Iran Election Guide

Donate to EAWV

Or, click to learn more


Entries in CNN (8)


Iran: How Significant Was the Regime's Rally?

IRAN FLAGEA correspondent Josh Shahryar offers these thoughts, which are also posted on his personal blog:

Today, pro-government Iranians took to streets in Tehran and possibly other cities in a show of support for the Ahmadinejad government and for Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. A report by CNN spoke of hundreds of thousands of people in Tehran alone and perhaps thousands more in “Tabriz, Shiraz, Arak, Gilan and Sistan-Baluchestan province.”

Iran: The Regime’s Misfired “Big Shot” at Legitimacy
Iran: The Uncertainties of Oppression and Protest
The Latest from Iran (31 December): Is That All There Is?

According to CNN, protesters chanted slogans against Mir Hossein Mousavi, America, Britain, France, Israel and the Green Movement’s protests on Sunday (Ashura). However, the CNN report while accurate in most respects, failed to mention key facts about the protests, facts that would show their true nature.

For starters, the CNN report and some other media account do not mention that dozens of buses chartered by the Iranian government ran non-stop from villages and suburbs around Tehran and other cities, bringing in government supporters in hordes to the protest venues. The buses began their operation the day before, ensuring the protest looked large enough.

These protesters were then later dispatched to their homes outside Tehran and other cities by the same buses. So what seemed like tens of thousands of Tehranis was in reality a mix of Tehranis and non-Tehranis brought in specifically for the purpose of fooling the world into believing that Tehran and other cities fully support [Supreme Leader] Khamenei and [President] Ahmadinejad.

And while government-run media claimed millions and CNN claimed hundreds of thousands and that Tehran was ‘packed’ with protesters, independent analyses show that the protest in Tehran was composed of no more than 20,000 people. (a larger copy of image below)
Secondly, the reports fail to mention that the protesters were offered free refreshments at the expense of the government to keep them there and to boost their morale. Their banners, slogans, and even the declaration they released denouncing the opposition were written, prepared and handed over to them by the government. Protesters received all their material needs from the government from the minute they boarded the buses to the minute they got back home.

Even so, the enthusiasm that Green Movement supporters show when they are out protesting was non-existent during this protest. People had simply brought their whole families out for a day out on the streets after being prepped up by the government to counter the popular movement that is shaking the core of the Islamic Republic.

And even the government’s own media announced that there were no protests in some of the other large cities. Mashhad, the second largest city, saw almost no response. Neither did Isfahan, the third largest city. And there was no independent confirmation of protests from the cities that the government-run media reported.

Finally, there was no riot police, Basij or IRGC members out with batons, cables, pepper spray, tear ga,s and bullets to disperse the people or stop them from chanting and gathering. Compare this to the millions of people who marched onto streets in June or the hundreds of thousands that marched on Sunday in the face of brutal repression and a government ban on their protests, and you will clearly see the desperate attempts by the Iranian government to make the world believe it has significant support among the populace.

If the government lifts bans on opposition protests, does not cut off telecommunication systems to disrupt planning, does not arrests hundreds and kill dozens, then we’ll see millions out on Iran’s streets every day.

The truth is, if the government did have support among the people, the crowds on Ashura would have been split between the Green Movement and the supporters of the Islamic Republic. On that day, it was an overwhelming show of support for reform and a clear rejection of the Islamic Republic. Plain and simple. The ‘Tehranis’ the government showed the world today were huddled up in small pockets on that day or sitting at home in their villages, watching government propaganda on TV.

Protests like today’s may make the government feel a bit less insecure about its prospects of survival, but it is in no way going to change the resolve of the Iranian people or the perception of the government’s brutality and weakness in the minds of foreigners.


The Latest from Iran (30 December): Rallies and Rumours

IRAN GREEN2205 GMT: The Iranian regime, as it blames foreign media for fomenting unrest, continues the attempt to block the services. Voice of America and BBC Persian report sustained jamming efforts.

2055 GMT: The Hidden Story? An Iranian activist makes the interesting and important claim that the rumours around Mousavi and Karroubi have obscured a major story tonight --- "500 thugs attacked students with knives and machetes" at Mashhad University. We've got footage of the clash in our video section.

2050 GMT: Nothing has happened to change our opinion of 1915 GMT. We are treating Iranian state media's story of "two opposition figures" fleeing to northern Iran as rumour or disinformation.

