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Entries in Press TV (9)


Iran: The Regime's Misfired "Big Shot" at Legitimacy

REGIME RALLYNews and rumor from Iran on Wednesday was dominated by two stories: the pro-regime rally and last night's report in Iranian state media, now denied, that Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi had fled Tehran for Mazandaran province in the north of the country. Each was surrounded by uncertainty and confusion --- how big were the rally and others claimed around Iran? were the most prominent figures in the Green Movement under house arrest --- and, at the end of the night, many were wondering, "What does this all mean?"

Maybe the best way to approach the question is to recognise that the stories are not separate.

Put bluntly, as we did at the start of Wednesday, this was the regime's big push for a display that it was in control. Unsettled by the failure over 6+ months to quell opposition and rocked in particular by the high-visibility takeover of Ashura by its foes on Sunday, the Government responded quickly with the claim of credibility.

Iran: The Regime’s Misfired “Big Shot” at Legitimacy
Iran: The Uncertainties of Oppression and Protest
The Latest from Iran (31 December): Is That All There Is?

Thus the call to its supporters to appear on Wednesday, surrounded by the loudest trumpets of state media. It will still be debated today whether the response was tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands, whether their appearance was voluntary or "bought" with free transport, free foods, and days off from school and work, whether the footage from outside Tehran was genuine or even significant --- see Josh Shahryar's analysis for EA --- but on the surface, the regime was able to put up images of a filled Enghelab Square in the capital and rallies in cities such as Tabriz and Shiraz.

What may be most striking, however, was the tone and messages surrounding the event. We noted yesterday that the regime has been showing its "negative" strength by detaining and condemning the opposition but has not been as forthcoming in a "positive" campaign showing how it is providing for the welfare of Iranians.

The Tehran rally did nothing to dispel that impression. There was nothing, for example, to assure the audience of the merits of President Ahmadinejad and his Cabinet, an absence brought out in the post-rally discussion on Press TV. The "positive" extended only as far as "the Supreme Leader is your rightful, just, and magnanimous Leader".

Even that message, given by Ayatollah Alamalhoda of Mashaad, was secondary to the black opening. There are the forces of Satan. The forces are the rioters. Satan is the United States. And Britain. And other foreign governments. And the terrorist MKO (whose political wing, it should be noted, played into the regime's hand with its ill-timed assertion of a key role in the Ashura protests). Stand against all of them.

That, at least to my outside ears, does not sound like an attempt to gain legitimacy through assurance or hope. It strikes the tone of fear. There is even the unstated message --- especially for those who were not at the rally but watched it on state television --- "You may not have complete faith in us, but look at the other guys."

Which brings us to what may have been the second part of the regime campaign. The question this morning: did Government officials feed the story of the flight of "two opposition leaders" to the Islamic Republic News Agency? If they did so, then this is the clumsy fulfillment of an overall message that was to be displayed yesterday: we have threatened them, we have condemned them, we have vanquished them.

Only this step in the strategy did not work. Within an hour, the story was fraying, as the Mousavi and Karroubi camps, despite the Government restrictions on them (their top advisors arrested, their houses and offices surrounded) were able to get out the message that the two men were still in Tehran and still "fighting for the Iranian people". IRNA did not follow up its claim, and overnight other state outlets like Fars and Press TV said the tale was untrue.

Which means that, as Enghelab Square and other squares across are empty of demonstrators this morning, that the regime has the problem of "What Will You Do Now?" After the hundreds of arrests since Sunday, after the fanfare that "millions" of Iranians will turn out to erase all doubt of the political stability of the Supreme Leader (just to repeat, Ahmadinejad has been left behind), after all the invective and threats of the foreign-terrorist-Satanic menace to Iran, legitimacy has not been assured.

Of course, the opposition faces the same question of "What Will You Do Now?". But the opposition has the luxury of taking days, even weeks to make its next high-profile appearance. The regime does not: it is supposed to rule each and every day.

