Iran Election Guide

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Entries in Imam Hossain (1)


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

MOHARRAM22145 GMT: Mowj-e-Sabz Suspends Publication. The editors and reporters of the Green Movement website Mowj-e-Sabz/Mowjcamp, a key source of information in the post-election crisis, have announced tonight that they are suspending the posting of articles.

The authors declare that this is the "end of a wave but the beginning of a path", as they "leave the arena temporarily to other Green [activists]". The announcement points to 22 Bahman (11 February), the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, as a key date for mobilisation.

Overall impression? The Mowj-e-Sabz activists, having been under constant regime pressure and having had their domain "seized" by hackers (the announcement claims they were Russians hired by the regime) this week, are taking a step back and drawing breath. The impression is of an opposition movement preparing to move more slowly but consistently in a long-haul battle.

2130 GMT: Paying Respects. Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, have visited former Vice President and recently-released detainee Mohammad Ali Abtahi in his home.

2125 GMT: More than 900 Sharif University students have signed an open letter protesting the arrest of protesters on 16 Azar (7 December).

1920 GMT: Propaganda of the Day (2). Israeli officials are putting out the story that President Obama, on his trip to Beijing in November, "warned his Chinese counterpart that the United States would not be able to keep Israel from attacking Iranian nuclear installations for much longer". This "part of the U.S. attempt to convince the Chinese to support strict sanctions on Tehran" matches up with leaks to the US media from a faction (probably including Dennis Ross of the National Security Council) in the Obama Administration --- which we noted --- that Israel would send the missiles into Iran if nothing was done about Tehran's nuclear program.

NEW Iran Analysis: The Regime’s Sword Wavers
NEW Latest Iran Video: Interview of the “Basij Member” on the Election and Abuses (16 December)
NEW Iran & The Arrest of Majid Tavakoli: “To Men Who Are Not Ashamed of Being a Woman” (Shirin Ebadi)
NEW Latest Iran Video: The Larijani Threat to Arrest Green Leaders (16 December)
Iran Document: The Rafsanjani Speech in Mashhad (6 December)
Iran: Why the US Sanctions Game on Tehran is All Wrong
Iran Picture of the Day: Mohammad Khatami’s Cellphone
Iran: A Beginner’s Guide to Moharram
The Latest on Iran (16 December): What’s Next?

The bigger story, however, lies beyond the spin. The Israeli officials added that the effect on Beijing was short-lived: "the Americans now understand that the Chinese agreed to join the condemnation announcement [at the International Atomic Energy Agency] only because Obama made a personal request to [Chinese leader Hu Jintao], not as part of a policy change". They noted that China has "refused a Saudi-American initiative designed to end Chinese dependence on Iranian oil".

If true, that means --- for all the bluster of the pro-sanctions crowd in Washington in conjunction with the Israelis --- any notion of economic punishment including the Chinese is a fantasy.

1900 GMT: Propaganda of the Day (1): On his "Go-Away-and-Play-While-The-Adults-Deal-with-the-Political-Crisis" trip in Copenhagen, President Ahmadinejad "has described capitalism and materialism as root causes for the world's environment crisis".

I don't want to be snippy, Mahmoud, but have you been in Tehran on a hot summer day when there's no wind coming off the mountain?

1715 GMT: The New Green Website. Repeating the important news yesterday: the Green Movement website Mowj-e-Sabz/Mowjcamp can now be accessed at

1700 GMT: For What It's Worth "Do Nothing". I've had problems with Roger Cohen's treatment of Iran in recent months, in particular his dismissal of the role new media/social media inside and outside the country in this political contest, but today I find myself on his side:

All this [history of Iran's nuclear programme] says — nay, screams — to me: Do nothing. It is President Barack Obama’s outreach that has unsettled a regime that found American axis-of-evil rhetoric easy to exploit. After struggling, Obama has also found his sweet spot in combining that détente with quiet support for universal rights....

[The protesters'] cause would be best upheld by stopping the march toward “crippling” sanctions on Iran....As Elizabeth Shakman Hurd of Northwestern University has written, “the United States is empowering the dissenters with its silence.”...Obama, himself of hybrid identity, must show his understanding of this historic urge by doing nothing. That will allow the Iranian political clock to tick faster still.

(For what it's worth, my comment to a reader yesterday, "My own preference has been to put the nuclear issue to the side and suspend discussions while Iran’s internal situation is in flux. That approach brings its own issues and difficulties — how to hold back Israel, for example — but I think it’s a more effective denial of legitimacy to Ahmadinejad and Co. than the questionable stick of sanctions.")

