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Entries in Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi (4)


Iran Analysis: The Regime's Sword Wavers

SWORDEnduring America, 14 December: "What can the Supreme Leader and the Revolutionary Guard do with a Sword which, for all the detentions and all the propaganda, dangles not as a sign of its threat but of (for now) its impotence?"

Even by the standards of this post-election conflict, the last 48 hours have been extraordinary for their rhetoric. At one point, there were no less than five regime officials (head of judiciary Sadegh Larijani, Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi, Supreme Leader representative Mojtaba Zolnour, Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, Tehran Governor Morteza Tamedon) throwing around threats of arrests. Yet the opposition was even more spirited and even more high-profile: both Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mehdi Karroubi met the threats with defiance and more than a little humour (both were quite concerned about Yazdi's health, physical and mental), MPs offered public support, Mir Hossein Mousavi's Alireza Beheshti challenged the regime's continuous "lies about imperialism", and Mousavi's wife, Zahra Rahnavard, held up the Green Movement as the representative of the ideals of Imam Khomeini.

The Latest from Iran (17 December): An Uncertain Regime

And the outcome today, on the eve of the holy month of Moharram? A regime, nervous and possibly a bit frightened, which can neither swing its Sword of Damocles nor keep it steady.

Yesterday afternoon EA correspondent Mr Azadi began putting the pieces together. On Tuesday, Yazdi had put out his scathing ridicule of the "joke" of Karroubi and threatened Hashemi Rafsanjani's son, Mehdi Hashemi, with arrest if he stepped foot in Iran, Tamedon had talked both of security forces on alert for troublemakers on Friday and of Rafsanjani, and Zolnour apparently said all the opposition leaders should be rounded up. Then yesterday, it emerged that both Larijani and Moslehi were telling important groups of officials and clerics that the evidence was in place to hold trials; the Minister of Intelligence was now spinning a conspiracy tale in which representatives of Hashemi Rafsanjani had planned the post-election conflict in Britain with foreign agents.

The speeches were not necessarily co-ordinated. Indeed, because they probably weren't, they were far short of successful. Larijani's statement, which should have been the most significant given his official position, was a bit lost in crowded airspace, while Moslehi's speech --- at least to my outside eyes --- comes across as extreme. Is the regime really saying that Mehdi Hashemi and Rafsanjani's daughter, Faezeh Hashemi (who is in Iran), go on trial as part of the inner circle of the "velvet revolution"?

Instead of cowing the opposition into submission, the volley of regime shots were met by a furious counter-attack. Karroubi was careful, in a well-crafted response, to focus on Yazdi rather than swinging at officials such as Larijani and Moslehi, but Rafsanjani, durig the course of the day, took on not only Yazdi ("Get Help", "Get Cured") but the regime in general. Perhaps the former President was planning, after months of relative silence and uncertain manoeuvres, to surface but it appears that the attacks on him and his family helped make up his mind.

The irony is that, if the regime had kept its mouth shut or at least been more measured in its attacks, it could have left the opposition, rather than itself, in wobbling confusion. The Green movement seemed to be undecided, or even split, over tactics for the first day of Moharram. Should it join the Government-authorised marches, behind the message of "The Ideals of Khomeini are Our Ideals", or should it stand aside and let the regime have the field of demonstrations to itself for the first time in six months?

Supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi put out a letter, with a picture of Mousavi, favouring a public appearance but other activists balked: 1) some feared this would lead to violent clashes; 2) some did not want to associated with any march in honour of Khomeini, even if it had the symbols of resistance of Imam Hossein, whose death is marked by Moharram; 3) some argued that staying away would embarrass the regime when the outcome of a relatively small demonstration showed the lack of support for the Government. This morning, the argument is still unresolved.

Yet this debate in the opposition camp is secondary to the image of the regime's fist-shaking being met by a smack from Karroubi, who had been muted in recent weeks, Rafsanjani, and others. So why did it make such an inept move?

The more I look at events, the more I think that in part the answer is a fear of Rafsanjani. It was notable, for example, that Moslehi's attack did not name any other leader apart from the former President: Mousavi, Karroubi, and Mohammad Khatami were all absent from the speech. And it may be equally notable that Tehran Government Tamedon specifically referred to Rafsanjani's 6 December speech in Mashhad as an unacceptable challenge to the regime.

