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Entries in Manouchehr Mottaki (6)


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.

The Latest from Iran: Momentum against a Sinking President? (22 December)

MONTAZERI FUNERAL52310 GMT: Moving Towards Qom. More chatter on the post-funeral tension in Qom --- Norooz claims people are moving from Isfahan and Najafabad to "defend" the house of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri.

2300 GMT: Mahmoud Fights Back? On a day which began with our analysis that the President is scrambling to maintain any legitimacy, it appears he tried to send out a signal tonight with the dismissal of Mir Hossein Mousavi as head of the Arts Institute. Salaam News reports that Ahmadinejad flew back from Shiraz just for the meeting deciding on the sacking of Mousavi and will now return to Shiraz.

Then again, one wonders if that will be enough to show Mahmoud's muscle. According to Peyke Iran, only 40 people were on hand to greet Ahmadinejad at Shiraz's airport this morning.

NEW Latest Iran Video: University Demonstrations for Montazeri (22 December)
NEW Iran Special Analysis: After Montazeri — From Protest to Victory?
NEW Latest Iran Video: The Last Goodbye to Montazeri (21 December)
Latest Iran Video: Mourning Montazeri (21 December — 2nd Set)
Latest Iran Video: Mourning Montazeri (21 December — 1st Set)
Iran & The Nuclear Talks: The View from Tehran
Iran Video & Text: Montazeri’s Son Saeed On His Father’s Views, Last Words
The Latest From Iran (21 December): The Montazeri Funeral

2230 GMT: Back from break to find discussion still going on about possible paramilitary/security forces threat to Ayatollah Sane'i, with Rouydad saying that followers have declared their readiness to defend the cleric.

1930 GMT: is reporting that Mir-Hossein Mousavi has been finally removed from the directorship of the Farhangestan Institute of Arts - Ali Moallem has been selected as his replacement. The move was decided by the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, which decides on major cultural issues.

1730 GMT: The Internet is buzzing with stories that Government supporters and plainclothes officers have attacked the offices of Ayatollah Sane'i, following vandalism against Grand Ayatollah Montazeri's house and image yesterdat. There is also chatter that a permit has been given for a Basiji march on Sane'I's offices on Wednesday. A story in Radio Zaamaneh summarises the chatter.

Given the volatile situation in Qom, we are being very careful with the reports, which we cannot verify.
1645 GMT: We're off for a holiday break this evening, returning for a wrap-up of the day's events later. Thanks to all for ideas and contributions today.

1545 GMT: Hitting Back. More on that "Ayatollah" we mentioned briefly earlier (1208 GMT), who was taking a shot at both Grand Ayatollah Montazeri and those who mourned him yesterday: it's the Supreme Leader's representative to the Revolutionary Guard, Mojtaba Zolnour.

Zolnour said, "Ayatollah Montazeri was a deputy to Imam Khomeini who misused his power...and meddled in the country's affairs and this served as one of the reasons for his dismissal." As for the crowd in Qom, Zolnour snapped, "Certain individuals...have engaged in confronting the religious leadership...These opportunistic individuals ... engaged in creating chaos, breaking car windows and chanting anti-leadership slogans to destroy the Islamic establishment."

1530 GMT: Regime Tensions? An article in the reformist Rooz Online claims to document unease between Iran's armed forces and the Revolutionary Guard.

1430 GMT: Karroubi Spreads His Message. Another interview with Mehdi Karroubi in the "Western" media, this time in The Times of London. Karroubi, answering written questions, maintains both his defiance and his criticism of the regime while seeking a return to the "right" path of the Islamic Republic and Ayatollah Khomeini:

In today’s Iran, republicanism and Islamism are severely damaged and a lot of the revolution’s principles and the Imam’s have been undermined....If the Imam were alive, without doubt this would not have happened....As one of the Imam’s students and close friends I frankly say that those who claim to act on his thoughts had the least personal, emotional and intellectual closeness to him.

The significance of the statement is almost lost, however, amidst near-farcical ineptitude by Times journalists. They fail to set the interview in the context of the developments since the weekend. Far worse, they headline the article with a "surprising twist": "Mehdi Karroubi warned the West against exploiting the regime’s weakness to strike a deal to halt a nuclear programme that was, he insisted, for peaceful purposes." This is based on the following Karroubi quote:
Nuclear science and achieving peaceful nuclear technology is a right reserved for all NPT [Nuclear Proliferation Treaty] members. We ask Western governments not to use this internal situation as a bargaining chip with the present Iranian Government to reach agreements which would undermine the rights of the Iranian people.