2020 GMT: Reuters is carrying the opposition's denial of IRNA's story:
Hossein Karoubi, the son of moderate defeated presidential candidate Mehdi Karoubi, said his father and opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi were still in Tehran.

"My father and Mr. Mousavi are in Tehran and IRNA's report is baseless. They are still pursuing the people's demands," Hossein Karoubi told moderate Parlemannews.

2005 GMT: Andrew Sullivan has gotten wind of what appears to be a five minute video of a group of security forces disarming after being surrounded by a crowd of demonstrators. We've added it to today's video page.

1915 GMT: Rumours. We're off on a 90-minute break. At this point, we consider the Islamic Republic News Agency story of the Karroubi/Mousavi flight to northern Iran "unconfirmed", with the possibility that it is either a rumour being elevated to "news" or a regime disinformation campaign.

Both the Karroubi and Mousavi camps have denied the story. It should also be noted that the rumour was being spread earlier today that Mousavi's wife Zahra Rahnavard had been detained, and no confirmation has followed.

BBC Persian is interviewing one of Karroubi's sons about 1930 GMT.

1910 GMT: We've posted footage of demonstrations today at Shahryar Qods Azad and Mashhad Universities.

1905 GMT: The Regime Rally (cont.). Peyke Iran, which has published photos indicating a smaller rally than the "hundreds of thousands" cited by other outlets (see 1853 GMT), is now off-line. (1926 GMT: Website is back up.)

1853 GMT: The Regime Rally. CNN's Shirzad Bozorgmehr claims "hundreds of thousands" at today's gathering. He said that at Vali-e Asr Square, he could not get further because of the dense crowd. From a bridge, he watched an area from Imam Hossein Square to Enghelab Square, a distance of about 18 kilometres (11 miles).

NEW Latest Iran Video: University Protests (30 December)
NEW Iran: The Uncertainties of Oppression and Protest
NEW Latest Iran Video: The Strength of the Regime? (29 December)
Latest Iran Video: Today’s University Protest (29 December)
Iran: A List of the Ashura Detainees
Iran: The Regime’s Fightback?
The Latest on Iran (29 December): A Desperate Swing of the Fist

1850 GMT: Mousavi Denial? It looks like Mousavi camp is also denying the IRNA story of "flight" to northern Iran, informing American ABC News that Mousavi is still in Tehran.

1840 GMT: Karroubi Denial of "Fleeing". Mehdi Karroubi's son Hossein has denounced reports that his father and Mir Hossein Mousavi "rumours" spread by Iranian state media. Hossein Karroubi says his father is still in Tehran "working for the people".

1820 GMT: Meanwhile, Some Rhetoric. Speaking to the Islamic Association of Students in Europe, the Supreme Leader said the Western condemnation of the recent events in Iran had been prompted by the influence of "Zionist media".

1815 GMT: IRNA on Mousavi and Karroubi? The Islamic Republic News Agency's account says two "riot leaders fled from Tehran" to Mazandaran amidst "demands for their punishment".

1810 GMT: Mousavi and Karroubi in "Protective Custody"? Returned from a break to find Rah-e-Sabz is checking an Islamic Republic News Agency that Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have been taken to a small town, Kalar Abad, in Mazandaran in northern Iran "for their protection" under the watch of Ministry of Intelligence and Revolutionary Guard forces. Rah-e-Sabz cautions that this might be a falsehood.

We are urgently checking the news.

1410 GMT: The office of reformist member of Parliament Nasrullah Torabi has been set on fire.

1403 GMT: The "Millions" and Ahmadinejad. Press TV is pushing the line that "millions" turned out today to demonstrate for the regime and against the Ashura "rioters", showing claimed footage from Shiraz, Tabriz, Gilan, Arak, and Sistan-Baluchestan as well as Tehran. Press TV is backing this up with coverage of the Maryam Rajavi statement (see 1000 GMT) as proof of MKO "terrorist" involvement.

The station also briefly features President Ahmadinejad's statement, issued after a Cabinet meeting, that "efforts to destabilise Iran would not affect the nation".  and that the US and Western leaders should learn from their past mistakes.

1335 GMT: Rahnavard Arrested? Meanwhile, we're watching closely the rumour, which began circulating about an hour ago, that the wife of Mir Hossein Mousavi, Zahra Rahnavard, has been detained.

