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Entries in Ayatollah Bayat-Zanjani (4)


The Latest from Iran (24 December): Another Day, Another Demonstration

MOHARRAM32100 GMT: Culture and Politics. Days after Mir Hossein Mousavi was dismissed as head of Iran's Art Academy, the president of Iran’s Academy of Medical Sciences has been removed for criticising the imprisonment of political activists.

Iraj Fazel, a prominent surgeon and academic, wrote, “Why are our dear university students and girls and boys with pure thoughts and concerns being viciously attacked without reason and being thrown into dungeons? Why should a nation that is still showing signs of fatigue from a great revolution have so many political prisoners?”

2015 GMT: The Tehran Demonstrations Today. Persian2English has published a detailed account, translated from the version offered by Human Rights and Democracy Activists in Iran, of the protests in Toopkhaneh Square. An extract:
People started shouting: “Allah is great,” “Death to Dictator,” and “Release political prisoners.” The police started coming toward the people again and stopped them, forcing them to change their route.

Plainclothes forces moved around the people to identify youth who were shouting slogans against Khamenei. There was a 16 year old among the people who kept on saying: “Death to our leader, Khamenei; shall he perish” and people responded with a loud voice, “Amen.” One of the plainclothes forces approached him slowly, without other people noticing, and grabbed his hand as if he was going to arrest him, but a number of women started noticing, and saved him.

NEW Latest Iran Video: Tehran Protests (23-24 December)
NEW Iran: The Momentum of Protest (It’s No Longer Just….)
Iran Video & Transcript: Ahmadinejad Interview with Britain’s Channel 4 (23 December)
Latest Iran Video: Najafabad, Isfahan, and Mashhad Protests (23 December)
Iran: Is the US Government Now Going to Engage with the Opposition?
Iran Analysis: The Regime’s Cracks Widen, The Wave Resurges?
NEW Iran: Is Ayatollah Sane’i The Next Montazeri?

The Latest from Iran (23 December): This Time, No Pause?

The plainclothes man kept shouting and asked other plainclothes forces to go after the teen because he had slandered the Leader. Then a number of youth attacked one of the plainclothes forces. The plainclothes force picked up a bar and started beating the youth. Women stood up against him and did not let him continue beating the youth. Plainclothes forces had electrical batons hiding under their clothes.

Whenever they felt threatened, they brought it out and attacked the people. People were dispersed, but eventually united again. At 3:55 pm, the youth started gathering in Toop-Khane Square and shouted slogans like “Allah is Great,” “Today is a day of mourning, our green nation of Iran is mourning today.”
Drivers, even Vahed Bus Drivers and private cars supported people by honking their horns. Motor bike forces attacked people with batons and tear gas. Around 4:00pm, plainclothes forces, police, and even guard forces gathered around Toop-Khane Square and ordered shopkeepers to close down their shops.

1815 GMT: Video is now emerging of today's demonstrations in Zanjan.

1730 GMT: The Investigation of the Election. Groups supporting Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have issued a 170-page report on the conduct of the Presidential election in June.

1715 GMT: The Battle over the Memorials. HomyLafayette offers some additional information on the contest between mourners/protesters and the regime over the memorials for Grand Ayatollah Montazeri. He notes, for example:
On Tuesday, Ayatollah Khorasani managed to organize a ceremony at Kashan's Shamkhi Mosque, but in order to overcome security measures, the hour and location were announced at the last moment. The next day, another larger event was organized at the city's Hossein Mosque, but this time the regime's forces were forewarned. Attendants who arrived at the mosque saw [a] banner hoisted over the entrance.

The banner reads, "According to an announcement of the Supreme National Security Council, any gathering for Mr. Montazeri is forbidden anywhere in the country except in Ghom and Najafabad."

1700 GMT: Back from a holiday break to post the video from today's demonstrations in Tehran.

1340 GMT: Season's Greetings, Iranian People (Here's a Bomb for You). Amidst the wealth of attention now being given by "Western" media to the protests in Iran, a horrific display of journalism in The New York Times today: the newspaper handed over a large space on its opinion page to Alan Kuperman, "Director of the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Program" at the University of Texas. And how was that space used?
Negotiation to prevent nuclear proliferation is always preferable to military action. But in the face of failed diplomacy, eschewing force is tantamount to appeasement. We have reached the point where air strikes are the only plausible option with any prospect of preventing Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. Postponing military action merely provides Iran a window to expand, disperse and harden its nuclear facilities against attack. The sooner the United States takes action, the better.