Far from outing himself as a nuclear hardliner (which is a dreadful misrepresentation that has led some in the US to keep the Green movement as arm's length), Karroubi is simply asserting that nuclear power (not nuclear weapons) is a sovereign right. More importantly, his message is that the "West" should not give the Iranian Government legitimacy --- a legitimacy it has failed to establish at home --- through a high-profile agreement.

So a valuable opportunity wasted. Pearls before swine, as my grandmother used to say....

1330 GMT: We're Watching You. An Iranian blogger has posted photographs of Government operatives filming and photographing yesterday's crowd in Qom.

1215 GMT: Today's Protests. We've posted the first claimed video of demonstrations at Elm-o-Sanat and Kurdistan Universities.

1208 GMT: Propaganda of Day. There is the same exact story in both IRNA and Fars News of an Ayatollah denouncing yesterday's demonstrations in Qom, but that's a trifle compared to Fars' attempted top story. Apparently there will be a "large gathering" of people in Qom this afternoon to denounce the recent treatment of the image of Ayatollah Khomeini.

To illustrate the story, Fars has a photo of a recent "large gathering", presumably from last :


1200 GMT: Similar coverage of the Ahmadinejad speech, albeit with a lot more extracts from the speech, by Islamic Republic News Agency.

1155 GMT: And Here's Mahmoud. A massive surprise here: according to Press TV, the President avoided any reference to internal events in his speech in Shiraz and kept it international by attacking the US:
The problem is that the US seeks to dominate the Middle East but the Iranian nation is an obstacle....The nuclear game is repetitious, old-fashioned and boring. Say publicly that you are seeking dominance over the Middle East but Iran does not allow [you]....The world should know that the Iranian nation and the regional countries will make it impossible for the US to dominate the Middle East.

There was more tough talk for Washington on Iran's nuclear potential:
[You should] know that if we wanted to build bombs, we had enough courage to announce that we were making bombs. We are a great and brave nation. We told you that we will launch the [nuclear] fuel cycle and we did it. We told you that we will industrialize the fuel production and we did it....We told you that we will launch a new generation of centrifuges and we did.

No indication in the Press TV article, either in text or photographs, to the size of the crowd, let alone the events of the last 48 hours.

1150 GMT: Sideshows. In case you want a diversion from the main event, here's Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki being tough with France on the nuclear issue: "The French must try to avoid the failed policies that Washington and London have employed during the past few years. It is better for Paris to adopt a policy that is in accordance with the country's prestige."

Or you can tune in to Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, waving his fist: "My belief remains that political means are the best tools to attain regional security and that military force will have limited results. However, should the president call for military options, we must have them ready."

1140 GMT: Claims of student protests at Tehran Azad University and at Oloom Tahghighat University.

1130 GMT: No clashes reported at the Beheshti University protest. Meanwhile, reports that more than 50 (one report says 230) Najafabad University students have been summoned for disciplinary action, presumably in connection with protests surrounding the death of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri.

There is also a report that electricity was cut off to a student residence at Razi University in Kermanshah, with students ordered to remain in their rooms, to prevent protests.

1100 GMT: Demonstrations v. The President. News is emerging of a protest at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran, with students demanding the release of classmates arrested on 16/17 Azar (7-8 December). There are also reports of demonstrations at Elm-o-Sanat University in the capital. Reports indicate that security forces have surrounded the campuses to prevent protest moving to Tehran streets.

Meanwhile, we are looking for news on President Ahmadinejad's appearance in Shiraz. Activists are claiming that the regime struggled to get an audience of 10,000.

0945 GMT: From Protest to Victory? We've posted a special analysis, in light of the events of the last 48 hours: "Is there any possibility of a 'movement from below' that frames and presses demands to a satisfactory conclusion?"

0803 GMT: The Iconic Video? We've posted a lengthy (4+ minutes) video of yesterday's crowd in Qom. Words cannot summarise it.

(But, to raise a smile, set this footage against the claim in the pro-regime newspaper Kayhan, noted in yesterday's updates, that "a maximum of 5000 people" turned out.)

