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Entries in Imam Hossein (3)


The Latest from Iran (25 December): A Pause before Ashura?

MOHARRAM12130 GMT: Hot Gossip of Night. There is a statement lurking on Hashemi Rafsanjani's website in which the former President uses the story of Imam Hossein, the third Imam whose death is marked by the ceremony of Ashura on Sunday, to argued that it is important to keep public consciousness alive.

Rafsanjani puts forth Hossein's opposition to the caliph as the most significant political movement in the last 1400 years, with its promotion of virtues and condemnation of injustice and evil. And, in an all-too-obvious parallel with the 21st century, he asserts that Hoseein was accused of having revolted for power and collaborated with foreigners to which the Imam answered: "I'm not revolting to Govern; my revolt is to protect and correct the course of the disciples of my ancestor [the Prophet Mohammad]."

I say that the statement is "lurking" because it has not been picked up by other Iranian media and Rafsanjani has not moved to exploit it in another public forum....yet.

NEW Latest Iran Video: Montazeri’s Farewell Speech (November 2009)
REVIVED Iran Top-Secret: The President’s Gmail Account
Latest Iran Video: Tehran Protests (23-24 December)
Iran: The Momentum of Protest (It’s No Longer Just….)

1900 GMT: Iran's Nuclear Programme. On a relatively slow news day, an EA reader has pointed out the recent Doha Debate on the subject. Participants include Mahjoob Zweiri of the Centerfor Strategic Studies in Jordan, Seyed Mohammad Marandi of Tehran University, Baria Alamuddin of Al-Hayat, and Alireza Nourizadeh of the Center for Arab and Iranian Studies in London.

1850 GMT: Kalemeh is reporting that there will be no Ashura services in the Imam Khomeini mausoleum this year.

1800 GMT: Tonight's Hot Rumour. The chatter, supported by an article in Parleman News, is that former Presidnet Mohammad Khatami will speak tomorrow after the local Tasua service (6 p.m. local time) in Hosseiniyeh No. 1 in Jamaran in north Tehran.

1755 GMT: Repeating the Ashura Demonstration Routes. The plans for marches in 22 Iranian cities on Sunday (see 1415 GMT) have now also been posted by Unity4Iran.

1530 GMT: Regime Message --- Desecration, Mousavi, and Sane'i. Fars News is headlining a supposedly very large demonstration in Qom condemning the "desecrations" of the rallies after the death of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri. The pro-regime protesters called for the arrest of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi and, perhaps most strikingly, chanted, "Death to Sane'i", the reformist cleric who has been in the forefront of commemorations for Montazeri and challenges to the Government.

1520 GMT: Your Friday Prayer Update. Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami in Tehran today saying, Don't Demonstrate. Really --- Don't. "Our mourning ceremonies for Imam Hussein should not make the enemies of Islam pleased since Imam Hussein is ... the symbol of unity, so the ceremonies should not be used as platform for disunity," said Khatami. He added that if people do demonstrate, it is because they are supported by the US, Israel, and other bad countries.

1420 GMT: Memorial Defiance. Despite the Government prohibition on ceremonies, Ayatollah Taheri has announced that "7th day" memorials of the death of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri will be held on Saturday night and Sunday (coinciding with Ashura) in Isfahan.

1415 GMT: Routes for demonstrations on Tasua and Ashura (26-27 December) in 22 Iranian cities have been posted.

1152 GMT: A Not-So-Happy New Year for Khamenei and Ahmadinejad? An EA correspondent passes on information from the Economist Intelligence Unit, one of the foremost locations of analysis in Britain, with its latest views on Iran. The entire report is worth a read, but the opening summary is enough to raise eyebrows:

Public criticism of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, because of his direct intervention in the political domain has exposed a large breach in Iran's s intricate power structure, which may weaken his authority in 2010-11.

The position of the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will be increasingly challenged by sections of the clerical establishment, as well as by his reformist and pragmatic-conservative opponents, following his divisive re-election.