I can't be bothered to run through the flaws, holes, and leaps of illogic in Kuperman's narrative on the nuclear issue --- Marc Lynch suitably summarises, "Truly awful: shoddy reasoning, thin evidence. B- undergraduate paper". Instead, let's just note Kuperman's blithe assertion: "As for the risk of military strikes undermining Iran’s opposition, history suggests that the effect would be temporary."

And let's put Kuperman aside and address the editors of The Times: next time you claim to have concern and respect for the views of the "Iranian people", remember that your concern and respect extended to letting an ill-informed "analyst" advocate US bombing in which those people (if they were
noticed at all) are expendable.

1320 GMT: The Zanjan Memorial. It appears that the authorities have been successful in banning the memorial for Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, to be led by Ayatollah Bayat-Zanjani, in Zanjan. The chatter is that the memorial will now be at 8 p.m. local time (1630 GMT) in Bayat-Zanjani's home.

1300 GMT: Tehran Demonstration. Activists report about 2000 people have gathered at Toopkhaneh Square in Tehran, watched by anti-riot and plainclothes forces. The crowd is chanting, "Death to the Dictator", "Political prisoners must be freed", and "Death to Khamenei".

1230 GMT: The Isfahan Events. A video has been posted of the reflections of Ayatollah Jalaleddin Taheri, who was supposed to give the memorial service for Grand Ayatollah Montazeri in Isfahan yesterday, on the cancellation of the memorial and the subsequent clashes.

1210 GMT: The Arts Council Fallout. A second member of the board of the Iran Arts Academy, Mohammad Mehdi Heidarian, has resigned in protest over the dismissal of Mir Hossein Mousavi as President. Heidarian was Vice-Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance in the Khatami Government.

1010 GMT: Six Years for Ramezanzadeh. Fars News is now confirming reports from yesterday that Abdullah Ramezanzadeh, the former spokesman for President Mohammad Khatami, has been sentenced to six years in jail for acting against national security and propaganda against the Islamic system.

1000 GMT: Protest and Harassment in France. An EA reader sends us news of the alleged detention and harassment of four women from the Green movement by staff of the Iranian Embassy in Paris. The women were among demonstrators protesting outside an Embassy function.

0830 GMT: Great Minds Thinking Alike? Just discovered that Ramin Mostaghim and Borzou Daragahi in the Los Angeles Times are taking a line similar to our analysis today: "Large-scale protests spread in central Iranian cities Wednesday, offering the starkest evidence yet that the opposition movement that emerged from the disputed June presidential election has expanded beyond its base of mostly young, educated Tehran residents to at least some segments of the country's pious heartland."

0815 GMT: The Trouble in Apadana. An EA reader reminds us that conflict is no longer just a matter of big demonstrations. In the Tehran district of Apadana, there has been ongoing tension with security forces, with Peyke Iran elevating the situation to a "state of emergency". Apadana is the location of the home of Sohrab Arabi, who was killed in the 15 June demonstrations, and his death continues to serve as a catalyst for protest.

0800 GMT: High-Profie Denial. After we finished our morning analysis, it only took 15 minutes to find more evidence of our assessment that President Ahmadinejad is trying to fly high as a "world leader", blissfully floating above the reality of political events and demonstrations in Iran.

Press TV features the President's Wednesday night interview on Iranian television. After four days of demonstrations involving hundreds of thousands of his citizens, Ahmadinejad focused on his appearance at the climate change conference in Copenhagen: "The summit was a test for the world's dominating economic powers. It showed that they only think of themselves. They are not prepared to cut pollutants for the sake of human life."

This concern about the flooding and pollution caused by others in turn brought Ahmadinejad to his reassurance, apparently unaware of the slogans in Iranian streets this week: "At the moment, Iran has the upper hand in the Middle East. And, who ever has the upper hand in the Middle East, has the upper hand in world affairs."

0745 GMT: We begin the moment with a glance at the last few days for a special analysis, "The Momentum of Protest: It's No Longer 'Just'...", as in "It's no longer just Tehran" and "It's no longer just students" who are now pressing their claims and raising their voices against the regime.