At the time of the speech, we published not only an extract from the speech but an analysis pointing to discussions between senior clerics and Rafsanjani as part of a renewed effort for a "National Unity Plan" or similar political compromise between the regime and the Green opposition. This prospect was challenged by others as an illusory hope but we still maintained this: what mattered was whether the regime thought the initiative was serious, causing it discomfort and prompting a response.

The last 48 hours mark that response: the Government is worried about Rafsanjani, possibly even more than the protests on the streets or the Mousavi-Karroubi-Khatami alliance. My hunch --- and it is only a hunch --- is that regime officials think Rafsanjani might have planned a high-profile appearance, if not tomorrow than at some point leading up to or on  the special day of Ashura (27 December), to mark his defiance of the Ahmadinejad Government. For the first time since his Friday Prayer of mid-July, the trumpet (or alarm, in the ears of the regime) would be sounded: Hashemi's Back, Hashemi's Here.

If true, that's a pretty significant development in the ongoing battle. But I think the threats also come from a second fear, and this one may be more important.

The regime is worried about its own supporters. Uncertainty and fright comes from the prospect that the large numbers won't show up tomorrow. The Friday Prayer congregation at Tehran University will be full, but how many will then go on the streets? And, if they are on the streets, how loud will they be for Khamenei and Ahmadinejad rather than Imam Hossein?

For six months, from the day-after-election "they are all dust" victory speech of Ahmadinejad to the 19 June Friday Prayer speech of the Supreme Leader to this Sunday's reprise of Ayatollah Khamenei --- not to mention the actions beyond the speeches from detentions to security presence to the steady propaganda brumbeat --- the regime has relied on attack.

But a swinging sword does not necessarily find its target. And it does not necessarily bring legitimacy (irrespective of the words of Machiavelli). So tomorrow's test is not of how many come for the opposition but, arguably for the first time since 12 June, how many come out for the Supreme Leader, for the President, and for current regime and its actions.

The Latest on Iran (16 December): What's Next?

MOHARRAM31945 GMT: Khatami on Moharram. Illustrating the analysis in Mr Azadi's "Beginners Guide to Moharram", former President Mohammad Khatami put out a message linking the commemoration of the third Imam, Hussein, with today's challenge in Iran:
The Islamic society has one major goal and that is to reform the society contentiously; It could be either by reforming the government by establishing a suitable government or by reforming the way government rules and the methods it interacts with the society. Imam Hossein said that he did not fight to gain power but he did fight for reform in the Islamic society….Before the revolution the goal of the reform was to establish a new government but now that the Islamic Republic is established, reform must continue to strengthen it.

NEW Iran Document: The Rafsanjani Speech in Mashhad (6 December)
NEW Iran: Why the US Sanctions Game on Tehran is All Wrong
NEW Iran Picture of the Day: Mohammad Khatami’s Cellphone
Iran: A Beginner’s Guide to Moharram
Latest Iran Video: The University Protests (15 December)
Iran: US State Department Pushes for “Proper” Sanctions in 2010
UPDATED “Where is My Vote?” (Part 2): TIME Snubs Green Movement as “Person of the Year”
The Latest on Iran (16 December): What’s Next?

1900 GMT: So Is Raf Ready for the Fight? He's sure talking like it. Following his advice to Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, "Get Help" (1730 GMT), he's taken on other critics: "Some people make their reputation by slandering others and the appropriate response to such people is silence."

Rafsanjani advised regime officials to strengthen “society’s trust” in the system by executing the provisions of the constitution and respecting peoples' rights. No amount of Government restrictions could prevent the legitimate demands of the Iranian population: “With the dismantling of media monopolies, today’s generation are well-informed and they’ll only be more so in the future.”

1730 GMT: Karroubi and Rafsanjani Smack Down Yazdi, Part 2 (see 0740 GMT). Payvand has an English translation of Mehdi Karroubi's verbal demolition of Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, the Ahmadinejad ally who threatened him with punishment over claims of detainee abuse:

Regarding your remark and your concern about me being a "joke", I should remind you that those who are briefing you, are telling you jokes; that's why you have this illusion that the political turmoil and the critical situation of the society is like a joke!...I remind you that what I do and will do is based on my belief and duty in defending the rights of each and every citizen, and this for me is the main goal and responsibility.

