Iran Election Guide

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Entries in Parleman News (4)


The Latest from Iran (28 December): The Regime's Arresting Strategy

ASHURA52115 GMT: Battling with Statements. The Assembly of Combatant Clergymen has condemned those it says are responsible for violence on Ashura, namely the security forces and plainclothes militia: "The Almighty God will cut off the hands of these deceived fools." The Assembly added:
Today we should cry blood that on the day of Hossein’s Aashura and after all sorts of insults to Imam Khomeini’s family and his legacy by the phony defenders of the revolution, there was an attack on the prayer hall [in Jamaran, where former President Khatami was speaking] that is a reminder of the name and memory of the Imam. The peaceful ritual of commemorating Aashura was attacked by clubs, batons and chains and by insulting slogans. Those who [did this] made the utmost insults to both Ashura and Imam Khomeini and then beat and bashed innocent people.

Daftar-Tahkim-Vahdat, the main reformist Student Alumni Organisation, also issued a statement:
What a regret that a government that considers itself to be risen from religious teachings and a national revolution, on the noon of Ashura opens fire on innocents and does what even the most notorious rulers of this country throughout the history [e.g. the Shah deposed in 1979] had not dared to do.

2055 GMT: Taking Sides? We've posted the video of President Obama's statement (see 2020 GMT) and it's even harder-hitting than we thought:"History will be on the side of those who seek justice"

2035 GMT: How Many Detained Yesterday? Rah-e-Sabz reports that 400 to 500 protesters were arrested Sunday in Isfahan, including the brother and two nephews of former Minister of Interior Abdollah Nouri. Human Rights Activists News Agency are now saying 1100 people have been transferred to Evin Prison in Tehran.

2025 GMT: Dastghaib Calls for A Movement. Ayatollah Dastgheib has issued a statement for fellow marja (high-ranking clerics) to join him in calling on the Government to adhere to the Constitution.

NEW Latest Iran Video: Obama Condemns “Violent & Unjust Suppression” (28 December)
NEW Iran: Ashura’s Message “Iranians Are Not Punching Bags” (Josh Shahryar)
NEW Iran: A Point of No Return?
Iran: A 5-Minute, 5-Point Reaction to The Events of Ashura
Iran: The False US Friends of the “Iranian People” (An Open Letter to Charles Krauthammer)
Latest Iran Video: The Ashura Protests (27 December — 3rd Set)
Latest Iran Video: The Ashura Protests (27 December — 2nd Set)
Latest Iran Video: The Ashura Protests (27 December)
The Latest from Iran (27 December): The Day of Ashura

2020 GMT: Obama Speaks. The US Government has definitely decided to throw rhetorical support behind the Iranian opposition. The President, in a press conference which will focus on the foiled attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound jet, has taken the time to comment on events in Iran.

Obama hailed the "courage and conviction" of Iran's people and said the Government must respect their rights:

We call for the immediate release of all who have been unjustly detained....The United States joins with the international community in strongly condemning the violent and unjust suppression of innocent Iranian citizens. What is talking place within Iran is not about the United States or any other country. It is about the Iranian people and their aspirations for justice.

1900 GMT: They Burned 18 Garbage Bins?! Sometimes you have to admire the Iranian regime. It is walking a fine line between showing that Sunday's protests were serious enough that the demonstrators must be punished but not so serious enough that they pose a threat to the regime. This is tonight's magical public-relations solution:
Head of the Public Relations office of Tehran's Safety Services and Firefighting Organization Behrouz Tashakkor said 838 firefighters were dispatched to various locations in Tehran on Ashura. "Nine residential buildings, 9 vehicles, 7 shops, 2 banks and 3 power stations were set on fire [by anti-government protestors]," Tashakkor said.

The Iranian official added that "18 garbage bins" were also set on fire.

1855 GMT: Karroubi Targeted? Saham News reports that Mehdi Karoubi, attending an Ashura mourning ceremony with his family, was attacked by plainclothes militia as he left the mosque. Karoubi’s car was attacked and vandalised, breaking the front windscreen, before onlookers intervened.