Testimony to that assessment this morning: the official website of Ayatollah Bayat-Zanjani has published the invitation for all to participate in today's memorial service in Zanjan, led by Bayat-Zanjani, for Grand Ayatollah Montazeri. The ceremony is scheduled for 3 p.m. local time (1130 GMT).

Of course, the regime is not standing aside as the momentum of protest builds. Iran's police chief, Esmail Ahmadi-Moghaddam, warned that continued demonstrations would be "fiercely confronted". The Revolutionary Court is reported to have handed down prison sentences for up to 50 students and faculty from Shiraz University. Seyyed Hamed Kavoosi, arrested on 13 Aban (4 November), was sentenced to three years for "actions against national security" by participating in illegal gatherings and chanting slogans. Mohammad Taabeie Mohammadi was sentenced to four years while 45 others received short or suspended terms.

Iran: The Momentum of Protest (It's No Longer Just....)

AHMADINEJAD2MONTAZERI FUNERAL3It's no longer "just" Tehran. It's no longer "just" students. It's no longer "just" a Green elite v. the "common people" of Iran.

There have been so many rumours over the last 96 hours. Given the nature of communications, it is hard sometimes to confirm the reports racing around the Internet (for example, it was only 30 minutes ago that we could visually verify the size of the demonstration in Najafabad at the memorial service for Grand Ayatollah Montazeri yesterday). Given the complexity of discussions and intrigues behind closed doors, we are only posting a fraction of what is claimed about Iran's Government, armed forces, or clerics.

The Latest from Iran (24 December): Another Day, Another Demonstration

Even more important, therefore, to repeat what we do know. It's no longer "just" Tehran. It's no longer "just" the students.

In the weeks after the election, almost all of the video and most of the reporting came out of Iran's capital, so the stage for the political conflict was Tehran. And even when, despite the restrictions of the Government, footage came out of other cities, the protests were often those on university campuses.

Of course, the camera's lie might have been one of omission. From mid-June, we have heard of disquiet throughout Iran. Where we could get reliable sources, we have noted the protests and discussions from Shiraz to Tabriz to Mashhad to Hamedan. Yet we could only see a tip of what might lay below the waterline of political events.

So those defending the Iranian regime as stable or widely-supported --- harking back to Ahmadinejad's alleged 63% vote in June --- could always assert that those reporting on a widespread opposition were exaggerating, distorting, fantasising.

No longer.

In the excitement since Sunday, I'm not sure it has quite sunk in. The hundreds of thousands who mourned Grand Ayatollah Montazeri on Monday were not in Tehran. (Had there been unrestricted movement from Tehran to Qom, who knows how many more would have spilled beyond the iconic photos and videos of demonstrations we posted on Monday/Tuesday?) Yesterday, despite the forced suspension of the memorial service for Montazeri, they turned out in Isfahan. Later, despite a "ban" on any ceremonies, they appeared in Najafabad.

It continues today ---a service, led by Ayatollah Bayat-Zanjani, is to be held in Zanjan. And it will continue tomorrow and Saturday and Sunday, the holy day of Ashura.

And as it continues, those on the streets and in front of the mosques are not just a core of students --- Governments will always try to say it's just "the students", who have no responsibilities of employment or the common sense of adulthood to check their whimsical protests. The videos testify to the range of ages and backgrounds, beyond any label of "reformist" or "conservative", now involved in the rallies.

Last night, there was a curious juxtaposition as we assembled material for the website. On the one side, we had clip after clip of demonstrators with their slogans, uttered even as security forces rushed about and in some cases beat those who were shouting. Sometimes the slogans were of praise for those dead (Montazeri) and those still living, sometimes they were of condemnation for those still claiming power and legitimacy, and at times they constituted a demand for the removal of the Government and even of the Supreme Leader.

On the other side, we had the interview of President Ahmadinejad with Britain's Channel 4. Here was a man who waved away any notion of a substantial opposition, just as he denied any restriction of those Iranians who might desire to protest ("We have freedom in Iran --- people are free to express their views."). His people must love him; after all, wasn't he here talking as their leader to a representative of the "enemy" foreign media?

Put those videos side-by-side this morning: one man in Tehran versus thousands across the country. And then ask, "Where now the momentum of politics?"

