UPDATE 0800 GMT: Just after posting this, I noticed the English summary of the blog of the academic and journalist Alireza Nourizadeh, who lives outside Iran but claims good sources inside the country. He says that there was a three-hour meeting on Saturday night between the top commanders of security forces and the military, the Minister of Intelligence, and the Supreme Leader and his son Mojtaba. (Note: no President Ahmadinejad)
Nourizadeh asserts, "During the meeting the majority of participants requested the arrest of Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, Seyed Mohamad Khatami and the placing of Hashemi Rafsanjani under surveillance. Khamenei, however, postponed his final decision to tomorrow.
Nevertheless, according to a very reliable source it is very probable that the coup leaders take series of important measures including arrest of a number of opposition figures tonight."
0730 GMT: We awake to sift through the chatter and rumours of more Government action against the reformists and Green Wave(s). Sparked by an entry in Mir Hossein Mousavi's website Kalemeh and then accelerated by the repetition of the warning by other reformists websites such as Norooz and Mehdi Karroubi's website Tagheer, the concern grew that Mousavi might be arrested.
Here is where we are this morning:
1. THE FAILURE OF THE KHOMEINI "ON FIRE" CAMPAIGN: Of course, there are a number of reasons why the regime might take the dramatic and dangerous step of detaining the most prominent Green leaders.However, the immediate catalyst seems to come from a Government stumble: the clumsy propaganda campaign using the alleged burning of Ayatollah Khomeini's photograph by protesters.
It is secondary whether or not the video shown on 16 Azar by State media, claiming to be of a man urged on by a crowd to deface and then set on fire images of the current Supreme Leader and Khomeini, is genuine. What matter is whether people believe it is genuine. And it appears that, given the increasing shrillness of the Government campaign, that the regime has failed to make the allegation stick.
And there has been a negative effect undermining the authority of those in charge. The reformist response --- announcing that Khomeini was not burned but saying nothing about Ayatollah Khamenei --- speaks loudly in its omission: we are not protesting the Imam's idea of the Republic but the current state of that Republic and, in particular, the man occupying the post of Supreme Leader.
2. RAISING THE STAKES: So the regime was unable to turn 16 Azar, damaging in its display of persistent protest despite all the Government restrictions, into an example of the opposition's dastardly effort to destroy the Republic. What next?
Simply put, keep banging away. So on Saturday Ahmad Khatami, who has been the point man for hard-line declarations (remember the death penalty for protesters announcement in his Friday Prayer early in the crisis?), indicated that there must be punishment of those responsible for the desecration both of Khomeini's image and the regime's authority. That message in turn was trumpeted by outlets such as IRNA and Fars News.
3. FROM PROPAGANDA TO REALITY? Another warning has thus been put out by the regime.
There is a practical dimension to the threat. The Government's strategy in the run-up to the 16 Azar protests focused on the detention of student leaders, but this was not enough to stop the tide of demonstration. Even if the protests were smaller than on previous occasions, their concentration on campuses at the same time as they spread throughout the country galvanised attention --- note the swing in international media from declaring the Green Wave over to announcing its resurgence. (Is that duplicated amongst those "in the know" inside Iran?)
So if it's not enough to take out the student leaders, what can you do, especially with the important religious occasion of Mosharram around the corner? You go up the chain and challenge the Big Guys.
And don't underestimate the effect of groups of individuals simply deciding to force the issue. On the day after 16 Azar, Mousavi's offices were surrounded by about 40 plainclothes personnel, sparking a confrontation with the opposition leader. Both sides backed away --- Mousavi's security taking him back into his offices, the plainclothesmen dispersing --- but the showdown could have escalated.
The Government has threatened before to detain opposition leaders. And it has arrested high-profile Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi advisors. However, it has not necessarily been able to hold those advisors, such as Alireza Beheshti. (Whether it has been able to limit their role in the movement is an important and, for us, unanswered questioned).
For now, therefore, the rumours of the ultimate arrest of Mousavi appear to be a combination of regime frustration, a waving of the Sword of Damocles over the Green Movement, and the opposition's own nervousness.
None of which gives answers. That is, beyond this important lesson, six months and two days after the Presidential election....
This isn't over.