prime mover behind a "unity plan" anymore. His speech to students in Mashad "If the people don't want us to rule anymore, we should leave" indicates to me that he may have already thrown in the towel on the Islamic Republic and thinks that the Islamic Republic as we know it is finished with or without a unity plan.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAdam

Irantranslator (Josh Shahryar) has posted a new map and amendments on the protests during 16 Azar, and they were quite widespread

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

"If the people don’t want us to rule anymore, we should leave”

I am curious about the above statement. - specifically the use of the words "us" and "we".

My question is - just who EXACTLY are we and us???

I can see a couple of options.

1. "We" could be "all of us ELITES - including Khamenei" - or in other words, the whole clerical Regime should leave. In other words, the ending of the Islamic Republic as such.

2. "We" could also mean somebody else. It is well known that Rafsanjani has been speaking to some senior Clerics who are anti the current regime. Could he be referring to these people - and essentially saying that they should resign their positions - some kind of clerical "stop work" by those clerics who do not support the Regime??

There is no doubt that he does speak in riddles - and I cannot decide just what he is saying.


December 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbarry

Basiji Brutality caught on tape:

Has audio confirming it was from the 16 azar.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBill Davit

Barry: From the context of the statements it was quite clear that he meant that without the people's support, clerical rule is void. That means Khamenei, although ne never names Khamenei in his criticism.
Rafsanjani has a very close personal and financial relationship with Khamenei so I doubt that he will openly turn on Khamenei personally. However, I think it is time that other Green Movement leaders start naming Khamenei instead of just criticising the actions of "the authorities". As one advisor to Mousavi put it, they are trying to cook eggs without breaking any shells".
This indicates to me that the opposition may require new leadership, that is willing to openly state how hollowed out the Islamic Republic's support has become. It is near a tipping point and I would imagine that economic collapse is imminent, that is what is behind the rush to remove all subsidies.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAdam


I think that you are probably right re the meaning of Rafsanjani's statement. However, IF that is the meaning, then it really amounts to no more than another bunch of words. The reformists may take some succour from the statement - but it is just another statement in a whole bunch of statements given out by all kinds of people (notwithstanding Raf's "supposed" power in Iran)

I was wondering though whether there is a different meaning - a meaning that would lead to some actual action on the part of some people. Only actions (not necessarily violent) are going to move this Regime - not just words and chants. The action that I was thinking of is a possible call for "some" clerics to remove themselves from the Regime, and possibly from all forms of public service. Ie a Clerical strike? Probably wild fantasy on my part.


December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBarry

Peyke Iran published this declaration today: The Army is People's Shelter
In this declaration some commanders and pilots of Havanirooz, Isfahan Cannoniers, Airforce and several military academies remind the IRGC of their combined efforts to defend the country (war with Iraq) and warn them of further attacking the citizens. If these attacks continue, regular armed forces are decided to defend peaceful people by sacrificing their last drops of blood.
No independent confirmation for this declaration, but it corresponds with general disgust of these brutal attacks.

December 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterArshama


That is significant, if the artesh has declared that they will stand with the people. But didn`t SL purge the artesh of the commanders not loyal to him? There was a story about IRGC arresting 30 artesh commanders, because they planned to participate in Rafsanjani`s friday prayers in uniform. There were discussions few months ago on EA about the artesh being a silent player in all of this, and we could see the artesh getting involved in later stages of the crisis.

I hope this declaration is true

December 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commentershangool

Arashama, Shangool,

This is the best news we have had since June. Is there anyway to check the credibility of this news?

December 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

A lot of nonsense being written, difficult to decide where to begin.
The radicalization of the student opposition is of great benefit to the Revolution. When you have the student radicals (similar to those Anarchists in Greece) attacking not just the SL but the father of the Revolution then you know the game is up for the Greenies.

The Greenie game is the constant claim that they are following the true line of the Imam. Well that garbage falls apart when the radicals openly opt for an anti-Islam, anti-Khomeini line. Thanks Greenies I have not stopped celebrating for several days now: First Hezbollah assumes a dominant position in the Lebanese Govt. and now the radical students show their true face.