Iran Special LiveBlog: Ayatollah Montazeri Has Died

MONTAZERI2UPDATE 2225 GMT: Rah-e-Sabz has published what it claims is the circular issued by the Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance on coverage of Montazeri's death. It states that reference should be made to Montazeri's differences with Ayatollah Khomeini, but there should be no mention of his political career.

There are also stories that newspapers have been taken off printing presses to be altered. So far only Etelaat has a full obituary of Montazeri. so far.

Latest Iran Video: Montazeri’s Criticism of Supreme Leader Khamenei (October 2009)
Latest Iran Video: Demonstrations in Memory of Montazeri (20 December)

The Latest from Iran (20 December): Montazeri Death; Regime Scrambles for Legitimacy

1710 GMT: "Following the announcements made by a number of Grand Ayatollahs inviting public to mourn the departure of the great shia scholar and noble combatant, Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, in a joint statement Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi declared Monday to be a national mourning day and invited the grieving public to attend Grand Ayatollah Montazeri’s funeral which will be held (then)."

1650 GMT: Ahmad Qabel, a religious scholar and one of Montazeri's disciples of the late Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, has been arrested while en route to Qom from Mashhad. Qabel is an outspoken critic of the Supreme Leader. There is no information about Qabel's captors or where he is being held.

Meanwhile, some political activists and journalists are claiming that security agents on Sunday afternoon have threatened to arrest them if they participate in Montazeri's funeral.

1635 GMT: Both Mir Hossein Mousavi (text in Persian and English) and Mehdi Karroubi have published their condolences over the death of Montazeri.

1555 GMT: Enduring America's Mr Smith has some sharp observations on the messages of the Supreme Leader and Hashemi Rafsanjani (1540 and 1545 GMT):

The Leader's message is not really congratulatory: he was forced to act (after half a day's delay, compared to the senior theologians who went to Montazeri's house in Qom), and he refers to the incident that led to Montazeri's dismissal in 1989. He essentially states that Montazeri did Khomeini wrong on that issue and reserves judgement for God. Khamenei couldn't stay silent on the issue of his death, but his message is anything but congratulatory.

Same for Hashemi Rafsanjani: his message is terse and quite dry, as it was Rafsanjani himself who engineered Montazeri's dismissal. His condolences contain nothing about Montazeri's political activities, (which spanned some 50 years, and notes only his theologian qualities, saying that "the seminary system and Islamic society will miss his presence".

So, all in all, these two are messages who were forcibly spat out, rather than being heartfelt

1545 GMT: And now the message from the Supreme Leader....It refers to Montazeri's important role in the early years of the Islamic Republic:

[He was a] well-versed jurist and a prominent master....Many disciples have benefited greatly from him....Ayatollah Montazeri spent a long period of his life serving the late founder of the Islamic Revolution and made many efforts and suffered much hardship for advancing this cause.

However, Khamenei also mentions the incident that led to the cleric's dismissal in 1989.

1540 GMT: Hashemi Rafsanjani's condolence message for Montazeri is carefully framed, omitting any reference to the cleric's political activities and instead limiting itself to the religious sphere: "The seminary system and Islamic society will miss his presence."

1535 GMT: Both Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have confirmed that they will attend Montazeri's funeral tomorrow.

1525 GMT: Back from an appearance with Al Jazeera English on another topic to catch up with developments. Both Ayatollah Sane'i and former President Mohammad Khatami have issued public condolences.

1205 GMT: Pictures indicate that the city of Najafabad has shut down, with all shops closed, in memory of Montazeri.

1155 GMT: The regime seems to be almost panicked in its response to the news of Montazeri's death. EA sources report that initially the Ministry of Islamic Guidance and Culture ordered newspapers to ignore it. When this proved impossible, outlets like Raja News and Fars News insulted Montazeri by dropping his titles and emphasising his "support of positions against the Islamic system".

Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting finally mentioned Montazeri's death in its 1 p.m. bulletin, belittling the cleric and using an interview with his physician to establish that Montazeri had died of natural causes.

1100 GMT: Reports that Montazeri's funeral will be Monday, 9 a.m. local time.

The pro-Government Raja News has announced the death of "Hossein Ali Montazeri" in a derogatory article, dropping any clerical title and denouncing Montazeri for working with and sheltering the "gang" of Mehdi Hashemi, the son of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani.

