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Entries in Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (10)


The Latest on Iran (29 December): A Desperate Swing of the Fist

ASHURA71930 GMT: Kill Them. Abbas Vaez-Tabasi, a member of the Expediency Council and the Assembly of Experts has declared on state television, "Those who are behind the current sedition in the country ... are mohareb (enemies of God) and the law is very clear about punishment of a mohareb [execution]."

Today's Show of Support for the Regime? If you believe Peyke Iran, it wasn't much. The website reports that residents in Rasht ridiculed a demonstration of 300 plainclothes Basijis chanting slogans for the execution of reformists like Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mohammad Khatami, and Mehdi Karroubi.

1850 GMT: Javan Farda reports that Shiraz University was closed today.

1845 GMT: The Arrests Move Higher. Government forces have arrested Mir Hossein Mousavi's chief aide Alireza Beheshti. Beheshti, the son of one of Iran's most commemorated martyrs, Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, was also detained briefly in September when the regime tried to disrupt preparations for Qods Day demonstrations.

NEW Latest Iran Video: Today’s University Protest (29 December)
NEW Iran: A List of the Ashura Detainees
NEW Iran: The Regime's Fightback?
Latest Iran Video: Obama Condemns “Violent & Unjust Suppression” (28 December)
Iran: Ashura’s Message “Iranians Are Not Punching Bags” (Josh Shahryar)
Iran: A Point of No Return?
The Latest from Iran (28 December): The Regime’s Arresting Strategy

1830 GMT: The Karroubi Family Speaks Out (Cont.): Mehdi Karroubi's son Taghi has added to the criticisms by Karroubi's wife and son Hossein of regime restrictions on his father. He said that Government-provided security has stopped protecting Karroubi when he leaves the house. This is effectively a ''quasi-house arrest'.'

Karroubi's car was attacked on Saturday by assailants.

1815 GMT: Attacks on the Clerics. Ayatollah Sane'i now appears to be a primary target of the regime: assaults on his offices by plainclothes men have been reported in Tehran, Mashhad, Kerman, Sari, Gorgan, and Shiraz.

Attacks in Shiraz on the Qoba Mosque and the residence of Ayatollah Dastghaib have also been reported.

1730 GMT: "Western" Media and the Green Movement. A reporter from The Times of London has asked us to clarify our opening update (0710 GMT). While we mentioned the newspaper as part of "a chorus of affirmation that this opposition is on the point of victory", he/she wants to make clear that it should not be included in our preceding reference that "most of [the Western media] had written off the opposition only a month ago".

1720 GMT: The Elm-o-Sanat Protest. We've posted three clips from today's demonstration at Elm-o-Sanat University in Tehran. Gooya reports that more than 10 students were injured in clashes with security forces.

1650 GMT: Mahmoud Speaks. President Ahmadinejad has surfaced to comment on the Ashura protests: "The Iranian nation has seen a lot of such masquerades. A Zionist (Israeli), and American ordered [nauseating] masquerade."

1645 GMT: The Karroubi Family Protests. Back from a break to find that the family of Mehdi Karroubi striking out at Government restrictions. Karroubi's son Hossein has announced that his father is “partially imprisoned” because security personnel refuse to cooperate with him. Karroubi's wife Fatemeh writes that her family has been threatened by “nightly attacks of arbitrary forces” She says that she will hold the government responsible for any incident that may affect members of her family.

1225 GMT: Reading Iran from the US. We've just posted the analysis of Karim Sadjadpour and Trita Parsi of the Ashura protests on the Public Broadcasting Service.

1224 GMT: Reports that journalist Nasrin Vaziri, who works for ILNA and Khabar Online, has been arrested.

1214 GMT: Tehran's Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi said that seven people were killed in Ashura clashes (which is kind of strange, since the official line on Monday was that 10 "terrorists" had been slain).

1210 GMT: Here Come the Guards. The Revolutionary Guard jump into the regime's fightback against the Ashura protests: "The...foreign media...has staged a psychological war. Trying to overthrow the system will reach nowhere...designers of the unrest will soon pay the cost of their insolence...The opposition, which has joined hands with the foreign media, is backed by foreign enemies."

1205 GMT: Only a matter of time before this "analysis" was attempted --- the editor of Kayhan, Hossein Shariatmardari, has accused Mir Hossein Mousavi of planning the assassination of his nephew.