0800 GMT: The President's Test. Ahmadinejad is now in Shiraz. We're monitoring carefully both for his statement and any news on the size and mood of the crowd.

0745 GMT: A later and quieter start to the morning after the drama, sorrow, anger, and hope of the last 48 hours. We're working on a special analysis evaluating the significance of the events surrounding Grand Ayatollah Montazeri's death: is this now the next great Green wave of change?

In this context, there is an unintentionally funny sideshow exposing both the weakness of a President and his best (if unintentional) friend yesterday: the American ABC News. Last night Ahmadinejad appeared on the channel which, for days, had been shouting about its "exclusive" interview with the US Public Enemy Number One.

Here are ABC's self-promoting highlights of the discussion: 1) "Iran Prez Won't Say Yes-or-No to Nuclear Bomb"; 2) "Obama Didn't Deserve Nobel Prize"; 3) "Ahmadinejad Defiant Over Sanctions Threat"; 4) "Hiker's Mom Made Christmas Appeal to Ahmadinejad" [three US citizens, detained after they entered Iranian territory this autumn, remain under threat of trial for espionage]. Because the story was written soon after the interview was taped last week, there was no reference to Grand Ayatollah Montazeri or any considered question about the political challenge to the President and the regime.

(In grudging fairness, it appears that ABC re-positioned the clips they showed last night to get some connection with developments. Diane Sawyer's lead question, over archive shots of mass demonstrations this summer, was whether Ahmadinejad would guarantee that protesters would be safe. Ahmadinejad's response: "Can the people in America come on the streets anytime they want?"

That --- again to give some redemption to ABC --- brought out a telling moment. When Sawyer assured Ahmadinead that, yes, with a permit Americans could demonstrate, the President looked a bit uncertain, "Are you sure?" before declaring, "In Iran we have got freedom, more than there is in America.")

A classic example, therefore, of the blinkers of sensationalism but, more importantly, an illustration of Ahmadinejad's fragile position: who amongst the crowd in Qom yesterday really cared about the words he put out on American television screens last evening?

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".

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

BASIJ STUDENTS1940 GMT: More Positions on the "Burning of Khomeini": More than 230 members of Parliament have issued a statement strongly condemning the incident, presumably (but not clearly, at least in the Press TV report) criticising the opposition and calling on the judiciary officials to punish those responsible. Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani has also denounced the act, expressing hope that it would not be repeated.

Iranian Students News Agency have published a series of photos (see inset) of Basij students of Azad University protesting in Jamaran, the neighbourhood where Imam Khomeini lived. Islamic Republic News Agency writes about the sit-in of Basij students at Tehran University.

1935 GMT: We Really Don't Have A Clue. Mehr News tries --- and fails --- to answer our question about President Ahmadinejad's meeting with Ali Larijani and Sadegh Larijani, "What Did They Say?" (1640 GMT): "The subsidy bill, which has become a thorny dispute between the Majlis and the administration, probably featured prominently in the talks. The Judiciary’s investigation of major economic corruption cases was also likely high on the agenda."

1800 GMT: Ayatollah Bayat-Zanjani is the latest clerical supporter of the opposition to condemn the desecration of Imam Khomenei's image and the Government's manipulation of the issue.

1640 GMT: So What Did They Say? Oh, to be a fly on the wall: President Ahmadinejad has met both Ali Larijani, Speaker of Parliament, and Sadegh Larijani, head of Iran's judiciary. No details but atmosphere was cordial enough for an official photograph.

1615 GMT: Reformists Alongside Khomeini. Former President Mohammad Khatami, after a strong denial that the opposition would dishonour Ayatollah Khomeini, has upheld the Imam as a standard for the Green movement, saying that it is the duty of religious people to protest.

1550 GMT: Where's Mahmoud? Well, during all the protests and the furour over a possible showdown with opposition leaders, President Ahmadinejad is doing a spot of diplomatic entertaining. He met a Hamas delegation led by the political director, Khaled Meshaal, and declared, "The government and the people of Iran will always stand by the Palestinian resistance and the Palestinian people. Today Palestine is symbol of the global front of freedom-seekers and militants."