1030 GMT: Parleman News reports that Montazeri’s followers are moving --- from Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz, Najaf-Abad and other cities --- toward his home in the holy city of Qom to pay their respects. There are also gatherings in the homes of Grand Ayatollahs Mousavi-Ardebili, Shobeiri-Zanjani, Bayat-Zanjani, Sane'i, and Amini.

0800 GMT: Radio Farda has the Persian transcript and audio of Ayatollah Montazeri's last public statement, delivered on 11 December as he accepted a human rights award.

0730 GMT: Grand Ayatollah Montazeri's website is not available to confirm the news of his passing. The Associated Press posts, however, that his grandson has verified initial reports, and his son Ahmad has reportedly said the same to the Iranian Labor News Agency.

We awake this morning to the news, from the Iranian Students News Agency, that Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri has died.

Montazeri, 87, was one of the most prominent clerics in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. In the 1980s he was the designated successor to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, until he was sidelined because of political and religious divisions and a falling-out with Khomeini. Ayatollah Khameini eventually became Supreme Leader. Montazeri was isolated and then placed under house arrest after clashes with Khamenei.

In recent months, Montazeri was one of the most vocal supporters of the opposition movement, going as far as to criticise the legimitacy of the Supreme Leader. For example, at the end of October, he refused to commemorate the birthday of Imam Reza, the 8th Shia Imam, as a protest:
Since many of our beloved scholars, those who are not only faithful individuals but also served this revolution and country passionately, are unfortunately in prison for false accusations; and to show solidarity and sympathy with the respected families of these loved ones, we did not hold a celebration today....During Shah’s time because many people were under oppression, Imam Khomeini announced not to hold the ceremony for the Birthday of the hidden Imam.

On 11 December, the Defenders of Human Rights Center in Iran named Montazeri as its Human Rights Activist of the Year. In his acceptance speech, Montazeri said, "None of those [aggressive actions by the Iranian Government] are legal."

As he became the most vocal high-ranking clerical critic of the Iranian Government after the 12 June election, Montazeri caught the attention of international media. In October, the BBC had an e-mail interview with Montazeri on Islam and the legitimacy of the Iranian Government and Islamic Republic. On 21 November, Michael Slackman of The New York Times published a profile, "Cleric Wields Religion to Challenge Iran’s Theocracy".

The Latest from Iran (13 December): Bubbling Over?

BASIJ STUDENTS1940 GMT: More Positions on the "Burning of Khomeini": More than 230 members of Parliament have issued a statement strongly condemning the incident, presumably (but not clearly, at least in the Press TV report) criticising the opposition and calling on the judiciary officials to punish those responsible. Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani has also denounced the act, expressing hope that it would not be repeated.

Iranian Students News Agency have published a series of photos (see inset) of Basij students of Azad University protesting in Jamaran, the neighbourhood where Imam Khomeini lived. Islamic Republic News Agency writes about the sit-in of Basij students at Tehran University.

1935 GMT: We Really Don't Have A Clue. Mehr News tries --- and fails --- to answer our question about President Ahmadinejad's meeting with Ali Larijani and Sadegh Larijani, "What Did They Say?" (1640 GMT): "The subsidy bill, which has become a thorny dispute between the Majlis and the administration, probably featured prominently in the talks. The Judiciary’s investigation of major economic corruption cases was also likely high on the agenda."

1800 GMT: Ayatollah Bayat-Zanjani is the latest clerical supporter of the opposition to condemn the desecration of Imam Khomenei's image and the Government's manipulation of the issue.

1640 GMT: So What Did They Say? Oh, to be a fly on the wall: President Ahmadinejad has met both Ali Larijani, Speaker of Parliament, and Sadegh Larijani, head of Iran's judiciary. No details but atmosphere was cordial enough for an official photograph.

1615 GMT: Reformists Alongside Khomeini. Former President Mohammad Khatami, after a strong denial that the opposition would dishonour Ayatollah Khomeini, has upheld the Imam as a standard for the Green movement, saying that it is the duty of religious people to protest.

1550 GMT: Where's Mahmoud? Well, during all the protests and the furour over a possible showdown with opposition leaders, President Ahmadinejad is doing a spot of diplomatic entertaining. He met a Hamas delegation led by the political director, Khaled Meshaal, and declared, "The government and the people of Iran will always stand by the Palestinian resistance and the Palestinian people. Today Palestine is symbol of the global front of freedom-seekers and militants."

