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Today on EA (28 December 2009)

TOWN CRIERIran: The situation remains tense today. As we follow events and consider long-term significance,  we have an interim assessment: has Iran reached a point of no return? This follows Scott Lucas' five-minute, five-point reaction, given last night to an Italian journalist.

Demonstrations continued well into the night: we've posted the most recent clips we've received. And we now have the video of President Obama's statement this evening on Iran.

Josh Shahryar, who also live-blogged Ashura, concludes that, for the first time in 200 days, Iranians decided "enough was enough". His overall assessment, "Iranians are not punchbags", offers provocative thoughts on non-violence and self-defence.

As always, all the news as we hear it, can be found in our live weblog.

Palestine: EA's Ali Yenidunya reviews Mahmoud Abbas' interview last week with the Wall Street Journal, where he promised "No Third Intifada".

Israel/Palestine: EA's Ali Yenidunya analyses the anniversary of the Gaza War and asks "Who Won" after operation Cast Lead?

Britain/Israel: The controversy over the arrest warrant for former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni continues: the head of Britain's Muslim Council has written to the British Government criticising Foreign Secretary Miliband's statement on the need to change British law to prevent any further warrants.

Reader Comments (13)

I think since EA came back online after the last incident with your ISP, the setting for the order in which comments are displayed has been changed. Now the first comment shows last, whereas before the outage, the first comment was #1, the second #2 etc. I personally very much prefer the way it was before. Now, if you want to read the comments in the order they were posted, you have to scroll down to the end first.

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine


Noticed this shift yesterday --- will get Mike Dunn on to this.


December 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterScott Lucas

Great, thanks.

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

Fixed. Sorry everyone, I was trying to ease the load on the website by breaking comments up into multiple pages but it looks like I changed another setting at the same time.

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMike Dunn

Let's treat ourselves to some juicy secrets, shall we? ;)

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenternaj


After reflecting on this I can't think of a better person to do this--you. My thought was to encourage someone from Iran of the Shia faith to delve into "which side has lost their Islam." I have had a running debate with samuel on this and you can read my latest response to him on the subject here:

The point regarding Islam starts at item 4). While I have studied Islam it has been primarily of the Sunni faith largely due to several instance of personal intolerance directed at me from a Sunni--later figured out he was a Wahhabi and that find in itself answered the question of why. Lately I have begun delving into the Shia faith and Imam Ali. I have to say while it holds the same essence I find it much more to my liking because it did not abandon ijtihad, critical thinking(Greek thought), and so severly divided the world between believer and non believer. I still have my differences but that is a debate for another time. My thought was to encourge you or someone at EA who is qualified to pen a piece exploring the point of which side has lost their Islam. I believe it is needed because despite what many would like to think Islam will always will be central to Iran deomocracy or not. You have touched on it in several of your articles but I believe it needs to be the center piece for the message to strike home. From my initial analysis studying Shia Islam, Imam Ali, the Iranian consititution, and the actions of the current regime I have come to firm conclusion the regime not the people have the lost the essence of Islam Imam Ali envisioned. The pictures of protestors protecting Basiji is a strinking example of this!! If you have the time and inclination I think an article focusing on this would be of great help towards resolvign the crisis in Iran. Just my thought. Feel free to contact me at or


December 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBill


I just realized in my haste the Quotes I mentioned were Husayn ibn ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib's father. Regardless I found a number of other quotes that apply as well. The most notabley one is:

"Oh people, the Messenger of God said: Whoever sees an aggressive tyrant that legalizes the forbiddens of God, breeches divine laws, opposes the tradition of the Prophet, oppresses the worshippers of God, and does not concede his opposition to God in word or in deed, surely Allah will place that tyrant (in the Hell) where he deserves"

some others:

"Tolerance is man’s ornament, keeping promises is a sign of nobility, and bonding with others is a grace."

"If one does not have these five things there is no good in him: intellect, religion, etiquette, shame and good manners"

Like this one

"Those who worship God for the hope of gaining, they’re not real worshippers, they’re merchants. Those who worship God out of fear (of punishment), they’re slaves. And those who worship God to be grateful towards their creator, they are the free people, and their worship is a real one."


December 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBill

hi Bill,
I just came across this article by mohammadreza nikfar: which I thought you may find interesting. Of course since you are an "infidel" ;) you perhaps cannot understand it; but I still thought I should leave the link and hope I will find a little time to perhaps come to it later--in case your other persian friends haven't helped you with it already :)


December 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commenternaj

Hi Scott
Here is a translation of an interview in "Le Monde" of Bernard Hourcade , a specialist of Iran affairs at the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique. Depressing but interesting. What do you think?

"In Iran, the balance of power is not the same as in 1979"

For Bernard Hourcade, director of research at CNRS and specialist on Iran, "the pressure of the street has not found a political voice strong enough to overthrow the government."

Le Monde: Violent clashes erupted Sunday police and protesters opposed to President Ahmadinejad. Is it a turning point?

I don’t think so. The intensity of violence matched the scale of demonstrations. The celebration of Ashura is one of the most important dates of the Shiite calendar. Each year millions of people march through the country to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussein. These great religious processions gather all segments of Iranian society. It was logical that the opponents took the opportunity to speak out. But I do not think this marks a radical turning point for the Iranian regime.