1840 GMT: More on Emad Baghi's Arrest (see 1140 GMT). An EA contact has given us the following information:

This morning plainclothes officers entered Baghi's home, with others standing at the door. They insulted his wife and daughters and turned him home into a garrison and badly beat his brother-in-law. As Baghi was taken away, he read a verse of the Qu'ran calling for tolerance and patience in difficulties. One of his captors said, "His life is short enough that he can see the future."

One of the accusations against Baghi is his interview with the late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri in a movie recently broadcast by BBC Persian.

Baghi's whereabouts tonight are unknown.

1740 GMT: The BBC has published a comprehensive list of Western countries which have strongly criticised the Iranian Government's bloody crackdown and called for Tehran's restraint.

1555 GMT: Where is Mousavi's Body? According to the Islamic Republic News Agency, the body of Mir Hossein Mousavi's nephew Seyed Ali is being held by Government authorities while investigations are carried out on a death "under suspicious circumstances".

1530 GMT: Javan Farda reports that the son of Ayatollah Jaleleddin Taheri has been arrested in Isfahan. Taheri has been under pressure in recent days after his attempt to lead a memorial service for Grand Ayatollah Montazeri.

1444 GMT: Rah-e-Sabz is reporting that metro stations in central Tehran have been closed. The likelihood is that this is because of Government fears of escalation of protests at 7 Tir Square.

1440 GMT: Arresting the Martyr's Mother. One of "the others" arrested at the house of activist Mahin Fahimi (see 1335 GMT) was the mother of Sohrab
, who came to prominence when it emerged in July that he died from Basiji gunfire on 15 June.

1435 GMT: First Clashes of Today? We are getting reports of a crowd gathering in Tehran's 7 Tir Square and clashes with security forces.

1405 GMT: Keeping Rafsanjani in a Box. Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani did not make an appearance yesterday, but that does not mean that the regime pressure on relented --- indeed, since that pressure might have muted Rafsanjani on Ashura, why not maintain it?

Fars News keeps up the campaign this morning, claiming that Rafsanjani's daughter Faezeh Hashemi joined "rioters" on Ashura after spending her holidays in the north of Iran (in other words, she partied during the first days of Moharram and joined the protests just for fun).

1400 GMT: The Arrests. Another vital list, this one from Neo-Resistance, which posts these details of arrests:

Ebrahim Yazdi (former Foreign Minister)
Emad-e'Din Baghi (Human Rights Activist)
Morteza Hadji (Minister of educaion during Khatami era)
Leila Tavassoli, daughter of Mohammad Tavassoli
Seyed Hosein Mousavi Tabrizi (Head of the clerical Association of Teachers and Researchers of Qom)
Alireza Beheshti Shirazi (Editor in Chief of Mousavi's online journal Kalameh Sabz)
Ghorban Behzadian Nejad (Mousavi consultant)
Mohamad Bagherian (Mousavi consultant)
Rasouli (deputy of President Khatami's Baran Foundation)
Forouzandeh (Manager of Mousavi's office)
Mohammad Sadegh Rabbani (retired university professor who used to be the general prosecutor 20 years ago, arrested yesterday 27 December)
Mohammad Moin (son of former Presidential candidate Mostafa Moin, the former Minister of Science and higher education, arrested 27 December)
Heshmatollah Tabarzadi (Student Activist)
Haleh Sahabi (Women's Rights activist)

1355 GMT: Reports that journalist Mostafa Izadi arrested.

1350 GMT: We Break for This Official Announcement. Press TV: "Brigadier-General Masoud Jazayeri, the deputy commander of Iran's armed forces, on Monday defined the 'actions of a group of hooligans on such days of mourning' as another 'low act' incomparable to anything seen before. He described the 'small group of vandals' as marginal compared to 'millions of real Ashura mourners'."

Now back to regular programming....

1342 GMT: Essential Information. HomyLafayette has posted a summary with information on those swept up in the Government's wave of arrests. Josh Shahryar has compiled information, complete with map, on the locations across Iran of protests yesterday. And an EA reader points us to an excellent collection of photographs from the Ashura protests.