And it is a rule that weakens each and every day when the primary message is all about "them" and not about what the Government is doing for the good of those Iranians who supposedly turned out for it on Wednesday.


The Latest from Iran (30 December): Rallies and Rumours

IRAN GREEN2205 GMT: The Iranian regime, as it blames foreign media for fomenting unrest, continues the attempt to block the services. Voice of America and BBC Persian report sustained jamming efforts.

2055 GMT: The Hidden Story? An Iranian activist makes the interesting and important claim that the rumours around Mousavi and Karroubi have obscured a major story tonight --- "500 thugs attacked students with knives and machetes" at Mashhad University. We've got footage of the clash in our video section.

2050 GMT: Nothing has happened to change our opinion of 1915 GMT. We are treating Iranian state media's story of "two opposition figures" fleeing to northern Iran as rumour or disinformation.

2020 GMT: Reuters is carrying the opposition's denial of IRNA's story:
Hossein Karoubi, the son of moderate defeated presidential candidate Mehdi Karoubi, said his father and opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi were still in Tehran.

"My father and Mr. Mousavi are in Tehran and IRNA's report is baseless. They are still pursuing the people's demands," Hossein Karoubi told moderate Parlemannews.

2005 GMT: Andrew Sullivan has gotten wind of what appears to be a five minute video of a group of security forces disarming after being surrounded by a crowd of demonstrators. We've added it to today's video page.

1915 GMT: Rumours. We're off on a 90-minute break. At this point, we consider the Islamic Republic News Agency story of the Karroubi/Mousavi flight to northern Iran "unconfirmed", with the possibility that it is either a rumour being elevated to "news" or a regime disinformation campaign.

Both the Karroubi and Mousavi camps have denied the story. It should also be noted that the rumour was being spread earlier today that Mousavi's wife Zahra Rahnavard had been detained, and no confirmation has followed.

BBC Persian is interviewing one of Karroubi's sons about 1930 GMT.

1910 GMT: We've posted footage of demonstrations today at Shahryar Qods Azad and Mashhad Universities.

1905 GMT: The Regime Rally (cont.). Peyke Iran, which has published photos indicating a smaller rally than the "hundreds of thousands" cited by other outlets (see 1853 GMT), is now off-line. (1926 GMT: Website is back up.)

1853 GMT: The Regime Rally. CNN's Shirzad Bozorgmehr claims "hundreds of thousands" at today's gathering. He said that at Vali-e Asr Square, he could not get further because of the dense crowd. From a bridge, he watched an area from Imam Hossein Square to Enghelab Square, a distance of about 18 kilometres (11 miles).

NEW Latest Iran Video: University Protests (30 December)
NEW Iran: The Uncertainties of Oppression and Protest
NEW Latest Iran Video: The Strength of the Regime? (29 December)
Latest Iran Video: Today’s University Protest (29 December)
Iran: A List of the Ashura Detainees
Iran: The Regime’s Fightback?
The Latest on Iran (29 December): A Desperate Swing of the Fist

1850 GMT: Mousavi Denial? It looks like Mousavi camp is also denying the IRNA story of "flight" to northern Iran, informing American ABC News that Mousavi is still in Tehran.

1840 GMT: Karroubi Denial of "Fleeing". Mehdi Karroubi's son Hossein has denounced reports that his father and Mir Hossein Mousavi "rumours" spread by Iranian state media. Hossein Karroubi says his father is still in Tehran "working for the people".

1820 GMT: Meanwhile, Some Rhetoric. Speaking to the Islamic Association of Students in Europe, the Supreme Leader said the Western condemnation of the recent events in Iran had been prompted by the influence of "Zionist media".

1815 GMT: IRNA on Mousavi and Karroubi? The Islamic Republic News Agency's account says two "riot leaders fled from Tehran" to Mazandaran amidst "demands for their punishment".