Le Monde: You were in Iran during the revolution of 1979. Do you observe similarities between the events that shook the country since last june and the events that led to the overthrow of the Shah?

In 1979, large processions Tassoua and Ashura [religious day of mourning commemorating the death of Imam Hussein] were organized by the protest movement. Despite martial law, the Shah was compelled to authorize demonstrations. They gathered at the time all opponents, whether left or religious. The clergy overwhelmingly supported the protesters. The balance of power is not the same today. A significant portion of the population still defends Ahmadinejad. The processions of those last days were organized by the government. They were primarely popular demonstrations with which opponents mingled. We can’t compare the events of 1979 with the protest movement of today.

Le Monde : But the movement seems ready to continue the mobilization .

It is true that the opposition is unwavering, despite the repression. But the protesters are not united politically. Between a small minority who want to overthrow the regime and those who just want change, there is no consensus on a leader, as in 1979. Do not forget that Mir Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karoubi are founding figures of the regime. One was prime minister during the Iran-Iraq war, the other a companion of Ayatollah Khomeini. They have become symbols of the revolt almost unwillingly. They feel that they bear a historic responsibility, but they remain opponents by default. For the extremists who want the end of the Islamic Republic, Moussavi Karoubi are not able to lead the movement.

Le Monde : Confronted with this challenge, is the regime united?

No, there is increasingly strong dissension within the very state apparatus. Proponents of the crackdown, close to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, preach law and order above all, without compromise with the demonstrators. It's a little bit like the Chinese method: tightly closed domestically, but open on international level by responding to Obama’s outstretched hand. But others, such as Ali Larijani, the speaker of parliament, Mohsen Rezai, former commander of the Revolutionary Guards, or Mohamed Khalibaf, the mayor of Tehran, are in favor of reforming the regime. Even among the radicals, some condemn the repression and the killing other Muslims.

Le Monde :Are these dissensions spreading to the security apparatus ?

It's very difficult to get specific details on these issues. It seems that some members of the Basij militiamen, army and police distance themselves from power. But it is too early to speak of open dissent. If so, the regime would be in a really bad position. Do not forget that it was soldiers of the Air Force who were the first to revolt against the shah in February 1979.
Today, the Iranian government is very strong. Although official results are highly questionable, Ahmadinejad was elected and it is very likely that he will finish his term of four years. Power is desperate to maintain the system. And for now, the pressure of the street has not found a political voice strong enough to overthrow a government as strong and as repressive.

December 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMigol


Very interesting take. However I want to point out a few major problems in Hourcade's analysis.
1. Lumping Ali Larijani and Mohsen Rezai together makes me question his understanding of the Iranian political scene. Larijani is the most prominent hardliner and backs Khamenei's line regardless of what it is. Rezai in contrast has openly stated that the election in June was rigged.
2. Most importantly, his claim that the opposition can't overthrow the regime because they are not united politically has no basis in reality or history. First of all the movement is remarkably united behind the figures of Mousavi, Karroubi, and Khatami (even those who eventually want a secular state). But beyond that the history of regime change does not suggest that the opposition to a regime must be completely united to succeed. In eastern europe and the former soviet union in 1989-91, many opposition leaders were merely asking for a reformed or "human" socialism while others (who turned out to be a vast majority) sought a complete break.
3. His statement that only a small minority of the Iranian opposition wants to change the system entirely is way out of touch... maybe 10 years ago that was the case, today certainly not.

His claim that "The regime is very strong" is pretty vague in that its not clear if he means the Iranian state is strong, that the security apparatus is "strong", or that the financing has not run out (which is shamefully true due to America's oil addiction, but that's a post for another day). His cynicism would be better expressed if he focused on the regime's safety in reliance on oil revenues, but as stated here I think Hourcade is way out of touch with what has happened in the past 6 months.

December 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAdam


Us infidels are quite devious. The only problem is we often invent tools like google translate that only end up confusing us more. I just tried that invention on the article your provided because the english page did not have a post of it. i was able to decipher what the article was about but not the message it presented. Now I am frustrated and I will have to find my personal translator. This person will be furious because I literally ask everyday but then I just show it to her mom(I usally get beaten when I attempt this!) Her mom, just over from Tehran, of course forces her to translate it for me!!! :) God I am so evil but I can't help it!!! Thank you for the article again--I can't wait to delve into because it talks about the subject you and i traded posts on.


December 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBill


Thank you so much --- the question of the opposition's way forward is occupying me, as I try to think through an analysis for later this week. It is far easier to assess that the regime is in trouble. However, through its measures it has isolated to an extent the "leadership" of the opposition, and it is now a question --- raised by EA readers --- as to whether this is now a movement "led from below". Add to this the sentiment, also expressed here, that compromise (which has been Karroubi's and Mousavi's approach) is no longer possible. Where then --- not just in the sense of toppling the current Iranian leaders but in putting forth a new Republic?


December 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterScott Lucas

Scott and Adam,
Many thanks for your comments

December 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMigol

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