1155 GMT: Report coming in that Reza Tajik, journalist and religious activist, was arrested today in front of the Etemaad newspaper Building. Photojournaist Sam Mahmoudi has also reportedly been arrested.

Another activist reports that Dr. Housein Mousavian, a member of the National Front, has been arrested.

1120 GMT: Did Trees Have to Die for This? A Mr Will Heaven seeks his 15 seconds of attention with this blotting of the pages of The Daily Telegraph, "Iran and Twitter". I have more important things to do, such as using Twitter as a portal to keep up with and report on the latest developments inside Iran, so let me respond Tweet-style:

@WillHeaven: U know nothing of #Twitter, #IranElection, or #Iran (& u rip off #Salon, who tried this shtick last week)

1115 GMT: We have posted a list of Ashura detainees, compiled by Tehran Bureau's Muhammad Sahimi last night before the latest reports of arrests.

1040 GMT: Arrest Them All. The latest detainees include journalist Mohammad Javad Saberi and Shahpour Kazemi, the brother of Mir Hossein Mousavi's wife Zahra Rahnavard. Kazemi was detained for months earlier in the crisis before his release in the autumn.

Journalists Badrosadat Mofidi, Nasrin Vaziri, and Keyvan Mehregan have also been detained.

1020 GMT: Ali Larijani --- No Compromise. Speaker of Parliament Larijani, commenting on the Ashura protests, has told lawmakers that officials should "arrest offenders of the religion and mete out harshest punishments to such anti-revolutionary figures with no mercy".

The rhetoric isn't significant: it matches that coming from pro-regime media and "hard-line" MPs (see 0850 GMT). The political symbolism is: Larijani --- who has clashed with President Ahmadinejad throughout this crisis and was reportedly involved in the discussion of a National Unity Plan ---is now declaring that confrontation takes priority over any attempt at a negotiated resolution.

And he is doing so even as the Supreme Leader (is Larijani serving here as a spokesman for Khamenei?) and Ahmadinejad remain publicly silent.

0850 GMT: "Cut Off Their Hands". Scattered hard-line noises out of Iran's Parliament. Mohammad Karamirad, a member of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said that the committee will hold a special meeting on Wednesday to discuss the Ashura protests. Security officials from the Interior Ministry, the Intelligence Ministry, and the police will be invited.

Don't be fooled that this is an impartial enquiry into the demonstrations, however. Karamirad declared, "Rioters who took to streets are challenging the very foundations of the ruling system....They insult Islamic beliefs, and it is our duty to cut off the hands behind such seditious acts and bring an end to the events that endanger the safety and security of the people." He also called on Iran's judiciary to prosecute the leaders of the protests.

Hossein Sobhaninia, another member of the committee, joined that call. He said that events, in which the sanctities of Islam were disrespected and government officials were insulted, would not end if the judiciary did not deal with the seditious acts.

750 GMT: Which Way Forward? Following up on our snap 5-point analysis of the significance of the Ashura protests, an EA reader directs us to the thoughts of Ebrahim Nabavi in Rah-e-Sabz. Nabavi searches for a positive outcome to the conflict, advising the opposition to leave enough space for the regime to prevent a fierce confrontation.

0710 GMT: We begin this morning with a summary and analysis of the Government's attempt to restore some credibility through the rather crude tactic of arresting lots of people it does not like or trust. One of the latest names to emerge is Nushin Ebadi, the sister of the Nobel Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi.

Meanwhile, it is stunning how the Western media --- most of whom had written off the opposition only a month ago --- are now a chorus of affirmation that this opposition is on the point of victory. The Times of London proclaims "the tipping point of revolution". Abbas Milani in The Wall Street Journal announces "The Tipping Point in Iran". (Note to EA readers: if we ever use "tipping point" in an analysis, pull us aside for a journalistic flogging for the crime Resorting to Overused Cliche.) The Washington Post has the variant of "Iran's Turning Point". The New York Times offers support through an editorial denouncing "Iran's War on Its People".


Iran Analysis: The Regime's Cracks Widen, The Wave Resurges?

IRAN FLAG TORNLess than 24 hours after we posted our analysis of the politics surrounding and beyond Grand Ayatollah Montazeri's funeral, I think most of the arguments hold up.