NEW Iran Analysis: Sifting the Propaganda – Government About to Arrest Opposition Leaders?
NEW Latest Videos from Iran's Universities (13 December)
NEW Latest Iran Video: Tehran University Protest & Strike (12 December)
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Iran: A Renewed Washington Love Affair With The Green Movement?
Iran’s Arrest of Majid Tavakoli: “Khamenei in Hejab/We Are All Majids”
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Iran: “The Military Will Stand with the Iranian People”? (with Audio)

The Latest from Iran (12 December): Bubbling Under

1535 GMT: Demoting Rafsanjani. According to Tabnak, Islamic Republic News Agency employees have been directed to use the clerical title "Hojatoleslam" when referring to Hashemi Rafsanjani. "Hojjatoleslam" is lower in rank than "Ayatollah", the previous title for the former President.

1350 GMT: Undaunted? Videos are coming through from protests at Iranian universities. We already have four campuses in the collection we've posted, and more may emerge during the afternoon. At Tehran University, Green demonstrators are facing a counter-protest from Basij students who are declaring a three-day sit-in. Security forces have surrounded the university.

1320 GMT: Revising the Threat Assessment. Mr Smith is walking me through the video of the Supreme Leader's speech, and he has a more ominous reading of this as a warning:

[Khamenei] is quite openly saying that the opposition "shall be wiped out". You can chalk this up as a prelude to any sort of harsh measure against the opposition.

This was a "make my day" speech, and one that quite bluntly asked the opposition leaders to back off and shut up. As a challenge, it ranks with the June 19 speech, if not even more emphatic than that.

To my query, "Is this then an ultimatum to the opposition not to make trouble during Moharram (beginning this Friday?", Mr Smith replies, "I think the gist is, shut up, don't make trouble during Tasua and Ashura (26-27 December)."

1230 GMT: Putting the Threats Together, But....? The Associated Press has picked up on a warning on the website of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps, linking the "burning of Khomeini" story to the prospect of arrests: ''The Guard ... won't tolerate any silence or hesitation in the immediate identification, trial and punishment of those carrying out this ugly insult and the agents behind them."

Which still leaves the question of whether the threat will be carried. Reuters is the first "Western" agency to note the Supreme Leader's speech (see 1030 GMT) but misses the passage that we noted --- "keep your calm" --- indicating that drastic action will not take place.

1030 GMT: Wow, We Couldn't Predict This. Speaking this morning, the Supreme Leader declared, "[Our] enemies' groundwork is sedition and our groundwork should be strengthening perception and vision. Some people breached law and encouraged people to stand against regime. As a result,our desperate enemies got hope and insulted our Imam."

Now, are there arrests to follow the rhetoric? Here's a hint from Khamenei that there won't be: "Following insult to Imam Khomeieni, people became angry; but keep your calm, these people are rootless and can't confront [us]."

Instead, the Supreme Leader issued a "Back Off" message to Washington, as well as playing the "foreign intervention" card, "The President of USA declared that each Government that break laws must be accountable, but USA's governement is the biggest lawbreaker in world."

0830 GMT: News this morning is dominated by the rumours of a Government crackdown on the opposition, including the arrest of Green leaders. We have posted an analysis sifting through the propaganda and confusion to assess the likelihood that the regime will make an ultimate move.

Discussion also continues about the immediate background for the latest rumours, the battle over the alleged burning of the image of Imam Khomeini. EA reader Naj offers an analysis of the Government's propaganda strategy on  the blog Neo-Resistance.

Meanwhile, if you want a diversion from the internal tension, there is always the posturing over the nuclear discussions. The US has issued a summary rejection of Iran's proposal, put by Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki yesterday, for a "swap" of uranium inside the country: "Iran's proposal does not appear to be consistent with the fair and balanced draft agreement proposed by the International Atomic Energy Agency." The pro forma No does not mean, however, that the discussions have been closed.

Mottaki and the US have also swapped blows over their political power plays in Latin America. After Hillary Clinton's unsubtle warning to Latin American countries not to engage with Iran, the world's top supporter of terrorism, Mottaki took the high ground, "We condemn such attitudes which violate values of the third millennium."