1140 GMT: An Opening in Nuke Talks? Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has told Iranian state television that Iran "does not have a problem with Turkish soil" for an exchange of enriched uranium. If true, that would be a shift from Tehran's insistence since November that a swap had to occur inside Iran.

1025 GMT: Marches continue in Tehran. Reports that Ayatollah Jalaleddin Taheri was present at the mourning service in Khomeni Shahr --- video has now been posted.

0915 GMT: Reports of Moharram gatherings in Tehran, watched over by security forces.

0910 GMT: The "Proper" Demonstrations. Nice example of ignoring events to tell the "right" story on Press TV's website: there is a lengthy piece on "Zanjan, venue of world's largest mourning parade". This is the gathering today on the 8th day of Moharram, which is expected to draw more than 200,000 Shi'a followers.

Funny, but there's no mention at all in the article of the other reason why Zanjan is making headlines this week (albeit not in Iranian state media): it was the site of the cancelled memorial for Grand Ayatollah Montazeri yesterday.

0730 GMT: During this week of memorials to Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, we've posted the video of what is claimed to be his last public speech.

And, for a bit of flashback fun on this day, we've revived Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's top-secret Gmail account.

0620 GMT: Today, 24 hours before the fast day of Tasua and 48 hours before the commemoration of Ashura, has started relatively quietly. There is talk of memorials for Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, but so far no confirmation of demonstrations. Meanwhile, the unconfirmed news is that a grandson of Montazeri was arrested.

Iran: The Regime Takes On (Hacks?) Twitter for Moharram

TWITTER CYBER-ATTACKUPDATE 1320 GMT: HomyLafayette offers an important correction on the text used by the "Iranian Cyber Army" (see 0945 GMT): "The red text on the green flag in fact reads, 'O Hossein, peace be upon him,' referring to Imam Hossein, a key figure in Islam and the 3rd Imam of Shiites." It is Hossein's death that is commemorated in the month of Moharram that starts today.

UPDATE 1010 GMT: Twitter has posted, “Twitter’s DNS [Domain Name System] records were temporarily compromised but have now been fixed. We are looking into the underlying cause and will update with more information soon.”

UPDATE 0945 GMT: When FoxNews caught up with this story, they included this information:

"Above the flag, in Arabic, read: 'Hezbollah is victorious.' On the flag, in red Arabic writing: 'Yassin' (an Arabic name written in bold) then in smaller Arabic print 'the feast of peace'. Below the flag was more written in Farsi."

0755 GMT: We just found the screenshot of Twitter's website when it was "occupied" by the "Iranian Cyber Army". It is the same text and image that appeared on the Green Movement's website Mowj-e-Sabz on Wednesday.

I woke this morning to find that Twitter was running extremely slowly and sometimes grinding to a halt. Indeed, since 1200 GMT yesterday there have been serious slow-downs in delivery of messages.

Service is now picking up, but the hot story is that Twitter was hacked yesterday by the "Iranian Cyber Army" with this message:


U.S.A. Think They Controlling And Managing Internet By Their Access, But THey Don’t, We Control And Manage Internet By Our Power, So Do Not Try To Stimulation Iranian Peoples To….

Take Care.

Sharp-eyed EA readers will recognise that "Iranian Cyber Army" is the same group that took over the domain of the Green Movement's website Mowj-e-Sabz/Mowjcamp earlier this week.

The Latest from Iran (18 December): Moharram Begins

Yet, in this apparent victory for Iranian cyber-warfare, there lies I think a greater admission of defeat. If Twitter  has not been that important in the challenge to the regime's legitimacy since the Presidential election of June, why try to knock it out --- raising the ire of millions of users who so far have had little interest in the events in Iran --- at the start of Moharram? That seems more a confession of worry than an assertion of strength.

And it is one thing to take out an opposition website; another to try and still one of the most significant global shifts in the use of the Internet. For a few hours, yes, but for all of today? And the next day? And all the way to the likely mass protests on Ashura on 27 December?

So, if the Iranian Cyber Army did indeed take on and for, at least a moment, knock down may be time to look up the definition of "Pyrrhic victory".

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.