If you use clear and free sources, you will see that wherever Mehdi Karroubi joined the people, they received him with kindness. Unlike some, his popularity did not diminish with time, but with the kindness of the people --- despite all the limitations and closing down my newspaper and offices --- I am blessed with their support every day.

If you don't agree with the views of someone, why don't you act according to the law? Why do you deal with it by hiring a number of thugs and causing trouble in the neighbourhood in the middle of the night? Is this what you are proudly talking about that if Karoubi did not have bodyguards what you could have done to him? Is this what you promised people at the beginning of the revolution? What has happened to your dignity as a member of the Guardian Council?!

Karroubi, after expressing concern's for Yazdi's "age and illness" ("I hope you get better soon"), "pointed out the financial interests that Ayatollah Yazdi and his son have in the country and the incidents that has shown his incompetence as a former head of the judiciary; he then asked him to resign from his public posts as a member of the Guardian Council and a member of the Assembly of Experts so that he won't make more mistakes either for his own gain or due to wrong information".

Meanwhile, Rafsanjani had a succinct suggestion for Yazdi, who argued that Rafsanjani's family members should be tried for activities surrounding the Presidential election, "Get Help":
For many years my response to Ayatollah Yazdi has been greetings and wishing him health. If some think that by intimidation and bullying they can solve the problems they are making a mistake and even if they can solve the problems temporarily but after a short while those problems will return in greater extent than before.

1628 GMT: Tearing Down Internet Walls. The US State Department has notified Congress that is waiving the threat of sanctions on US companies that provide anti-censorship software:
The Department of State is recommending that the Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issue a general license that would authorize downloads of free mass market software by companies such as Microsoft and Google to Iran necessary for the exchange of personal communications and/or sharing of information over the internet such as instant messaging, chat and email, and social networking. This software is necessary to foster and support the free flow of information to individual Iranian citizens and is therefore essential to the national interest of the United States.

1617 GMT: Lemming Mediawatch Alert. Forgive me for being cranky, but we've been immersed for a few hours in an intense period of political activity inside Iran --- an episode which could lead to a breaking-point conflict between the regime and figures like Hashemi Rafsanjani --- and the "Western" media are still fluttering about the Iranian missile test from this morning, which frankly doesn't mean that much. (Really.) So --- CNN, Los Angeles Times, Washington PostNew York Times --- you're on notice.

(Credit to Reuters, which has picked up on the threat of the head of Iran's judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, that there is "enough evidence" to try opposition leaders --- see 1125 GMT.)

1614 GMT: What's the Fuss About Rafsanjani About? Have a look --- we've posted a second English summary of his 6 December speech in Mashhad, together with background on his "unity" strategy and a link to the first summary of the speech.

1610 GMT: Peyke Iran have published an updated list of people detained in 16 Azar (7 December) protests.

1538 GMT: Accessing Mowjcamp. The Green Movement website, which was hacked earlier today (0725 GMT), can now be accessed via an alternative Internet address.

1530 GMT: Mortazavi's Back. Amidst the rhetorical drama of today, an announcment which is relatively low-profile. It is confirmed that former Tehran Prosecutor General Saeed Mortazavi, who has led the legal crackdown on post-election protests but had been rumoured to have fallen out of favour in Tehran, is now back in the Presidential fold. He has been appointed as Ahmadinejad's special representative to combat smuggling of goods and currency.

1525 GMT: And Now from the Reformist Side. The regime makes its threat, and reformist MPs hit back. Darius Ghanbari has warned that pro-Government "extremists" want to put millions in Iran's jails.

1510 GMT: More on Regime v. Rafsanjani. Yep, as we noted below (1440 GMT), it is Rafsanjani's Mashaad speech that has lit the fire under the Government. The Governor of Tehran Province, Morteza Tamedon, admitted as much with his own challenge to the former President: the recent remarks had put the "wood" on the "fire" of the post-election conflict.

1455 GMT: The Green Counter-Attack. Alireza Beheshti, the chief advisor to Mir Hossein Mousavi, has said in an interview that it is curious how the Iranian regime leaves no time and space to "replace their lies about imperialism". In a direct rebuke to the Supreme Leader's representative to the Revolutionary Guard, Mojtaba Zolnour, who called yesterday for the arrests of opposition figures, Beheshti said that the lies were being spread to destroy the leaders of the Green Wave.