The answer of course is in the simple message of the Ayatollah Khomeini. Enjoy.

Excuse me we have to go back and help the SL leader pack for his new hiding place in Venezuela.

December 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSamuel

Zip it while you can.

December 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

Why Megan you should be thrilled with the new radicalism. If I recall you are always quick to denounce anyone defending Mousavi and company or Islam in General. You want all of their throats cut.
The students are finally adopting your bloodthirsty passion. Didn't someone here say you sounded just like Ahmadinejad?

December 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSamuel


Great news--forward to Scott's contact page so he will get it personally if you have not already. My response to this news is:

"Holy Shit--about God dammned time someone did something!!

"Freaking awesome!!!"

"Marg bar dictator!!!"

December 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBill Davit

Just Zip it, your nonsense rings so hollow it is pathetic.

December 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMegan


I think it is apparent now that Samuel's only reason for being on this blog is to intimidate others out of expressing their opinions. It is your blog and you do a great job with it, but it is really time for you to block him/delete his posts so that brave people who post here (often in Iran and at great risk to themselves) can do so.

December 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAdam

Hi Adam

I say let him stay. Everybody knows who/what he is - and therefore his presence here is merely a nuisance, not serious.

You see- if you/we want Iran to be like a western Democracy, then you/we need to allow everybody the opportunity to express their opinion. It can be galling I know - especially to allow someone the opportunity to freely express themselves, when they are in fact anti- freedom of expression. It is a contradiction that we in the West face - however we cannot allow ourselves to become like them. Although, I will admit that I believe this only up to a certain point - past which we should forget their taking advantage of our freedoms and beat the crap out of them. This will come later! :)



December 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBarry

Exactly the points I was making. From today's NY Times, key quotes:

"They held up flags from which the “Allah” symbol — added after Iran’s 1979 revolution — had been removed. Most shocking of all, some burned an image of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the father of the revolution."

"That creeping radicalization has underscored the rift within Iran’s opposition movement, analysts say, and poses a problem for its leaders, including Mr. Moussavi and the reformist cleric Mehdi Karroubi."

"Some in Iran have even speculated that Mr. Moussavi and Mr. Karroubi were uncomfortable with the most recent round of protests, which were timed to coincide with a holiday commemorating the killing of three students by the shah’s forces in 1953."


December 11, 2009
In Iran, Protests Gaining a Radical Tinge
BEIRUT, Lebanon — In the video, one of hundreds filmed during Iran’s nationwide demonstrations on Monday, an enraged woman’s voice can be heard as a paramilitary truck runs a motorbike off the road amid a crowd of fleeing protesters.

“This is the Islamic Republic!” she shouts, gesturing at the vehicle.

That message has grown increasingly common in recent protests, as demonstrators have made it clear that their target is not just President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or the disputed election that returned him to power in June, but the entire foundation of Iran’s theocracy.

During Monday’s demonstrations, the civil tone of many earlier rallies was noticeably absent. There was no sign of the opposition leader Mir Hussein Moussavi, a moderate figure who supports change within the system, and few were wearing the signature bright green of his campaign.

Instead, the protesters, most of them young people, took direct aim at Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, chanting, “Khamenei knows his time is up!” They held up flags from which the “Allah” symbol — added after Iran’s 1979 revolution — had been removed. Most shocking of all, some burned an image of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the father of the revolution.

That creeping radicalization has underscored the rift within Iran’s opposition movement, analysts say, and poses a problem for its leaders, including Mr. Moussavi and the reformist cleric Mehdi Karroubi.

“The longer this goes on, the more difficult will it be for the likes of Moussavi and Karroubi to sustain their current position,” said Ray Takeyh, an Iran expert at the Council on Foreign Relations who has worked for the State Department. “They have to at some point opt for regime survival or become the leaders of an opposition movement calling for more than reform.”