1810 GMT: Mousavi and Karroubi in "Protective Custody"? Returned from a break to find Rah-e-Sabz is checking an Islamic Republic News Agency that Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have been taken to a small town, Kalar Abad, in Mazandaran in northern Iran "for their protection" under the watch of Ministry of Intelligence and Revolutionary Guard forces. Rah-e-Sabz cautions that this might be a falsehood.

We are urgently checking the news.

1410 GMT: The office of reformist member of Parliament Nasrullah Torabi has been set on fire.

1403 GMT: The "Millions" and Ahmadinejad. Press TV is pushing the line that "millions" turned out today to demonstrate for the regime and against the Ashura "rioters", showing claimed footage from Shiraz, Tabriz, Gilan, Arak, and Sistan-Baluchestan as well as Tehran. Press TV is backing this up with coverage of the Maryam Rajavi statement (see 1000 GMT) as proof of MKO "terrorist" involvement.

The station also briefly features President Ahmadinejad's statement, issued after a Cabinet meeting, that "efforts to destabilise Iran would not affect the nation".  and that the US and Western leaders should learn from their past mistakes.

1335 GMT: Rahnavard Arrested? Meanwhile, we're watching closely the rumour, which began circulating about an hour ago, that the wife of Mir Hossein Mousavi, Zahra Rahnavard, has been detained.

1308 GMT: That's pretty much it, as Press TV goes back to the studio for the anchorwoman and "analyst" (journalist Nader Mokhtari) to repeat the standard line of "masses" of "religious" Iranian people standing against a foreign-stimulated opposition.

However, mark this exchange: Mokhtari and the anchorwoman are at great pains to say "this isn't a pro-Ahmadinejad rally....this has absolutely nothing to do with the President of Iran". is not over the issue of legitimacy of President Ahmadinejad but "an outpouring of grief" and "the support of the establishment". Could this be a distancing of the defence of the regime from a defence of the President?

1258 GMT: Now the emphasis is on the "greatness" and "magnanimity" of the regime based on "religious jurisprudence", with the Iranian people as a model for all Muslims. However, "we should not remain passive" any longer and "we should take the initiative" against those plotting conspiracies.

1255 GMT: And Now the Warning. Ayatollah Alamalhoda says that a deadline should be set for repentance. If protesters do not repent, they should be treated as "mohareb" (enemies of God), with the attendant punishment.

1250 GMT: Heavy criticism of those responsible for "fighting" on Ashura: "the Leader of the Islamic Revolution invited the rioters to return to the right path".

1243 GMT: Speeches have begun with tagline, "We have to accept rule of current religious jurisprudence." Quickly, the theme is that the United States is pushing the "party of Satan" protesting against the Iranian regime.

The speaker is Ayatollah Alamalhoda, the Friday Prayer leader of Mashhad.

1236 GMT: A wider shot around the Press TV correspondent ("Iranian nation" against the "disrespect" of Ashura, 16 Azar, etc.) establishes that there are thousands in Enghelab Square.

1230 GMT: Etc., etc. Nothing new to report from the rally. You can just put our comments from 1147 to 1208 GMT, like the Press TV coverage, on a loop and replay....

....Adding this: "a red line has been crossed", according to the anchorwomen, with the opposition's demonstrations and disrespect on Ashura.

1208 GMT: Press TV's correspondent finally shows up on camera in a fairly tight shot, surrounded by a few dozen protesters. That doesn't stop her from claiming "millions" have turned out. Ominously, she emphasises the line that demonstrators are demanding the "punishment" of opposition leaders like Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi.

1206 GMT: Ahh, Those Two Locations. It is now clear --- for those who have recorded this historic moment, follow a large black flag being fluttered --- that Press TV is claiming "two locations" for two shots from different angles of the rally in Enghelab Square.

1205 GMT: Press TV keeps trying to go to a correspondent, but she is still failing to show up "because the crowd is so loud" that she cannot find a location for the interview with studio.