Beheshti's statement is also an implicit attack on the Supreme Leader's continuing focus on the evils of the US and Israel, including their attempts to use the opposition for regime change in Iran.

Zahra Rahnavard, Mousavi's wife, has also intervened against the regime's criticisms on the "burning of Khomeini" incident, arguing that the Green Movement is a result of the ideals and approach of the Imam.

1440 GMT: Urgent --- The Attack on Rafsanjani. This can now be classified as an all-out assault, short of arrest, on former President Hashemi Rafsanjani to shut him up and block any manoeuvres against the Government.

We have more details of Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi's attack (see 1125 GMT), made in a meeting with the leaders of Tehran's mosques, military representatives, and officials. Moslehi, in a conference about the post-election crisis, emphasised that meetings had been held in Britain before the 12 June Presidential vote to stir up trouble against the Ahmadinejad Government and the Islamic Republic.

Moslehi claimed that Rafsanjani and an unnamed leader of the Green movement had sent emissaries to these meetings. He also noted that Rafsanjani's son Mehdi Hashemi is now in Britain, where he has spent most of his time since June amidst allegations that he has been involved in illegal activity surrounding the election.

The specific naming of Rafsanjani, rather than a figure such as Mir Hossein Mousavi, indicates that the Government has specifically targeted him as a threat who must now be removed amidst the continuing protests and calls for "unity" to remedy post-election problems and injustices. The move is probably linked to Rafsanjani's recent speech in Mashhad, which we covered extensively on Enduring America two weeks ago.

1235 GMT: Defending Opposition Leaders. With the regime stepping up its verbal attacks on the opposition, two reformist members of Parliament, Mohamad Tabesh (the nephew of Mohammad Khatami) and Nasrullah Torabi, have defended the movement's top political figures. Torabi said that, if the regime tried Mousavi-Karroubi-Khatami on charges, they "should try the history of the Islamic Revolution", given the important role that the three men had played in that revolution since 1979.

1230 GMT: March Manoeuvres. With Mir Hossein Mousavi's petition, submitted with Mehdi Karroubi, for a march protesting the attacks on Imam Khomeini, likely to be rejected, his supporters have  a new approach this morning: a letter calling on the Green movement to join the already-authorised marches after Friday Prayers.

1125 GMT: A Renewed Threat of Arrests? EA correspondent Mr Azadi brings us a rush of stories and invites us to connect the dots:

1. Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi has launched a new attack on the family of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani. In a speech on the "intrigues" of those who wanted to undermine the Islamic Republic, Moslehi specifically mentioned the "children of Rafsanjani". The assault is now the lead story on the Islamic Republic News Agency website.

2. The previous IRNA lead story: Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, head of the Guardian Council, has called the opposition "un-Islamic" and opposed to Iran's Revolution and the ideals of Imam Khomeini.

3. Perhaps most ominously, the head of Iran's judiciary, Sadegh Larijani --- only days after meeting with President Ahmadinejad -- has said that his offices have "enough evidence" to bring opposition leaders to trial. He specifically indicated that Mehdi Karroubi may be prosecuted over false allegations of the rapes of post-election detainees, and he added that Mir Hossein Mousavi's statements of the last month are similar to those of the "terrorist" Mujahedin-e-Khalq in the early years of the Islamic Revolution.

0955 GMT: Sanctions Folly, Khatami Fun. We've got two new entries: a story from Gary Sick about a US simulation pointing out the weaknesses in American strategy on Iran and a Picture of the Day of Mohammad Khatami's cellphone.

We also have an update on the Time "Person of the Year" story.

0905 GMT: Lemming News. The BBC has joined the Iran missile story, although it at least puts in a caveat before getting panicky: "Correspondents say it is not the first time this missile has been tested, but it is likely to provoke condemnation from the West as a provocative act." (Al Jazeera English has the story, but without the tagline promoting how the "West" will respond.)

CNN is promising on Twitter, "More on", but the folks on their website don't seem to have gotten the message yet.