1308 GMT: That's pretty much it, as Press TV goes back to the studio for the anchorwoman and "analyst" (journalist Nader Mokhtari) to repeat the standard line of "masses" of "religious" Iranian people standing against a foreign-stimulated opposition.

However, mark this exchange: Mokhtari and the anchorwoman are at great pains to say "this isn't a pro-Ahmadinejad rally....this has absolutely nothing to do with the President of Iran". is not over the issue of legitimacy of President Ahmadinejad but "an outpouring of grief" and "the support of the establishment". Could this be a distancing of the defence of the regime from a defence of the President?

1258 GMT: Now the emphasis is on the "greatness" and "magnanimity" of the regime based on "religious jurisprudence", with the Iranian people as a model for all Muslims. However, "we should not remain passive" any longer and "we should take the initiative" against those plotting conspiracies.

1255 GMT: And Now the Warning. Ayatollah Alamalhoda says that a deadline should be set for repentance. If protesters do not repent, they should be treated as "mohareb" (enemies of God), with the attendant punishment.

1250 GMT: Heavy criticism of those responsible for "fighting" on Ashura: "the Leader of the Islamic Revolution invited the rioters to return to the right path".

1243 GMT: Speeches have begun with tagline, "We have to accept rule of current religious jurisprudence." Quickly, the theme is that the United States is pushing the "party of Satan" protesting against the Iranian regime.

The speaker is Ayatollah Alamalhoda, the Friday Prayer leader of Mashhad.

1236 GMT: A wider shot around the Press TV correspondent ("Iranian nation" against the "disrespect" of Ashura, 16 Azar, etc.) establishes that there are thousands in Enghelab Square.

1230 GMT: Etc., etc. Nothing new to report from the rally. You can just put our comments from 1147 to 1208 GMT, like the Press TV coverage, on a loop and replay....

....Adding this: "a red line has been crossed", according to the anchorwomen, with the opposition's demonstrations and disrespect on Ashura.

1208 GMT: Press TV's correspondent finally shows up on camera in a fairly tight shot, surrounded by a few dozen protesters. That doesn't stop her from claiming "millions" have turned out. Ominously, she emphasises the line that demonstrators are demanding the "punishment" of opposition leaders like Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi.

1206 GMT: Ahh, Those Two Locations. It is now clear --- for those who have recorded this historic moment, follow a large black flag being fluttered --- that Press TV is claiming "two locations" for two shots from different angles of the rally in Enghelab Square.

1205 GMT: Press TV keeps trying to go to a correspondent, but she is still failing to show up "because the crowd is so loud" that she cannot find a location for the interview with studio.

1157 GMT: A Glitch in the Line? The Press TV anchorman rambles on and says, against a split-screen purportedly showing the rallies, that shots are of protests in "two different locations" in Tehran. However, he never names those locations.

Otherwise, this is the narrative: "MKO-Foreign Governments inciting violence, particuarly Foreign Minister David Miliband of the UK-Also President Obama-MKO-Foreign Interference".

1147 GMT: Press TV has now cut into programming to show live shots from Tehran. Initial close-range shots of the crowd give way to a long shot which (sorry to be uncertain) may or may not be of today. The anchorman's description is boiler-plate claim of continuing pro-regime demonstrations, with emphasis on rallies on Tuesday as well, against the "vandalism" of the opposition and "its violation of one of the most sacred events on the Muslim calendar".

An addition to the party line, however, is the focus on "MKO terrorists" declaring their role in the Ashura "riots" (see 1000 GMT).

1145 GMT: The Ritual Warning. Iran's police chief Esmail Ahmadi-Moghaddam has repeated the party line, including the hint of the death penalty, with the declaration, "There is no more room for tolerance over participants in illegal rallies....Those who participate in illegal rallies will be confronted more harshly and the judiciary will confront them more decisively."

Ahmadi-Moghaddam added, "Some of the protesters on Sunday are considered as mohareb (enemy of God) and will be confronted firmly." Capital punishment can be imposed on "mohareb".

1140 GMT: We're watching for first references to the pro-regime protest called for 3 p.m. local time (1130 GMT) in Tehran. So far Press TV English has not cut into its programming to provide an update.

1040 GMT: Death Penalty for Protest? German media are highlighting a statement by the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mohammad Reza Bahonar, that the legal structure will be put in place within 24 hours for capital punishment against leaders of demonstrations.