NEW Iran Analysis: Sifting the Propaganda – Government About to Arrest Opposition Leaders?
NEW Latest Videos from Iran's Universities (13 December)
NEW Latest Iran Video: Tehran University Protest & Strike (12 December)
Iran Special: Kermit the Frog Re-Mixes “It’s Not Easy Being Green”
Iran: A Renewed Washington Love Affair With The Green Movement?
Iran’s Arrest of Majid Tavakoli: “Khamenei in Hejab/We Are All Majids”
Iran: The Arrest of Majid Tavakoli “His 16 Azar Speech on Video”
Iran: “The Military Will Stand with the Iranian People”? (with Audio)

The Latest from Iran (12 December): Bubbling Under

1535 GMT: Demoting Rafsanjani. According to Tabnak, Islamic Republic News Agency employees have been directed to use the clerical title "Hojatoleslam" when referring to Hashemi Rafsanjani. "Hojjatoleslam" is lower in rank than "Ayatollah", the previous title for the former President.

1350 GMT: Undaunted? Videos are coming through from protests at Iranian universities. We already have four campuses in the collection we've posted, and more may emerge during the afternoon. At Tehran University, Green demonstrators are facing a counter-protest from Basij students who are declaring a three-day sit-in. Security forces have surrounded the university.

1320 GMT: Revising the Threat Assessment. Mr Smith is walking me through the video of the Supreme Leader's speech, and he has a more ominous reading of this as a warning:

[Khamenei] is quite openly saying that the opposition "shall be wiped out". You can chalk this up as a prelude to any sort of harsh measure against the opposition.

This was a "make my day" speech, and one that quite bluntly asked the opposition leaders to back off and shut up. As a challenge, it ranks with the June 19 speech, if not even more emphatic than that.

To my query, "Is this then an ultimatum to the opposition not to make trouble during Moharram (beginning this Friday?", Mr Smith replies, "I think the gist is, shut up, don't make trouble during Tasua and Ashura (26-27 December)."

1230 GMT: Putting the Threats Together, But....? The Associated Press has picked up on a warning on the website of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps, linking the "burning of Khomeini" story to the prospect of arrests: ''The Guard ... won't tolerate any silence or hesitation in the immediate identification, trial and punishment of those carrying out this ugly insult and the agents behind them."

Which still leaves the question of whether the threat will be carried. Reuters is the first "Western" agency to note the Supreme Leader's speech (see 1030 GMT) but misses the passage that we noted --- "keep your calm" --- indicating that drastic action will not take place.

1030 GMT: Wow, We Couldn't Predict This. Speaking this morning, the Supreme Leader declared, "[Our] enemies' groundwork is sedition and our groundwork should be strengthening perception and vision. Some people breached law and encouraged people to stand against regime. As a result,our desperate enemies got hope and insulted our Imam."

Now, are there arrests to follow the rhetoric? Here's a hint from Khamenei that there won't be: "Following insult to Imam Khomeieni, people became angry; but keep your calm, these people are rootless and can't confront [us]."

Instead, the Supreme Leader issued a "Back Off" message to Washington, as well as playing the "foreign intervention" card, "The President of USA declared that each Government that break laws must be accountable, but USA's governement is the biggest lawbreaker in world."

0830 GMT: News this morning is dominated by the rumours of a Government crackdown on the opposition, including the arrest of Green leaders. We have posted an analysis sifting through the propaganda and confusion to assess the likelihood that the regime will make an ultimate move.

Discussion also continues about the immediate background for the latest rumours, the battle over the alleged burning of the image of Imam Khomeini. EA reader Naj offers an analysis of the Government's propaganda strategy on  the blog Neo-Resistance.

Meanwhile, if you want a diversion from the internal tension, there is always the posturing over the nuclear discussions. The US has issued a summary rejection of Iran's proposal, put by Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki yesterday, for a "swap" of uranium inside the country: "Iran's proposal does not appear to be consistent with the fair and balanced draft agreement proposed by the International Atomic Energy Agency." The pro forma No does not mean, however, that the discussions have been closed.

Mottaki and the US have also swapped blows over their political power plays in Latin America. After Hillary Clinton's unsubtle warning to Latin American countries not to engage with Iran, the world's top supporter of terrorism, Mottaki took the high ground, "We condemn such attitudes which violate values of the third millennium."

The Latest from Iran (12 December): Bubbling Under

IRAN GREEN2250 GMT: Apologies. Earlier, we erroneously posted a Reuters report that Mir Hossein Mousavi had called for a national strike if he is arrested. A case of moving too quickly on a tense night: the report is from 20 June.