The momentum of challenge to the regime has not ebbed. The Western media has turned from bored/gloomy/hostile sceptic into unreserved cheerleader, as in this editorial from The Washington Post, which echoes some of our analysis but with a much louder, dramatic shout:
We would not underestimate the fact that a figure such as this can bring forth multitudes -- even in death -- while Mr. Ahmadinejad is reduced to unleashing his militia and shrieking at the West. The most momentous international event of 2009 was the uprising in Iran, and though the regime's collapse is not imminent, it is hardly unthinkable.

Iran: Is Ayatollah Sane’i The Next Montazeri?
The Latest from Iran (23 December): This Time, No Pause?

More substantially, Faraj Sorkouhi argues that the Supreme Leader's latest public move, the message to those marking Montazeri's death, may further expose a self-glorification being pursued not as an outcome of support for Ayatollah Khameini, but as a reaction to the lack of it. In condemning Montazeri under the cover of offering condolences --- pointing to his "sins", asking God to forgive him, and thus declaring Montazeri's 20 years of isolation and punishment were of a divine nature --- Khamenei may have stepped too far in trying to adpoe his own God-like image.

There are still long-term questions surrounding the aims and organisation of the opposition --- H. Graham Underwood has just posted an interesting consideration of "The Leadership Void" --- but yesterday one of two rising emotions was that these questions were not immovable obstacles. It appears that the inspiration drawn from Montazeri as an opponent of injustice and defender of values, one whose declaration of values would not be broken by the injustice against him, has re-fired the belief of many that it is possible to embody those values in a political movement that can be hindered but cannot be vanquished.

This morning Josh Shahryar takes one path in examining that belief. He suggesting that Ayatollah Sane'i --- who now is in the midst of tensions in Qom, with rumours of a march today by Basiji against his offices --- may be "the next Montazeri": "He represents the same brand of moderate Islam that Montazeri espoused." Others are now looking to Mousavi and Karroubi with an admiration and hope that had been eroded in recent weeks, and still others see the Green Wave as the leader rather than an in-and-out tide of change.

A caution, however, both about the perceived problems of the regime and the renewed possibilities of the movement for reform. The second emotion I noted yesterday was that of a bleak pessimism. While the President may be shouting and posing all the way to irrelevance (note Tuesday's theatre of removing Mousavi from his role as head of the Arts Institute) and while the Supreme Leader may be looking less than all-powerful, there is still the strength of arms of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard. The emotion is that, as the Revolutionary Guard will not go quietly into the post-election night and as they have allies in the judicial and security systems who will join them in lashing out at a rising opposition, there is more hardship to come.

Darkest before the dawn?


The Latest from Iran (18 December): Moharram Begins

MOHARRAM REGIME DEMO2310 GMT: A Sad End, Another Day. We took the night off to catch our breath (and catch up with some friends), as Iran winds down after an anti-climactic and possibly damaging day for the regime.

On a day that started with the cyber-drama of the attack on Twitter, probably by a group supporting the Iranian Government, the evening ends with the sad news that the domain of Mowj-e-Sabz, one of the key locations for information in this crisis, has been released for purchase. The activists of the website announced yesterday that they are taking a well-earned break.

But we'll back in a few hours to see what Saturday brings.

NEW Iran on Moharram, Day 1: The Regime Flops?
NEW Latest Iran Video: Mehdi Karroubi Interview with BBC (17 December)
NEW Iran: The Regime Takes On (Hacks?) Twitter for Moharram
Iran Analysis: The Regime’s Sword Wavers
Latest Iran Video: Interview of the “Basij Member” on the Election and Abuses (16 December)
Iran & The Arrest of Majid Tavakoli: “To Men Who Are Not Ashamed of Being a Woman” (Shirin Ebadi)
Latest Iran Video: The Larijani Threat to Arrest Green Leaders (16 December)
The Latest from Iran (17 December): An Uncertain Regime

1810 GMT: Stratospheric Media Speculation of Day. The cyber-attack on Twitter this morning (see separate analysis)? It's all down to the Iranian Government's new strategy in the nuclear negotiations.

That's according to TechCrunch, who get bored with all things computer-y and decide to become political analysts (this morning, they didn't even know that the "Iranian Cyber Army" had been assaulting Green Movement websites):

Other sources told us that the timing of the attack on Twitter is part of a concerted effort across the Iranian government and military to take a stronger diplomatic stance against the United States and European Union in the lead up to negotiations on Iran’s nuclear plans.