1025 GMT: "The Velvet Revolution" Moves From CNN to IRNA. The Islamic Republic News Agency is also highlighting an interview with US-based academic Kaveh Afrasiabi on CNN as confirmation of foreign intervention against the regime. Afrasiabi told CNN, "We have seen tremendous evidence of meddling, by the UK Government in particular, during and after the Presidential election, and there is no doubt in my mind...that the British Government is determined to see regime change in Iran.

1020 GMT: The Regime Stays Negative. As we ventured in our analysis this morning, the Iranian Government appears to have put aside any attempt at a "positive" campaign to mobilise support in favour of bashing the opposition. The Islamic Republic News Agency is dominated by stories vowing punishment of protesters: Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi has taken prime position for the moment with his declaration that the Iran's judiciary will "deal decisively" with the "anti-revolutionary" movement.

Moslehi also maintained the line that "foreign elements" were responsible for "assassinations" on Ashura.

1000 GMT: The Regime's Unexpected Helper? Press TV has jumped on an interview by Maryam Rajavi, the head of the National Council of Resistance in Iran, to headline, "The Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO) has acknowledged that it played a role in Sunday's violent anti-government protests in Iran."

The NCRI is the political wing of MKO, which has carried out a violent campaign since 1979 to overthrow the Iranian Government. According to Press TV, Rajavi told Agence France Press that her organisation's followers "cooperated with the demonstrators and coordinated the protests". She supposedly said, "[The protests are] a call for solidarity among all those who reject the rule of the Supreme Leader, the velayat e-faqih....What we call the 'Green movement' against the electoral fraud quickly disappeared to be replaced by a deeper movement whose goal is the total overthrow of the regime."

0915 GMT: How Big Were the Pro-Government Protests? An interesting discussion amongst EA readers overnight of footage from the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, supposedly showing thousands of people chanting against "rioters" and for the regime. Authenticity is far from certain --- note the debate in comments below over the trees blurred in the video --- and I am still looking for confirmation in the Iranian press.

Meanwhile, pictures of a rally by Iranian members of Parliament on Tuesday show few demonstrators beyond the MPs.

0845 GMT: We've now posted video claiming to be of the attack on Ayatollah Dastgheib's offices (see 0830 GMT) in Shiraz.

0835 GMT: Uncertainty and Rumour. Testifying to our theme today, a prominent Iranian activist, Mehdi Saharkhiz, has posted an account of a supposed meeting between the Supreme Leader and Hashemi Rafsanjani, discussing the situation after Ashura.

0830 GMT: The Regime v. The Clerics. Radio Farda has more on the story, which we noted yesterday, of attacks on the offices of Ayatollah Sane'i and Ayatollah Dastghaib in Mashhad and Shiraz.

0815 GMT: In our special analysis this morning, we began from Iran's settling into "tensions of uncertainty" after the Ashura demonstrations and the regime's fightback with widespread arrests.

The uncertainty is evident this morning in news that the nephew of Mir Hossein Mousavi, Seyed Ali Mousavi, is buried in Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery, reportedly after only the Government gave only a few hours' notice that the body should now be laid to rest. No prizes for guessing why, as the regime tries to limit any post-Ashura rallies --- Seyed Ali Mousavi was killed in Sunday's demonstrations.

Or, to be precise, post-Ashura rallies of the opposition. The regime's other gambit today is the call for a mass pro-Government demonstration in Tehran. The uncertainty, even with reports that "thousands" gathered on Monday and Tuesday to condemn the "rioters" of Ashura, is whether this demonstration will be a substantive indication of widespread support, especially for President Ahmadinejad.

And then there are the uncertainties that go beyond today's events. Consider, for example, how a rumour without any clear evidence is now "news". The Twitter chatter on Sunday was that a jet, with an escort of military fighters, was ready at Mehrabad Airport for the Supreme Leader to fly to Russia. Yesterday, that chatter, backed up by a mysterious fax, turned into "news" on Radio Netherlands, and today it is worthy of publication in The Huffington Post.


The Latest From Iran (21 December): The Montazeri Funeral

MONTAZERI FUNERAL42140 GMT: Sharing a Laugh. At the end of an emotional day, it's good to relax with a bit of a laugh. So, over to you, pro-regime Kayhan newspaper: there were "a maximum of about 5000" in the crowd at the Montazeri ceremonies, as reformists "completely failed to create "a popular gathering".

Oh, you pranksters....