1335 GMT: Claims coming in that Government forces entered the home of peace activist Mahin Fahimi, arresting her, her son, and others.

1303 GMT: Mousavi's Body. We continue follow conflicting reports over the fate of the body of Mir Hossein Mousavi's nephew Seyed Ali with reports that it was taken from the Ebn -e-Sina Hospital by Government authorities.

1258 GMT: Deaths and Arrests. One of those killed yesterday was the son of Shahin Mahinfar, the prominent IRIB journalist.

An Iranian source reports that Abolfazl Ghadyani of the Mojahedin has been arrested.

1236 GMT: There are unconfirmed reports that the head of the Iranian Embassy in Norway has resigned citing his support of the green movement.

1205 GMT: The Human Rights Activists News Agency claims that 550 people arrested on Sunday have been transferred to Evin Prison.

1200 GMT: Answering Our Question. Masoud at The Newest Deal has a lengthy analysis which responds to our interim assessment this morning, "Point of No Return?". His reply? "One thing that is certain is that there is no turning back."

1140 GMT: The Regime Strikes Back (Cont.). The strategy of the Government is to "break" the movement --- much as it appeared to do in June, in July, in August, in September --- with arrests and disruption of communications.

EA sources confirm that Emad Baghi, the founder of the Association for Defense of Prisoners Rights, has been arrested. (Parleman News has now reported this.) A reliable source writes that Heshmatollah Tabarzadi, leader of the banned Democratic Front of Iranian People, has been taken from his home.

The site Rah-e-Sabz is under sustained cyber-attack and, of course, Kalemeh has been hindered by the arrest of its editor (see 1040 GMT). It is also reported that Etemaad newspaper has been closed.

1040 GMT: The Regime Strikes Back. A pattern is emerging of the Iranian Government trying to regain the initiative through arrests last night and this morning. Alireza Beheshti Shirazi, the editor of Mir Hossein Mousavi's Kalemeh, has been detained.

1010 GMT: The Mousavi "Assassination" Story (The Official Iran Version). Fars News tries to put both the Ashura demonstrations and the death of Mir Hossein Mousavi's nephew into "proper" perspective. As with the death of Neda Agha Soltan in June, the killing of Seyed Ali Mousavi was carried out by specially-trained teams, linked to the 10 "terrorists" slain by Iranian forces. The story will then be taken up by foreign media as proof of the evil of Iran's regime.

0955 GMT: The Mousavi "Assassination" Story. The New York Times has a lengthy and very useful article, written by Robert Worth and Nazila Fathi. In the review of Sunday's events, one passage is striking, especially if the line is taken up by other US media (who have in past have been fond of filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf as a "spokesman" for the Green movement):
Unlike the other protesters reported killed on Sunday, Ali Moussavi [the nephew of Mir Hossein Mousavi] appears to have been assassinated in a political gesture aimed at his uncle, according to Mohsen Makhmalbaf, an opposition figure based in Paris with close ties to the Moussavi family.

Mr. Moussavi was first run over by a sport utility vehicle outside his home, Mr. Makhmalbaf wrote on his Web site. Five men then emerged from the car, and one of them shot Mr. Moussavi.

0950 GMT: Correct us if we're wrong, but it appears that the reformist site Rah-e-Sabz, an important source for news, has not updated since 0120 GMT (4:50 a.m. in Tehran).

0935 GMT: Non-Violence and Self-Defense. We've posted a provocative analysis by Josh Shahryar of the events of Ashura, "Iranians Are Not Punching Bags".

0930 GMT: Rah-e-Sabz has more on what appears to be a Government raid on the offices of the Assembly of Teachers and Researchers of Qom. Earlier it was reported that Hossein Mousavi Tabrizi, the head of the Assembly, was arrested.

0845 GMT: The Regime (Tries to) Strike Back. Unconfirmed reports that, in addition to the arrest of prominent reformist Ebrahim Yazdi, Iranian authorities have detained Mir Hossein Mousavi's advisors Mohammad Baghriyan and Ghorban Behzadian-Nejad.