Some in Iran have even speculated that Mr. Moussavi and Mr. Karroubi were uncomfortable with the most recent round of protests, which were timed to coincide with a holiday commemorating the killing of three students by the shah’s forces in 1953. While they were involved with earlier protests, the opposition leaders did not organize the most recent ones. They do not appear to have attended any of them and have been silent since. It is not clear how much influence they have over the movement, which often seems to be built more around semi-spontaneous mobilizations over Facebook and Web networks than with the aid of any clear leadership.

The aggressive tone of Monday’s protests may partly reflect the fact that they took place on and around university campuses, where radical sentiment is more common.

But students have long been central to social movements in Iran, where the population is now overwhelmingly young; as Mr. Moussavi himself pointed out last weekend, 1 in 20 Iranians is a student. And this week’s protests, in at least a dozen cities and towns across Iran, were much broader than the ones that shook Iran in 1999, said Rasool Nafisi, an academic and Iran expert at Strayer University in Virginia.

Even before the latest round of protests, a number of high-ranking figures in Iran had taken note of the opposition’s trend toward radicalism. Over the weekend, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, an influential former president, warned in a speech that “the young and the elite have been estranged from the regime” and criticized the government for using the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij militia against protesters.

Mr. Rafsanjani, a founder of the Islamic Republic who has provided crucial support for the opposition since the election, added pointedly that “there are some conservatives who think the people’s vote is just a decoration.” He admonished this group, saying, “If they want us to rule, we will; if they don’t, we will go.”

Other leaders have also called for a greater spirit of compromise from the government. Among them is a prominent conservative cleric, Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi, who noted last week in remarks to I.S.N.A., a semiofficial news agency, that a “large number” of people had voted against Mr. Ahmadinejad and that “we should sit together and negotiate.”

But the government’s response to Monday’s demonstrations was anything but conciliatory. Many witnesses said the police and Basij militia members were more aggressive than at any time since last summer, beating protesters with chains and truncheons and arresting hundreds of them in cities across Iran.

In the days after the protests, hard-liners stepped up their warnings. On Thursday, the intelligence minister, Heidar Moslehi, lashed out at Mr. Rafsanjani and accused him of siding with those who oppose the Islamic system, in comments reported by Fars, another semiofficial news agency.

“Shockingly, Rafsanjani expresses the same ideas as the leaders of the conspiracy,” Mr. Moslehi said.

The intelligence minister also seemed to throw down the gauntlet to moderates, accusing them of joining the assault on Ayatollah Khamenei.

“A lot of forces that were expected to support the supreme leader instead went with those who rose against the supreme leader,” he said.

One prominent conservative who has been critical of Mr. Ahmadinejad, Habibollah Asgaroladi, said the opposition had grown more “antirevolutionary,” the Khabar Online Web site reported.

Many in the opposition have echoed those warnings, from the other side.

“The regime is on a path which threatens its own survival,” declared the Iranian Writers’ Society, in a statement released Tuesday and posted on opposition Web sites. “Those who sow the wind will harvest a typhoon.”

December 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSamuel

So let's review.

The students BURN IMAGES of the Ayatollah Khomeini.

Mousavi and Karroubi are "uncomfortable" (read: Terrified) with the new radical turn which the protestors have taken.

This really, really shows how idiotic and naive the Green Leaders have been.

You cannot base a whole movement on a fundamental lie. All anyone has to do is read Khomeini himself or view videos like the one posted earlier. Their green wave is about to drown them and suddenly they are paralyzed with fear. Did they not remember how quickly radical students turned on Khatami in the not too distant past?

No pathetic love letter to the Basij is going to save you now Mr. Mousavi. Could not happen to a more deserving gentleman.

December 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSamuel

Basiji truck violently runs motorcycle off the road in Yazd on 16 Azar

December 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLee

I haven`t found any news confirming the decleration from artesh commanders. But whether they made that declaration or not, it is plausable to see the artesh enter the scene as the crisis grows. Mousavi was PM during the war, he probably has people within the artesh and sepah loyal to him. Rafsanjani has the money to buy their loyality.

SL,AN and Samuel are so far behind in the race, they actually think they`re winning.

December 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commentershangool

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