0755 GMT: The "We're Tough-You're Scary-Stop the Presses" Roadshow. And here's one that may keep the media diverted from other issues today. The Iranian military is declaring that it "has successfully tested an optimized version of the solid-fuel Sejjil-2 deterrent missile as part of its long-term plans to defend the country's borders". Look for "Western" media to seize on this as more evidence of Iran's offensive intentions, linking it to the nuclear issue.

(Well done, Sky News, for making my prediction come true within two minutes of posting: "The move is likely to increase tensions with the West over Tehran's nuclear ambitions." Two minutes, it's MSNBC from the US with "an announcement likely to add to tension with the West".)

0753 GMT: The Sanctions Cycle. Well, here's a surprise on all fronts: US House of Representatives, the lower house of Congress, passes bill for sanctions on foreign companies supplying gas and petroleum to Iran; Iranian official declares, "They cannot succeed...."

The question beyond the posturing is whether the Congress rams through the measures despite opposition from the US State Department, which fears that the bill in current form could alienate American allies.

0750 GMT: Mahmoud Gives Danish TV a Slap. Hundreds of miles away from the main action, President Ahmadinejad can strike a tough pose. In an interview with Danish television, Ahmadinejad, was asked, "Would you like a nuclear bomb?" He offered the response that nuclear bombs were a bad thing which brought the journalist's follow-up, "So you can say to me, the whole world and all viewers in Denmark and Europe that you will never have a nuclear bomb?"

Oops, that crossed a line. The President replied, "I gave a clear answer to your question. I would like you to be aware of who you are talking to."

0740 GMT: Karroubi Gives Yazdi a Slap. An interview I wish was available in English: Mehdi Karroubi spoke on Tuesday about Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, the Ahmadinejad ally and former head of judiciary who has been issuing threats of prosecution against opposition leaders and Hashemi Rafsanjani's family. Karroubi's message to Yazdi? Step down from your positions, do a bit of learning, and just get back to me.

0725 GMT: One success for the regime this morning: the key reformist website Mowjcamp has been hacked by the Iranian Cyber Army.

0715 GMT: The feeling yesterday was of chesspieces being moved once again. Mir Hossein Mousavi put out a statement of encouragement to the students while he and Mehdi Karroubi waited for an answer on their petition for a march to promote the defacing of the image of Imam Khomeini. Their supporters also highlighted the latest declaration of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri supporting protest and denouncing the oppression of the regime.

On the Government side, officials such as the Governor of Tehran made noises about security being out in force to prevent the opposition spoiling the month of Moharram and the days of Tasua and Ashura (26-27 December). The Supreme Leader devoted himself, in a meeting with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, to the "Israel is very, very bad" theme. Notably, however, President Ahmadinejad is again removed from the scene, attending the climate change summit at Copenhagen.

News of university protests was concentrated on two campuses, Tehran Azad (where state media was also playing up a pro-Government rally, for which we have still seen no visual evidence) and the science and technology institution Elm-o-Sanat, with reports and footage of a rally at Razi University in Kermanshah. But here was the new twist: students were demonstrating at Qom University. That's Qom, as in the heart of the Tehran clerical system and establishment.

The Latest from Iran (15 December): The Path to Moharram

MOHARRAM11955 GMT: Dealing with Insults. Tabnak reports that a special order has been has issued from high-level officials declared that anyone who insults the heads of the three branches of Government (Presidency, judiciary, legislature) and the head of Assembly of Experts "will be dealt with severely".

(Crazy question: since Hashemi Rafsanjani is the head of the Assembly of Experts, will Ahmadinejad allies like Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, who have implied Rafsanjani and his family have acted illegally, "be dealt with severely"?)

1909 GMT: Mir Hossein Mousavi's website Kalemeh has published his latest message to students.

1904 GMT: Montazeri on Responsible Protest. Grand Ayatollah Montazeri has declared that the regime "raises the 'overthrowing' charges so that they can repress people; possibly they send some individuals among the people to chant slogans in favour of overthrowing the system".

Montazeri continued, “If the authorities give permission for free and peaceful gatherings, they will witness that the majority of people do not want anything but to reinstate their denied rights and be compensated for them. They want the freedoms that have been clearly mentioned in the Constitution and, in general, the reform of the system.”