0755 GMT: We're still getting amazing video from yesterday. The latest clip --- of heavily-armed security forces pinned back against a wall by protesters --- will go up in two minutes.

0745 GMT: A day to catch up with news, to stand back and assess.

My own impression --- and this is personal, not an "official" EA line --- is that the protests of Ashura were an important marker that the Iranian Government will not stand, at least with its current President and its current political approach. How much farther this goes --- is this now an indication that only sweeping changes in the Iranian system, extending to the authority of the Supreme Leader, will avert even more dramatic showdowns? --- is what I cannot quite grasp.

We've posted two "thinkpieces" setting out the possibilities: late last night, I wrote a "5-Minute, 5-Point Reaction" and this morning we've set out some thoughts in "A Point of No Return?"

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 Special LiveBlog: Ayatollah Montazeri Has Died

MONTAZERI2UPDATE 2225 GMT: Rah-e-Sabz has published what it claims is the circular issued by the Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance on coverage of Montazeri's death. It states that reference should be made to Montazeri's differences with Ayatollah Khomeini, but there should be no mention of his political career.

There are also stories that newspapers have been taken off printing presses to be altered. So far only Etelaat has a full obituary of Montazeri. so far.

Latest Iran Video: Montazeri’s Criticism of Supreme Leader Khamenei (October 2009)
Latest Iran Video: Demonstrations in Memory of Montazeri (20 December)

The Latest from Iran (20 December): Montazeri Death; Regime Scrambles for Legitimacy

1710 GMT: "Following the announcements made by a number of Grand Ayatollahs inviting public to mourn the departure of the great shia scholar and noble combatant, Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, in a joint statement Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi declared Monday to be a national mourning day and invited the grieving public to attend Grand Ayatollah Montazeri’s funeral which will be held (then)."

1650 GMT: Ahmad Qabel, a religious scholar and one of Montazeri's disciples of the late Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, has been arrested while en route to Qom from Mashhad. Qabel is an outspoken critic of the Supreme Leader. There is no information about Qabel's captors or where he is being held.

Meanwhile, some political activists and journalists are claiming that security agents on Sunday afternoon have threatened to arrest them if they participate in Montazeri's funeral.

1635 GMT: Both Mir Hossein Mousavi (text in Persian and English) and Mehdi Karroubi have published their condolences over the death of Montazeri.

1555 GMT: Enduring America's Mr Smith has some sharp observations on the messages of the Supreme Leader and Hashemi Rafsanjani (1540 and 1545 GMT):

The Leader's message is not really congratulatory: he was forced to act (after half a day's delay, compared to the senior theologians who went to Montazeri's house in Qom), and he refers to the incident that led to Montazeri's dismissal in 1989. He essentially states that Montazeri did Khomeini wrong on that issue and reserves judgement for God. Khamenei couldn't stay silent on the issue of his death, but his message is anything but congratulatory.

Same for Hashemi Rafsanjani: his message is terse and quite dry, as it was Rafsanjani himself who engineered Montazeri's dismissal. His condolences contain nothing about Montazeri's political activities, (which spanned some 50 years, and notes only his theologian qualities, saying that "the seminary system and Islamic society will miss his presence".

So, all in all, these two are messages who were forcibly spat out, rather than being heartfelt

1545 GMT: And now the message from the Supreme Leader....It refers to Montazeri's important role in the early years of the Islamic Republic:

[He was a] well-versed jurist and a prominent master....Many disciples have benefited greatly from him....Ayatollah Montazeri spent a long period of his life serving the late founder of the Islamic Revolution and made many efforts and suffered much hardship for advancing this cause.

However, Khamenei also mentions the incident that led to the cleric's dismissal in 1989.

1540 GMT: Hashemi Rafsanjani's condolence message for Montazeri is carefully framed, omitting any reference to the cleric's political activities and instead limiting itself to the religious sphere: "The seminary system and Islamic society will miss his presence."

1535 GMT: Both Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have confirmed that they will attend Montazeri's funeral tomorrow.

1525 GMT: Back from an appearance with Al Jazeera English on another topic to catch up with developments. Both Ayatollah Sane'i and former President Mohammad Khatami have issued public condolences.