2220 GMT: Bubbling Over? Back after an evening's break to find a swirl of rumours --- if this morning started with tensions bubbling under, the evening has brought the prospect of them bubbling over.

The furour over the alleged burning of Imam Khomeini's picture, stirred by pro-Government media, is now being read as a pretext for possible aggressive action against opposition leadership. Kalemeh, the website associated with Mir Hossein website, has posted this note:
WARNING: Beware that an event is unfolding!

Kaleme: Following the planned scenario for disgracing Imam Khomeini and accusing the Green movement and the students of this act, since yesterday official pro-Ahmadinejad media have started a heavy propaganda with a hidden agenda and based on the information available it seems that they are preparing for some harsher crack downs.

All supporters of the Green movement are strongly advised to be extremely vigilant and make sure to stay on top of the latest news.

Because of the extreme restrictions on informing people, Kaleme (Mousavi's official website) is advising other news media to warn their users about the necessity of being watchful!

You Are The Media !

The Kalemeh post has in turn prompted other sites such as Norooz to speculate that Mousavi's arrest may be imminent. We are monitoring the situation but must emphasize that, at this point, these reports are just rumours.

1650 GMT: The Back-and-Forth on the "Burning" of Khomeini. EA's Mr Smith, after consulting sources, checks in to work through the possibilities of the story:
Many remain convinced that the act was indeed really anti-regime. However, whether or not the burning of the photograph was genuine, the follow-up was predictable: Iranian TV trumpeted the footage as proof of the Green Wave's anti-revolutionary stance.

A veteran Iranian journalist has written, "It is not suspicious. It is opposition to the Islamic Republic. The people are clearly stating that they don't want to go back in time to the period when [Mousavi was] Prime Minister [in the 1980s]. Rather, they want to move forward, past the Islamic Republic. Mr. Mousavi, you should publicly state where you are positioned in all this."

This was a reply to to Mousavi's own reply to Jomhouri Eslami newspaper, in which he deftly distanced the Green movement from the burning and rather flimsily labelled the burning of Khomeini's poster as the work of agent provocateurs. Very interestingly, though, he omitted any reference to Khamenei's image, which you will recall was torn and burnt alongside Khomeini's in the YouTube footage. Mousavi's respect is only centred on the figure of the "Holy Imam", no mention of his successor whatsoever.

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Iran: The Arrest of Majid Tavakoli “His 16 Azar Speech on Video”
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The Latest from Iran (11 December): Ripples and then Ruptures?

1530 GMT: Worst "Analysis" of the Day. Congratulations to Abbas Barzegar for his conclusion pulled down from the sky, "Revolution Halted in Iran".

To do the injustices of this piece suitable justice would require a separate entry. Let's just say that Barzegar extrapolates from a suitable premise --- that the political movements do not simply consist of 2President Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamenei on one side versus Mir-Hossein Mousavi, Ayatollah Rafsanjani, and the entire Iranian nation on the other" --- to wandering and unsupported claims on the Green movement: "a dispersed core of intellectual and political elites with no clear agenda or ability to mobilise".

To put this caricature into perspective, let's just refer back to another Barzegar "analysis":

Ahmedinejad turned the election into a referendum on the very project of Iran's Islamic revolution. Their street chants yelled "Death to all those against the Supreme Leader" followed by traditional Shia rituals and elegies. It was no match for the high-spirited fun-loving youth of northern Tehran, [defeated as they] sang "Ahmedi-bye-bye, Ahmedi-bye-bye" or "ye hafte-do hafte, Mahmud hamum na-rafte" (One week, two weeks, Mahmoud hasn't taken a shower).

The date of the proclamation of that Ahmadinejad victory? 13 June.

1520 GMT: Sentences for Shiraz University Students. Nine have been handed down jail terms, ranging from six months (suspended) to six years, for participation in 13 Aban (4 November) protests.

1420 GMT: The Arrests of 16 Azar. A website has posted the names and status of 34 protesters arrested last Monday, and an Iranian activist has provided an English translation via Twitter.

1320 GMT: Grand Ayatollah Sane'i has added his denunciation of alleged regime disinformation with the burning of Imam Khomeini's picture:
When some reach a dead end, they don’t even spear Imam Khomeini’s dignity and take advantage of him for their own purpose. Oppressors set Imam Khomeini’s picture on fire [themselves], then claim that the students did that; while the students support Imam Khomeini and are in debt to him, and if they are protesting, it is based on Imam Khomeini’s saying, “The scale is the people’s vote."