Oh, yes, it has to be all about "us" in the West and not about the internal political battle in Iran. That's why the hackers went after the website Mowj-e-Sabz, which as far as I know is not involved in any way with discussions of uranium enrichment. And that's why they invoked Imam Hossein, who may just have something to do with the first day of Moharram, which just happens to be today.

All of this would be end-of-day silliness were it not for the high-profile and normally perceptive blog The Daily Dish, who decided to feature this as the real story behind the Iran Regime v. Twitter fight.

1730 GMT: More "The News is No News". Fars News, spinning a tough line, only offers further testimony to the weakness of the regime's position. It headlines the warning of the Supreme Leader's aide, Mohammad Hassan Rahimian (see 1405 GMT), that those who "continue to intrigue...will encounter the worst possible situation" and the response of those demonstrating, "Green riot leaders should be executed".

At no point, however, does Fars let us know how many actually joined in this heart-warming performance.

1630 GMT: The News is No News. Our interim assessment of the regime's "flop" today is holding up pretty well. Press TV website's story drops the "millions" of its over-excited (or over-scripted) correspondent and of other state media; indeed, it puts no number at all on a rather bland description of the protest for Ayatollah Khomeini.

The non-Iranian media are nowhere to be found. Having chased after the "hacking of Twitter" story, they now have the distraction of some Iranian troops acting up on the border and occupying a (possibly out-of-use) Iraqi oil well. We're monitoring the story, but sources indicate this incident, which appears to the third incursion in recent weeks, is more a political signal by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps --- don't think of attacking Iran --- than the start of a serious conflict.

1440 GMT: Western Mediawatch. Let's give Reuters credit for at least noticing that something happened in Tehran today, as other outlets are blissfully void of news.

That said, Reuters' headline --- "Death to Mousavi" --- succeeds in being both sensationalist and tangential at the same time. It may be that some folks chanted, "Mousavi, this is our last warning. The sedition leaders should be executed," and that --- as we just noted --- the regime put out one representative (Rahimian) to issue that call.

This lifting of a few snippets from Iranian state media, however, says nothing about the size of the rallies or their political impact (or lack of such).

1405 GMT: Shaking the Fist. Actually, in the context of the threats earlier this week, the regime's efforts today were not that intimidating. Ayatollah Emami Kashani, the leader of Friday Prayers in Tehran, does not exactly cut the most menacing figure.

That said, Mohammad Hassan Rahimian, the Supreme Leader’s former representative in the Bonyad-e Shahid (Martyrs' Foundation), tried his best in his speech in front of Tehran university. Arrest the opposition leaders? Too soft, asserted Rahimian: why not execute them?

And here's today's unsubtle connection: Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi has declared that the cases of several people accused of "insulting Imam Khomeini" will go to court next week.

1310 GMT: An Interim Assessment of The Regime's Demonstration on Moharram. We have enough to venture an interim assessment of the significance of today's events for the regime and its attempt to establishment of "legitimacy".

1125 GMT: Hmmm..... IRNA now has a story about today's events, but it is a dry recitation of a "Friday Prayers" resolution condemning the insult to Ayatollah Khomeini, accompanied by a photograph of a group of protesters (see inset).

1100 GMT: The Regime's Day. Press TV has now got its lines straight, "Iran Outrage", with shots of thousands in Enghelab Square in Tehran and large posters of Ayatollah Khomeini (but note: few prominent images of the Supreme Leader). Correspondent Saman Kojouri is reciting the same litany he used 30 minutes ago.

Fars and IRNA still have no visible coverage on their websites. (This has now changed with IRNA --- see our interim assessment.)

1030 GMT: Let's Try This Again. OK, now this is more like it. Here's Press TV's live coverage from "the streets of Tehran" with correspondent Saman Kojouri:
Thousands of Iranians, millions of Iranians all across the nation have taken to the streets, especially here in the capital Tehran. The people have flooded the streets after Friday prayers to show their anger over what happened a few days on December 7th, when an insult occurred against the portrait of Imam Khomeini, the Father and Founder of the Islamic Revolution.

From that day on, the Student Day on, the public outrage went high across the country and many people took to the streets, from different walks of life.

Kojouri repeats this for about four minutes. The widest shots offered by Press TV are of thousands at the venue outside Tehran Friday Prayers.