1205 GMT: Pictures indicate that the city of Najafabad has shut down, with all shops closed, in memory of Montazeri.

1155 GMT: The regime seems to be almost panicked in its response to the news of Montazeri's death. EA sources report that initially the Ministry of Islamic Guidance and Culture ordered newspapers to ignore it. When this proved impossible, outlets like Raja News and Fars News insulted Montazeri by dropping his titles and emphasising his "support of positions against the Islamic system".

Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting finally mentioned Montazeri's death in its 1 p.m. bulletin, belittling the cleric and using an interview with his physician to establish that Montazeri had died of natural causes.

1100 GMT: Reports that Montazeri's funeral will be Monday, 9 a.m. local time.

The pro-Government Raja News has announced the death of "Hossein Ali Montazeri" in a derogatory article, dropping any clerical title and denouncing Montazeri for working with and sheltering the "gang" of Mehdi Hashemi, the son of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani.

1030 GMT: Parleman News reports that Montazeri’s followers are moving --- from Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz, Najaf-Abad and other cities --- toward his home in the holy city of Qom to pay their respects. There are also gatherings in the homes of Grand Ayatollahs Mousavi-Ardebili, Shobeiri-Zanjani, Bayat-Zanjani, Sane'i, and Amini.

0800 GMT: Radio Farda has the Persian transcript and audio of Ayatollah Montazeri's last public statement, delivered on 11 December as he accepted a human rights award.

0730 GMT: Grand Ayatollah Montazeri's website is not available to confirm the news of his passing. The Associated Press posts, however, that his grandson has verified initial reports, and his son Ahmad has reportedly said the same to the Iranian Labor News Agency.

We awake this morning to the news, from the Iranian Students News Agency, that Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri has died.

Montazeri, 87, was one of the most prominent clerics in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. In the 1980s he was the designated successor to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, until he was sidelined because of political and religious divisions and a falling-out with Khomeini. Ayatollah Khameini eventually became Supreme Leader. Montazeri was isolated and then placed under house arrest after clashes with Khamenei.

In recent months, Montazeri was one of the most vocal supporters of the opposition movement, going as far as to criticise the legimitacy of the Supreme Leader. For example, at the end of October, he refused to commemorate the birthday of Imam Reza, the 8th Shia Imam, as a protest:
Since many of our beloved scholars, those who are not only faithful individuals but also served this revolution and country passionately, are unfortunately in prison for false accusations; and to show solidarity and sympathy with the respected families of these loved ones, we did not hold a celebration today....During Shah’s time because many people were under oppression, Imam Khomeini announced not to hold the ceremony for the Birthday of the hidden Imam.

On 11 December, the Defenders of Human Rights Center in Iran named Montazeri as its Human Rights Activist of the Year. In his acceptance speech, Montazeri said, "None of those [aggressive actions by the Iranian Government] are legal."

As he became the most vocal high-ranking clerical critic of the Iranian Government after the 12 June election, Montazeri caught the attention of international media. In October, the BBC had an e-mail interview with Montazeri on Islam and the legitimacy of the Iranian Government and Islamic Republic. On 21 November, Michael Slackman of The New York Times published a profile, "Cleric Wields Religion to Challenge Iran’s Theocracy".

The Latest from Iran (3 December): Normal Service?

16-AZAR-POSTER2000 GMT: What War Game is The Economist Playing Out? The British journal has an "analysis" which, given the publication's usual journalistic standards, is shocking: "An Iranian nuclear bomb, or the bombing of Iran?"

The piece starts with a series of false steps and distortions to get from premise --- the second enrichment plant at Fordoo near Qom --- to conclusion: "brazen", "belligerent" Iran is "on the threshold of becoming a nuclear (military) power". That's pnly a prelude, however, to "news" posing as advocacy of Bomb, Bomb Iran.

The journal gives unwarranted prominence to a road show by two former US Senators and a former Air Force General who are talking up a strike and then intones, "Israel’s threats of military action might be more credible than America’s". That allows The Economist to play big boys with big toys, sketching out how a military attack might unfold, before offering a most sensible "compromise":
So which will it be: a war with Iran, or a nuclear-armed Iran? Short of a revolution that sweeps away the Iranian regime—ushering in one that agrees, like post-apartheid South Africa, to give up its nuclear technology—sanctions may offer the only hope of avoiding the awful choice.