1255 GMT: We Didn't Start the Fire (against Imam Khomeini). The reformist Islamic Association of Students of Tehran University has strongly condemned broadcasting of the “suspicious” footage of the tearing and burning of Imam Khomeini’s picture on state-run TV.

The students offered a religious analogy to condemn the regime's disinformation: they warned that the desecration of Imam Khomeini’s dignity to create new crisis in the society harks back to the enemies of Imam Ali, Shi’a Islam's first Imam, abuse of the dignity of Quran by holding the holy book up in the middle of war for their own benefit. As a result, a group of extremist and foolish individuals took the power over the people.

Officials of the Imam Khomeini Institute have also expressed their suspicions over state media's use of the alleged images.

1245 GMT: Today's Regime Attack. And it's Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami stepping up to the plate to take a swing at the opposition. Looks like he's hoping to hit the soft pitch that they're tearing down the system" out of the park: "What they are after is to have a thin layer remaining of the Islamic Republic."

Khatami is also building on this week's theme of the "burning" of the image of Imam Khomeini: state media is reporting that "hundreds" of theological students staged a rally in downtown Tehran to protest against the "insult", with similar events were also held in other Iranian cities.

1145 GMT: We've posted a new entry on Iranians leaving the country amidst the post-election conflict and possible Government measures against them.

0945 GMT: And Keeping the Door Open. Foreign Minister Mottaki added that Iran would be happy to attend another meeting with the "5+1" powers on uranium enrichment. He is doing so on the basis of the fuel "swap" idea, however, with the exchange of Iran's 3.5 percent uranium stock for a 20 percent enrichment supply taking place inside the country.

0925 GMT: Holding the Line. Speaking at a regional security conference in Bahrain, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki neither closed the door on nuclear negotiations nor offered concessions. He nodded towards the ongoing talks, "First I think we could just totally abandon the whole thing or we could propose something more moderate, a kind of middle way ... Iran has done that." At the same time, he emphasised that Iran wanted to ensure control of the process, "We need 10 to 15 nuclear plants to generate electricity in our country."

0915 GMT: Taking Iran's Money. In what may be the biggest seizure of Iranian assets abroad since the Islamic Revolution, it has emerged that more than $2 billion allegedly held on behalf of Tehran in Citigroup accounts was frozen last year in a secret order by a federal court in New York City.

While the case is not directly tied to the US Government's sanctions on Iran, the court action was supported by information provided by the US Treasury.

The frozen assets are in the center of a legal battle between Luxembourg's Clearstream Banking, the holder of the Citibank account, and the families of hundreds of U.S. Marines killed or injured in a 1983 attack on a Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.

0825 GMT: A quieter start (and later one, we needed the rest) to the day, after the intensity of Friday's speculation over the purported letter/tapes from military groups "standing with the opposition" and the growing opposition campaign linked to the regime's treatment of detained student leader Majid Tavakoli. The excitement and confusion even swept away the Government's threats against those within (Hashemi Rafsanjani) and those without (the opposition who supposedly burned the pictures of the Supreme Leader and Ayatollah Khomeini on 16 Azar).

Quieter, however, does not mean silent. The campaign sparked by Tavakoli, with the videos and pictures of "We Are All Majids, All in Hejab" has both mobilised protest in the run-up to Moharram and boosted the swing in international attention and support. The Guardian of London has picked up on the Facebook campaign. Even Fox News picked up the story on one of its blogs, and The New York Times has a follow-up today, with prominent US-based academic Hamid Dabashi joining the movement. The conclusion of the article brought a smile and a "Really? No kidding!": "Six months after the June 12 presidential election, the dispute over its outcome appears nowhere near at an end."

This morning the campaign continues. Josh Shahryar has posted "An Ode to Majid Tavakoli".

On the military front, I am afraid we have little so far to solve the mystery of whether the letter/audio from eight Iranian units is authentic. There is an outstanding debate amongst readers on our post yesterday, which raises possibilities but no resolutions so far. We'll keep watching; however, the most important issue for the moment may be whether people --- both those supporting the Government and those opposing it --- think the message is real. For if so, then the uncertainty caused is a victory in itself for the opposition.