1925 GMT: Arrest of the Activists. Shiva Nazar Ahari and Kouhyar Goodarzi, arrested yesterday as they travelled to Qom, are still detained. Mahboubeh Abbas Gholizadeh was released earlier today.

A video of Gholizadeh's interview of Nazar Ahari, carried out just before her arrest, has been posted in two parts.

1910 GMT: We continue to add the best of today's videos as we come across them (Set 1 and Set 2). The latest discovery? A lengthy clip of Mehdi Karroubi at the ceremonies.

1850 GMT: Clashes and Occupation (2). Rah-e-Sabz publishes the story we have been hearing for a few hours: The car of Mir Hossein Mousavi was attacked, allegedly by plainclothes forces, as it returned to Tehran from Qom, breaking the rear windscreen. A passenger was injured; Mousavi was unhurt. One of the attackers also suffered minor injuries.

NEW Latest Iran Video: Mourning Montazeri (21 December — 2nd Set)
NEW Latest Iran Video: Mourning Montazeri (21 December — 1st Set)
NEW Iran & The Nuclear Talks: The View from Tehran
NEW Iran Video & Text: Montazeri’s Son Saeed On His Father’s Views, Last Words
Iran Document: Karroubi Responds to Threat of Arrest
Latest Iran Video: Montazeri’s Criticism of Supreme Leader Khamenei (1997; redistributed October 2009)
Latest Iran Video: Demonstrations in Memory of Montazeri (20 December)
Iran Special LiveBlog: Ayatollah Montazeri Has Died
The Latest from Iran (20 December): Montazeri Death; Regime Scrambles for Legitimacy

1830 GMT: Clashes and Occupation (1). Back from a short break to find that Ahmad Montazeri, the son of the late Grand Ayatollah, has said "several people" were injured in clashes with security forces. Some of those forces are still "occupying" the Imam Hassan Mosque where services took place this morning.

1630 GMT: And Now the Lighter Side of the News. Beyond the significant events surrounding the funeral of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, this revelation of the words of President Ahmadinejad's aide Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai in Copenhagen last week:

Iran is a creditor for the international community and the whole of the world is indebted to it. Because Iran is the most important of the founders of human society and urbanism. "We are a rich and resourceful country but our resources are not oil and gas, it is the Iranian culture. Today, because of a smart, witty and courageous son, Mr. Ahmadinejad, deceiving it [Iran] has become impossible.

Ahmadinejad is the manifestation of a well-informed, wise and passionate Iranian who has stood in front of international politics so that everyone understands that the path of Iran's development cannot be abandoned.

1600 GMT: We've started a second set of videos of today's events.

1555 GMT:Khordaad 88 has posted the video and English transcript of one of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri's last interviews, which was with Radio Zamaaneh on the subject of his 1989 split with Ayatollah Khomeini.

1520 GMT: Mardomak is reporting that the Montazeri family has cancelled the funeral reception because of conditions similar to "martial law" around their home.

1515 GMT: Back after a break --- thanks to Tricia Sutherland for minding the EA shop.

1325 GMT: Activists report that demonstrations and vigils in Tehran tonight for 8-10 p.m. local time (1630-1830 GMT) at  Vanak Square, Vali-e Asr, 7 Tir, Mohseni, Azadi, and Enghelab.

1314 GMT: BBC Persian television is continuing to broadcast into Iran despite attempts by the regime to jam its signal.

1300 GMT: Among new videos from Qom and elsewhere in Tehran are chants  "We will fight, we will never die, we will not accept oppression", "Dictator, shame on you, leave your monarchy", and "Dictator, dictator, Montezari is alive".

1243 GMT: Online new service reports that Qom police protected mourners and demonstrators from basijis and plain-clothed security forces, who destroyed Montezari banners.

1125 GMT: A Pause. We're taking a break for a bit to catch our breath. Please keep sending in information of anything we have missed and check out our videos and analysis.

1110 GMT: Mediawatch. The top story on the BBC website's is "Clashes reported at funeral of Iranian dissident cleric". In contrast, CNN has not updated its article to mention today's funeral, let alone consider its significance.

1100 GMT: Among the chants on videos from Qom: "Those who cheated tore up the photos [of Ayatollah Khomeini]"; "Political prisoners must be freed".

1010 GMT: Andisheh-ye No (New Thought), one of five papers warned this weekend for not paying due attention to "large" pro-Government rallies on Friday has been banned from publishing.