1330 GMT: The Latest on the Marches. Still confusion and uncertainty over whether the opposition will protest tomorrow. Some Iranian websites are reporting that the Green Movement will NOT demonstrate. The latest from Mir Hossein Mousavi is that he, Mehdi Karroubi, and the Association of Combatant Clergy are still waiting for a decision on their separate requests for permits.

1140 GMT: Out-of-Date News: Mehr News' English-language website just posted this news of reconciliation:
A senior lawmaker announced on Monday that two groups -- a six-person group from the Expediency Council and an eight-member group from somewhere else -- have started efforts to broker unity among principlists and reformists. [Deputy Speaker of Parliament] Mohammad Reza Bahonar also blasted harsh criticism against Expediency Council Chairman Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani....Bahonar who is also the secretary general of the Islamic Association of Engineers praised Rafsanjani’s efforts for national unity....Bahonar also said opposition groups in the country must have media to express their views.

So a prospect of reconcilation, then? Not quite: Bahonar said this "on Monday", before the latest regime assaults against Rafsanjani.

What say you now, Mr Bahonar?

1015 GMT: Abuses, Threats, and the Tribute to Majid Tavakoli. We've posted three important entries: 1) a video of the speech by Sadegh Larijani (see separate analysis) threatening arrest of opposition leaders; 2) an article by Shirin Ebadi on the "We All Wear Hejab" response to the arrest of Majid Tavakoli; and 3) the video of the interview by Britain's Channel 4 of the purported Basiji militiaman.

(Note: the Larijani video is not on our lead page because the audio automatically loads when a reader scrolls.)

0920 GMT: Shutting Down Ayatollah Dastgheib. The lecture hall of Ayatollah Ali Mohammad Dastgheib in Shiraz, "The Cradle of Martyrs", has been shut down. The hall was the biggest one for the mourning ceremony of Imam Hussain during Moharram.

As Dastgheib has been a critic both of the Government and of the Supreme Leader since June, speculation is that the closure is to prevent opposition protest.

0915 GMT: Clerical Boycott. Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Khashani, a member of Guardian Council and the head of theological college of Shahid Motahhari, has refused to participate in the sessions of Association of Combatant Clergy as a protest against the association's failure to react against insults of clerics such as Hashemi Rafsanjani and Ali-Akhbar Nategh-Nouri by some Presidential candidates (i.e., Mahmoud Ahmadinejad).

0905 GMT: Defending the Opposition. The audio of the speeches by reformist members of Parliament Mohammad Reza Tabesh and Nasrullah Torabi (see yesterday's updates and separate analysis), warning against regime intentions to arrest political figures in the Green movement, has been posted.

0855 GMT: The Verbal Sword-Fight. Saeed Jalili, the Secretary of the National Security Council, also spoke at the same conference of prosecutors addressed by Sadegh Lariajni with his "We Have the Evidence" declaration (see separate analysis). Jalili's talk was more the standard formula of legitimacy, followed by insinuation of foreign-directed opposition:
Enemies cannot deny the massive turnout and the tight internal political competition leading to the elections. Indeed the election was a turning point in the Islamic Republic’s history and underpinned our political credibility in the world....Regrettably some quarters are trying to change this turning point into an opportunity for themselves. This is a major act of injustice towards the Islamic Republic.

0755 GMT: The Basiji Confession? There is a lot of Internet chatter this morning about an interview by Britain's Channel 4 Television with a man claiming to be a former member of the Basij militia. The interview includes confirmation of the torture and rape of detainees and the assertion, "In truth the orders [to manipulate the Presidential vote] didn't come after the election. The orders for all that you witnessed came before the election."

0740 GMT: The Clerics-Rafsanjani Alliance? One announcement which may be of significance amidst our recent consideration of political plans and manoeuvres: Ayatollah Mousavi-Ardebili, a critic of the Ahmadinejad Government in the post-election crisis, is meeting former President Hashemi Rafsanjani this evening.

0735 GMT: We've started the morning with a special analysis, "The Regime's Sword Wavers", which summarises recent developments and looks forward to the start of Moharram tomorrow. Our conclusion? "A swinging sword does not necessarily find its target. And it does not necessarily bring legitimacy".

One note to add to that analysis: all of this turmoil occurs as President Ahmadinejad is far, far away in location at the Copenhagen summit. Is he also far, far away politically, a bystander as regime officials, Hashemi Rafsanjani, and the Green opposition trade blows amidst increasingly hostile rhetoric?