NEW Iran: A Beginner’s Guide to Moharram
NEW Latest Iran Video: The University Protests (15 December)
NEW Iran: US State Department Pushes for “Proper” Sanctions in 2010
NEW “Where is My Vote?” (Part 2): TIME Snubs Green Movement as “Person of the Year”
Latest Iran Video: And Your University Protests Today…. (14 December)
NEW Latest Iran Video: Challenging the Regime’s Forces on 16 Azar (7 December)
NEW Iran: Scott Lucas in La Stampa on “Khamenei’s Final Warning”

NEW Iran: “Arrests” and the Regime’s Sword of Damocles
The Latest from Iran (14 December): Taking Stock

1850 GMT: Tavakoli Moved to Solitary Under Eyes of Revolutionary Guard. A reliable Iranian activist reports that Majid Tavakoli, the student leader detained during the 16 Azar protests, has been brought to Revolutionary Court and then put in solitary confinement in Evin Prison's Ward 240, overseen by the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps.

1830 GMT: Ahh, Someone Noticed. Several hours after we mentioned the case of jailed Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, largely absent in the US media, the high-profile blog The Daily Dish summarises the claim of his lawyer that he was sentenced to 15 years on the basis of little, if any, evidence.

1715 GMT: Video has come in of a protest today at Razi University in Kermanshah.

1555 GMT: The Khaje Nasir University Demo. Reformist sites explain that today's protest (see video) was over the arrest of Kamran Aasa, whose brother of Kiyanoush Aasa was killed in the post-election conflict.

1545 GMT: Warnings and Protest Claims. On a pretty slow day, Morteza Tamedon, the Governor of Tehran Province, has grabbed a couple of headlines by declaring that security forces will be mobilised to deal with any demonstrations on the days of Tasua and Ashura (26-27 December). Tamedon also waved aside the request of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi for a permit for a march honouring the image of Imam Khomeini, since they could protest the recent "burning of Khomeini" in a statement.

The Islamic Republic News Agency has put out its interpretation of today's demonstrations at Tehran Azad University, with 700 students rallying for the Government and 100 opposition students gathering nearby. Hmm.... Might want to check that against the video.

1420 GMT: Radio Farda has a report on one of the student demonstrations/discussion at a packed seminar in Tehran.

1310 GMT: Guides and Videos. Mr Azadi has written an introduction to Moharram, the holy month that begins on Friday, and we have the first video from today's university protests.

1125 GMT: Conservative Bust-Up? Iranian state media is now reporting a story we heard yessterday from sources: Tehran's Chief Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi has filed a lawsuit against the websites of Jahan News and Alef News for "insulting" President Ahmadinejad.

Alef belongs to the prominent member of Parliament and relative of the Larijani brothers, Ahmad Tavakoli, who has been critical of Ahmadinejad on numerous occasions since June. Jahan is connected with MP Ali Reza Zakani and is often labelled as linked to "Iranian intelligence circles".

1000 GMT: We've posted a separate entry on the manoevures within the US Government on sanctions against Iran. The State Department is trying to get control of the process, being pushed by Congress, to ensure international support.

0935 GMT: The "Other" American Prisoner. A paradox: while "Western" media overheated yesterday over the passing comment from Iran's Foreign Minister that the three US hikers might be tried, none of them seems to notice the latest developments in the case of Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, sentenced this autumn to 15 years in prison. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has issued a statement that "the case against the Iranian-American social scientist Kian Tajbakhsh contains no evidence to support the allegations against him, according to...interviews with Masoud Shafie, Tajbakhsh’s lawyer".

0855 GMT: A "Sensible" Engagement? An interesting passage from today's editorial in The Guardian of London:

"It has become a cliche to say there are no good options about Iran. This does not mean that Washington is doomed to choose the worst option – barring military assault – each time negotiations fail. Giving diplomacy no more than three months to work, as opposed to sanctions on Iran which lasted for more than 20 years, may have been a mistake. So too was limiting the talks to the enrichment process alone. There are many other fronts on which Iran should be engaged."

0600 GMT: The Counter-Attack of Engagement. For days, the Iran news from the US Congress has been of a push towards stricter sanctions, with a bill proposing measures against the gas and oil industries as well as other financial penalties. A group of Congressmen offered an alternative yesterday with the introduction of two proposals.