1005 GMT: Iran Mediawatch. It looks like Mehr News has defied the Government command to ignore the crowds for Montazeri. It has photos of the gathering and of prominent figures paying condolences. It may be a sign of demand for confirmation of events or, alternatively, Internet restrictions in Iran that Mehr's website appears to be overloaded.

0940 GMT: Images of Mourning. Photos have been posted of Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi paying their respects inside the Montazeri house. We have also posted the first videos of mass demonstrations in Qom and Najafabad.

0910 GMT: Press TV just posted a short report on the funeral of "leading clerical figure Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri". It mentions the Supreme Leader's condolences, omitting the criticisms of Montazeri.

There is no mention, however, of the crowds in Qom.

0905 GMT: The View from the Other Site --- Montazeri & "Terrorists". One of the few remarks from an Iran-based commentator in non-Iranian media is in Al Jazeera English's coverage. It comes from Tehran University academic Seyed Mohammad Marandi:
[Montazeri said] the same thing for around 25 years....After his inner circle was discovered to be linked to Mujahidin terrorists based in Iraq, he was isolated by the reformists....He is not a major player and has always been very critical.

0855 GMT: Iranian Mediawatch. Press TV's website has nothing on the funeral (now see 910 GMT). The Iranian Labor News Agency's English site has a short item that "thousands of mourners converged" on Qom and that Mir Hossein Mousavi attended. ILNA also uses the title "Ayatollah" for Montazeri, who was "one of the leaders of the 1979 Iranian Revolution along with the founder of the Islamic Republic Imam Khomeini".

ILNA also emphasises, via the word of Montazeri's doctor, that the cleric died of natural causes.

0850 GMT: New Entries. We have posted the video and translation of an interview given by Grand Ayatollah Montazeri's son Saeed yesterday on his father's last words and views: "I think one of the main reasons [for his death] was his grief for the post-election events which troubled my father a lot."

And, on another front, we have posted a view from Tehran of the current Iranian position in the nuclear talks with the "West" and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

0840 GMT: Mir Hossein Mousavi's Kalemeh, in a long report on the funeral, confirms that both Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi were in the procession.

0810 GMT: Montazeri's son has asked the crowd to quiet their chants, but the protests continue.

0805 GMT: Mediawatch. The Montazeri ceremonies/protests are now the lead item on the BBC, with Jon Leyne providing an excellent summary both of today's gathering and of attempted Government restrictions. Leyne says that Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi were in the funeral procession, a claim that we have been unable to confirm.

0735 GMT: With security forces apparently trying to move people from the Shrine, crowds are moving about Qom, with many reportedly headed toward Montazeri's house.

0730 GMT: The doors of the Masoumeh Shrine have been closed because of the size of the crowd.

0720 GMT: Numerous reports of the crowd's mourning turning into a protest with chants against the Government and even the Supreme Leader.

0657 GMT: It appears the ceremony proceeded more quickly than we first reported (0615 GMT). Reports now that Montazeri has been buried in the Massoumeh Shrine.

0650 GMT: The article in Time from Robin Wright, one of the best US-based journalists on Iran, is to the point: "Iran's Opposition Loses a Mentor But Gains a Martyr".

0643 GMT: Josh Shahryar has posted a tribute, "Good Bye Montazeri, You Will Be Missed": "The struggle for freedom, human rights and justice will continue. If we’ve learned anything in the past six months it is that the Iranian people’s desire for change will not die with the death of an individual – no matter how important that individual may be."

0640 GMT: Ayatollah Shobeiri-Zanjani is now leading prayers.

0630 GMT: A LiveBlog from Qom is claiming "hundreds of thousands" are now in the streets. Reported chant: "Montazeri is not dead; the Government is dead."

0615 GMT (0945 Tehran & Qom): The mourning ceremonies for Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri began about 30 minutes ago in Qom, with his body being taken from his house to the Imam Hassan mosque. In about 45 minutes, the procession will move from the mosque to the Masoumeh Shrine. There are reports, despite Government efforts to limit or prevent attendance, tens of thousands have lined the route.

As well as the reported orders from the regime to Iranian newspapers to prohibit his photograph on front pages, to ignore Montazeri's political significance and emphasise the 1989 incident that led to his dismissal as Ayatollah Khomeini's successor, the Government is jamming BBC Persian.

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 (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".