1940 GMT: Strike. A statement from the "Lawyers of the Green Movement of Iranian People" calls for strikes as "a civil action for acquiring one’s rights" and adds this summary of the movement: "The Green Movement doesn’t belong to anybody. Its leaders are different shades of people that are gathered around democracy. It is the people that are leading the movement."

Any information about this initiative would be appreciated, as the group is new to us.

1920 GMT: Preventing 16 Azar. An article in Deutsche Welle summarises that more than 90 students have been arrested in the last three weeks. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran outlines some of the cases of the "stepped up persecution and prosecution of student activists throughout the country".

1910 GMT: A Signal from the Leader? An EA reader tips us off that Ayatollah Khomeini's office has distributed copies, not published before, of a Supreme Leader speech from this summer reminding members of Parliament of their proper role and responsibilities.

Now, this would have no connection whatsoever with the troublesome rebellion of more than a few legislators against the Ahmadinejad Government, right?

NEW Iran, the Greens, and the ex-Bushman: With Washington Friends Like These, Who Needs….?
Latest Iran Video: A Non-Crowd for Ahmadinejad in Isfahan? (2 December)
Iran: English Text of Ayatollah Montazeri’s Answers on the Green Movement
The Latest from Iran (2 December): Postures and a Resolution

1810 GMT: Any Connection Here? On the same day that a Government minister threatened his son with arrest and trial, Hashemi Rafsanjani put forth another general criticism of that Government: "Today there is no room to hide the matter. The difficulties presented by the political disputes are grave."

Rafsanjani also repeated a call for national unity, linking it to support of Ayatollah Khameini: "I believe there is no one other that the Leader of the Revolution who can bring about unity and we should all assist the leader to create a sympathetic atmosphere where people can be satisfied.” He refrained, however, from specific reference to a National Unity Plan or any demands upon the regime.

So here's the question --- does Rafsanjani reverse his strategy of the last three months and go on an offensive or does he continue with an effective boycott, refusing official functions and duties such as Friday Prayers apart from his leadership of the Expediency Council?

1600 GMT: It's the Economy, Folks. A belated hat-tip to Robert Worth of The New York Times, who published an article on Wednesday about the issues surrounding President Ahmadinejad's proposals for subsidy reform.

1545 GMT: "Soft War" = Less Music, No Make-Up. The head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, Ezatollah Zarghami, has announced that the state outlet will focus on fighting a soft war against Iran's enemies.

In that cause, the new five-year work plan includes: reduced use of music, protection of women through prohibition of make-up, use of more debates, the training of devoted and experienced staff, "a revolutionary and ultra-conservative atmosphere", the spread of hope about the future of the establishment and the raising of public awareness about the positive services provided by it, and the provision of models of the correct lifestyle with a focus on the importance of family values. (Summary at Tehran Bureau)

1515 GMT: Going After Hashemi. According to Rah-e-Sabz, Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi is calling for the arrest and trial of Hashemi Rafsanjani's son, Mehdi Hashemi.

1250 GMT: American Tough Guy. National Security Advisor James Jones has laid down the law to Tehran:

By the end of the year we should be able to ascertain what Iran's true colors are on this, and the end of the year is coming. We're still hopeful. The door is still open, but the window is closing.

No coincidence that the Obama officials pushing hardest for sanctions on Iran are located in Jones' National Security Council.

1145 GMT: Two new posts following up our initial update at 0600 GMT --- a full English translation of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri's answers on the Green Movement and a video apparently showing a lack of turnout for President Ahmadinejad's speech in Isfahan.

1130 GMT: Mahmoud in a Mood. The President is being just a bit defiant today. He has declared that as Parliament changed his proposal for subsidy reforms, he won't implement the law. (Reuters has an English summary.)