The Stand with the Iranian People Act would pursue "targeted" measures against companies providing the Iranian regime with software and technology for Internet censorship and surveillance, cutting off their US Government contracts, and impose travel restrictions on "human rights abusers" within the Iranian Government. At the same time, the measure would "enable US non-governmental Organizations to work directly with the Iranian people".

The Iranian Digital Empowerment Act would remove restrictions on companies and private citizens in the US who wish to send software to the people of Iran, including communication and anti-censorship tools, by clarifying that sanctions do not apply.

0530 GMT: After a week of activity and rumour, there was a relative calm yesterday. The regime did launch a few attacks on its foes, with Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi's attack on Hashemi Rafsanjani and the Supreme Leader's representative to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps speaking darkly of the "hypocrites" (who just happen to be the Khomeini family) running the Imam Khomeini Archives. President Ahmadinejad, after almost a week's silence on the internal crisis, offered a few words about the offensive act against the Imam, then apparently returned to his battle with Parliament to get passage of economic legislation. The sense was that the Government was either planning its next manoeuvre or scrambling about, trying to figure out where to go after the "burning of Khomeini" episode.

Meanwhile, University students made clear, in quadrangles and in classrooms, that they are not going to ease the protests before Moharram begins on Friday. Mir Hossein Mousavi set down the lines for the upcoming challenge --- demonstrate peacefully and lawfully while making clear that it is the regime that has committed injustices and denied rights --- as he and Mehdi Karroubi emerged after a meeting to announce they would request a permit for a march, protesting the insult to Imam Khomeini, from the Ministry of Interior. Former President Mohammad Khatami also chipped in with a general statement of support for protest.


The Latest from Iran (14 December): Taking Stock

IRAN GREEN1745 GMT: Swinging Wildly. A couple of punches from regime supporters this afternoon. The Supreme Leader's representative to the Revolutionary Guard, told Presidential staff that the Khomeini Archive, run by the late Imam's family, is "a base for monafeghin (hypocrites)". The term "monafeghin" is commonly used to refer to the Mujahedin-e-Khalq, the group which has tried to overthrow the Islamic Republic since 1979, often through violence.

And Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi took aim at Hashemi Rafsanjani. Yazdi claimed that, when he was head of Iran's judiciary, Rafsanjani asked him to cover up a criminal case against the former President's daughter, Faezeh Hashemi. Yazdi also questioned the intellectual credentials of Mir Hossein Mousavi.

1604 GMT: Confirming the Sentence. We had learned days ago that economist and journalist Saeed Laylaz had been sentenced to nine years in prison. The break-down of the sentence has been released: five years for acts against national security by holding meetings with foreign embassy officials, one year for participating in the protest march of 15 June; two years (and 74 lashes) for insulting officials, one year for propagandizing against the Establishment in his economic analyses over the last eight years.

1558 GMT: Pushing the Issue. For the first time in months, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have requested a permit for a march from the Ministry of Interior.

NEW Latest Iran Video: And Your University Protests Today…. (14 December)
NEW Latest Iran Video: Challenging the Regime’s Forces on 16 Azar (7 December)
NEW Iran: Scott Lucas in La Stampa on “Khamenei’s Final Warning”

NEW Iran: “Arrests” and the Regime’s Sword of Damocles
Iran Analysis: Sifting the Propaganda – Government About to Arrest Opposition Leaders?
Latest Videos from Iran’s Universities (13 December)

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

1555 GMT: Sanctions? Oops! "A senior official says that a meeting by five world powers on Iran's nuclear program has been canceled due to China's opposition.

The U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany had planned to meet Friday. The official from one of the five world powers demanded anonymity Monday because his information was confidential.

The meeting was to be in Brussels or on the sidelines of the Copenhagen summit." (hat-tip to EA reader)

1510 GMT: Josh Shahryar's latest Green Brief, covering Sunday's events, is now out, covering protests at up to nine Iranian universities, the threat of arrests, and the Supreme Leader's speech, amongst other events.

1500 GMT: There's Mahmoud! The President has met our concerns about his absence (0905 and 0725 GMT) from the domestic crisis with this comment, "The enemies of the Iranian nation are now frustrated and want to take revenge through insulting the country's sanctities....The enemies should fear the typhoon of the Iranian people's anger." Ahmadinejad accused the opposition of being "against the nation" and "agents of foreigners".