1015 GMT: Really, That's All You've Got? So far, the story has been lack of attention byIranian state media to the ceremonies for the first day of Moharram. The Islamic Republic News Agency's lead story is on 250 new suppliers of "hot meat" in Tehran.

Press TV has the Copenhagen Summit at #1, then it's Iran's nuclear programme at #2, and only then do Tehran's Friday Prayers sneak in. The spin is unsurprising: Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani, leading the prayers, has criticised the defacing of the image of Imam Khomeini. He then "called on Iranians to be aware of enemy plots to take advantage of objections against the June Presidential election....The protests that started in the wake of the vote will eventually benefit the enemies."

And Kashani's reference to the political challenge from Hashemi Rafsanjani, Mir Hossein Mousavi, the Green Movement? "Officials should try to prevent radical moves that...merely triggered  new triggers in the country....All political groups should stick to the guidelines of the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, to resolve disputes and promote unity."

0933 GMT: Pushing "Regime Change". The Wall Street Journal, a firm advocate of the toppling of not only the Ahmadinejad Government but the Islamic Republic, features an editorial by Heshmat Tabarzadi, leader of the Iran Democratic Front:
Dec. 7 [the protests of 16 Azar] proved that the movement for a free, democratic Iran is robust and only growing in strength. If the government continues to opt for violence, there very well may be another revolution in Iran. One side has to step down. And that side is the government—not the people.

Here's the interesting points, especially in light of the continuing debates over the aims of the Green Movement. Tabarzadi never uses the words "regime change" --- those belong to the Journal's headline writers --- but he does feature university protests "openly denouncing the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, challenging the entirety of the ruling establishment, and demanding the separation of religion and state".

So does this constitute the demise of the Islamic Republic?

0930 GMT: Karroubi Reaches the West. We've posted the video of the BBC's (rather disappointing) interview with Mehdi Karroubi.

0750 GMT: Iran Mediawatch (2). After early-morning silence on Moharram from regime outlets, Fars News is now headlining today's commemorations, claiming ownership of Ayatollah Khomenei amidst the recent "burning picture" controversy: "United Iran will declare its love for the Imam".

0740 GMT: Cyber-wars for Moharram. Here's an entry we didn't expect to write today: an Iranian group, which also took over the Mowj-e-Sabz website this week, has claimed to have hacked Twitter, which has been running slowly since 1200 GMT on Thursday. We've got the latest.

0655 GMT: Iran Mediawatch. Right now, the state media --- at least on the Web --- are more concerned with "bigging up" President Ahmadinejad and his speech in Copenhagen ("capitalism and materialism are to blame for environmental crisis", "profit-making approach to the world resources must be avoided,", ""greenhouse gas emission has dealt a blow to the planet earth") than they are with today's events. The Islamic Republic News Agency confines itself to a statement from the head of the Islamic Propaganda Organization that Moharram commemorations will be even bigger and better than last year.

0630 GMT: Eleven days after the protests of National Students Day on 16 Azar, the holy month of Moharram begins today. In contrast to the period between previous important public occasions since July, there has been no significant pause in protest, demonstration, and political manoeuvre. University campuses have continued to simmer, the regime has raised the threat level with its dark hints of arrests and trials, and opposition political figures have been more forthcoming in their statements despite (and indeed because of) those threats.

So we begin this morning watching for two signs of the political situation. The easier reading will probably be of the opposition. The indecision over whether to march today, diluting if not seizing the Government's control of the commemoration of Moharram, is likely to end in 1) a declaration from Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi that they regret that their request for a permit has been denied by the regime; and 2) an acceptance by most of the Green movement that it is best to lie low. A scattering of opposition demonstrators are likely to turn out, but this will not be an organised response.

So that leaves the public arena open to the regime for the first time in six months and raises the more difficult question: how significant will their own effort and that of their supporters be today? As an EA reader noted yesterday, the answer does not rest solely or even primarily on the number who appear at Friday Prayers and the subsequent rally: there are enough core elements such as the Basiji movement and enough people who will be brought into the demonstration to fill a television screen or the front page of a newspaper. How many others will not only turn out but will be vocal in their acclamation for not only Imam Khomeini but also the Supreme Leader? And perhaps more significantly in the short-term, how many will be raising their voices not only for Ayatollah Khamenei but also Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?

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".