1120 GMT: Dissing Rafsanjani, Defying Khamenei? According to the reformist Parleman News, the President is refusing to attend Expediency Council meetings chaired by Hashemi Rafsanjani, who is the Head of the Council, even though the Supreme Leader has ordered him to do so.

1020 GMT: Conflicting reports on the Damascus explosion. Most reports still say several dead, but Syrian Minister of Interior is insisting that only three people died after a tyre exploded.

0950 GMT: Protest of the Week. An EA source reveals:

"Last week Mr Ramin, the Deputy Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, who was attending the memorial for former Minister Ali Kordan, could not find his shoes when leaving the mosque.

"It seems someone stole Ramin’s shoes to protest Ahmadinejad’s policy toward the press."

0940 GMT: Reuters is reporting six dead in the Damascus blast.

Meanwhile, in Tehran, it appears that the rumours of the scapegoating and even imprisonment of former Tehran Prosecutor General Saeed Mortazavi for post-election abuses can be put to rest. He has been named the President's Inspector General.

0930 GMT: Have just landed in UK to learn of the bomb in Damascus killing Iiranian pilgrims. Update on that and other stories in next hour.

0630 GMT: Protest of the Week. An EA source reveals:

"Last week Mr Ramin, the Deputy Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, who was attending the memorial for former Minister Ali Kordan, could not find his shoes when leaving the mosque.

"It seems someone stole Ramin’s shoes to protest Ahmadinejad’s policy toward the press."

0620 GMT: The Road to 16 Azar? Confirming news from Tuesday: more than 3000 students of Tehran University have invited Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi to participate in demonstrations on 16 Azar (7 December) in the Technical Faculty.

In Parliament, the leading reformist party, the Imam Khomeini Line (Reformists) held a press conference. Hussein Hashemian, the head of the party, said, "We follow Iranian people and in their belief the election is not over. This is why we follow up on their protests." Mohammad Reza Taabesh, the deputy leader added, "What happened after the election was due to the imprudence, inexperience, and carelessness of leaders and people in charge."

MP Dariush Ghanbari pressed the specific case of the abuses at Kahrizak Prison, declaring that Iranian people are still waiting for the open trial of the people in charge.

0610 GMT: While we catch up with internal moves and developments in Iran, international media continue to focus on the nuclear question. President Ahmadinejad furnished them with a soundbite in his Isfahan speech when he declared that Iran would now ensure that it was self-sufficient in producing 20 percent enriched uranium for its medical research reactor.

Go behind the headline and the significance emerges:

1. Ahmadinejad is now responding in an almost knee-jerk fashion. The "10 enrichment plants" declaration now apprears to be a heated reaction from Sunday's Cabinet meeting --- it is being dropped because this is a fantasy, not a plan.

2. That in turn points to an Iranian weakness which may become a hindrance for the President.

Iran's nuclear programme is clearly hindered not only by problems with enrichment capacity but also by a lack of uranium stock. Unless that can be addressed, Ahmadinejad's promises will likely be exposed as bluff.

0600 GMT: Returning from Holland this morning, with updates back to normal from 1200 GMT.

In the meantime, we're noting two stories. It looks like President Ahmadinejad, for all his global travels, is having a hard time with legitimacy at home. Despite extensive publicity for his trip to Isfahan yesterday, with schools asking parents to allow their children to attend, the crowd was far below expectations.

Ahmadinejad's reception can be compared to the far larger crowd
six months ago, when Mohammad Khatami visited Isafahan to support Mir Hossein Mousavi's Presidential campaign.

Meanwhile, more on Grand Ayatollah Montazeri’s answers to questions about the Green Movement, which we noted on Tuesday. Montazeri declared that “people will not be satisfied with anything less than their rightful demands”.

Montazeri asserted, “Killing, threatening, arresting, unlawful prosecutions, handing heavy and unfair sentences to political activists and freedom-seekers and propagating lies, will not affect people's determination.” He praised the Green Movement’s emphasis on a peaceful form of struggle against violations of people’s rights, and he also commended the Movement’s ability to draw the attention and sympathy of international human rights organizations.

Montazeri concluded by condemning the government’s treatment of post-election protesters and detainees and advised the government to respect people’s requests.