1215 GMT: Your New Top Story (if You're Not in Iran). Looks like the "Western" media will surge this morning with a single sentence from Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki at a news conference, passed on by the Associated Press via The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times: the three US hikers detained this summer in Iran had "suspicious aims" and will go on trial. CBS News is now headlining, and CNN now "confirms" (cracking journalism since the press conference was hours ago).

1050 GMT: The Regime's Scramble. A reader reminds us that the Peyke Iran "exclusive" (0915 GMT), on the Armed Forces self-confessed failing to contain the opposition, is from a memorandum from September after the Qods Days protests. The question that prompts is whether, again in light of our analysis this morning, the Armed Forces would revise that assessment three months later.

1040 GMT: The Regime Persists. I guess the Government can't just step away from its "burning Khomeini" game, despite all the complications it has caused. Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi has claimed that several people have been arrested over the incident.

1030 GMT: Don't Give Them an Excuse. Mir Hossein Mousavi has moved to pre-empt any regime pretext for a crackdown, such as the alleging burning of Khomeini's image, as well as to contain any notion of a "radical" opposition: "From now on all protests and demands should be pursued peacefully and lawfully. Nobody among us should make a pretext for those who are against people."

Mousavi then renewed the "peaceful" challenge:

People have a right to question, they should not be confronted violently....If people's questions were answered and they were not confronted violently we would not see some controversial moves today. People want an end of the security-obsessed atmosphere as in such an atmosphere radicalism grows.

0915 GMT: Analysis Confirmed, Regime Scrambling To Contain Opposition? An EA reader, commenting on our morning analysis about the weekend's threat of arrests, points out a Peyke Iran story: the article claims to have an admission from Iran's Armed Forces that it has failed to contain the Green Movement.

The report from the General Staff allegedly evaluates that the Green Movement has not been fostered by foreign intervention and that it is not following a specific political agenda but is a social and cultural movement. The officers say that, despite isolating the movement's leaders (Mousavi, Karroubi, and Khatami), the opposition has persisted. Efforts to out-number and overwhelm the demonstrators through counter-protests of Government workers have been hindered by the apathy of the workers or, in some cases, their refusal to heed the call.

An interesting note: the General Staff evaluates that women have been the chief instigators of the protests.

0905 GMT: The Regime Keeps On Spinning. Press TV puts out a boiler-plate story under a dramatic headline, "Figures slam sacrilege of Imam Khomeini portrait". We reported almost all of the comments in yesterday's updates but there is one interesting addition today, in light of our question (0725 GMT), "Where's Mahmoud?".  "Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on Tuesday described the incident as an 'objectionable' move 'that he wished he had never witnessed'."

Hmm, that's six days ago, which is about six years on the calendar of Iranian political developments --- what's Mahmoud been doing since then?

0725 GMT: After a weekend of tension which did not culminate in 1) high-profile arrests or 2) a resolution of the mysterious letter/audio purportedly from Iranian army units ready to "stand with the people" if violence continues but did point to the persistence of protest on university campuses, it is a morning to pause and assess. We have a special analysis on the meaning of the regime's threat, capped by the Supreme Leader's speech yesterday, to vanquish the opposition once and for all.

There's also an important related issue for us to consider before an analysis tomorrow: Where's Mahmoud? It's notable that, in all the public manoeuvres of the last few days, President Ahmadinejad has been off to the side, meeting foreign delegations and waving his fist on the nuclear issue but saying little about the internal situation. Is he being politically sensible in standing back from the front line or has he been put to the side by others, i.e., the Supreme Leader, returning to the shadows that he occupied in the early weeks of this crisis?

Much of this is beyond the "Western" media. The New York Times, for example, has a good article by Michael Slackman this morning on the "burning" of the image of Imam Khomenei. Unfortunately, it's a piece already overtaken by events --- Slackman never notes the threat of arrests of opposition leaders and thus the wider significance of Ayatollah Khamenei's Sunday address.

CNN is just catching up with the "We Are All Majids/All in Hejab" protest over the detention of Majid Tavakoli.  The Times of London, meanwhile, is going off on one of its regular sensational strolls in the nuclear woods, claiming from mysterious (and unnamed) sources and buttressing the claim with Israeli comment, "Secret document exposes Iran’s nuclear trigger".