1157 GMT: A Glitch in the Line? The Press TV anchorman rambles on and says, against a split-screen purportedly showing the rallies, that shots are of protests in "two different locations" in Tehran. However, he never names those locations.

Otherwise, this is the narrative: "MKO-Foreign Governments inciting violence, particuarly Foreign Minister David Miliband of the UK-Also President Obama-MKO-Foreign Interference".

1147 GMT: Press TV has now cut into programming to show live shots from Tehran. Initial close-range shots of the crowd give way to a long shot which (sorry to be uncertain) may or may not be of today. The anchorman's description is boiler-plate claim of continuing pro-regime demonstrations, with emphasis on rallies on Tuesday as well, against the "vandalism" of the opposition and "its violation of one of the most sacred events on the Muslim calendar".

An addition to the party line, however, is the focus on "MKO terrorists" declaring their role in the Ashura "riots" (see 1000 GMT).

1145 GMT: The Ritual Warning. Iran's police chief Esmail Ahmadi-Moghaddam has repeated the party line, including the hint of the death penalty, with the declaration, "There is no more room for tolerance over participants in illegal rallies....Those who participate in illegal rallies will be confronted more harshly and the judiciary will confront them more decisively."

Ahmadi-Moghaddam added, "Some of the protesters on Sunday are considered as mohareb (enemy of God) and will be confronted firmly." Capital punishment can be imposed on "mohareb".

1140 GMT: We're watching for first references to the pro-regime protest called for 3 p.m. local time (1130 GMT) in Tehran. So far Press TV English has not cut into its programming to provide an update.

1040 GMT: Death Penalty for Protest? German media are highlighting a statement by the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mohammad Reza Bahonar, that the legal structure will be put in place within 24 hours for capital punishment against leaders of demonstrations.

1025 GMT: "The Velvet Revolution" Moves From CNN to IRNA. The Islamic Republic News Agency is also highlighting an interview with US-based academic Kaveh Afrasiabi on CNN as confirmation of foreign intervention against the regime. Afrasiabi told CNN, "We have seen tremendous evidence of meddling, by the UK Government in particular, during and after the Presidential election, and there is no doubt in my mind...that the British Government is determined to see regime change in Iran.

1020 GMT: The Regime Stays Negative. As we ventured in our analysis this morning, the Iranian Government appears to have put aside any attempt at a "positive" campaign to mobilise support in favour of bashing the opposition. The Islamic Republic News Agency is dominated by stories vowing punishment of protesters: Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi has taken prime position for the moment with his declaration that the Iran's judiciary will "deal decisively" with the "anti-revolutionary" movement.

Moslehi also maintained the line that "foreign elements" were responsible for "assassinations" on Ashura.

1000 GMT: The Regime's Unexpected Helper? Press TV has jumped on an interview by Maryam Rajavi, the head of the National Council of Resistance in Iran, to headline, "The Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO) has acknowledged that it played a role in Sunday's violent anti-government protests in Iran."

The NCRI is the political wing of MKO, which has carried out a violent campaign since 1979 to overthrow the Iranian Government. According to Press TV, Rajavi told Agence France Press that her organisation's followers "cooperated with the demonstrators and coordinated the protests". She supposedly said, "[The protests are] a call for solidarity among all those who reject the rule of the Supreme Leader, the velayat e-faqih....What we call the 'Green movement' against the electoral fraud quickly disappeared to be replaced by a deeper movement whose goal is the total overthrow of the regime."

0915 GMT: How Big Were the Pro-Government Protests? An interesting discussion amongst EA readers overnight of footage from the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, supposedly showing thousands of people chanting against "rioters" and for the regime. Authenticity is far from certain --- note the debate in comments below over the trees blurred in the video --- and I am still looking for confirmation in the Iranian press.

Meanwhile, pictures of a rally by Iranian members of Parliament on Tuesday show few demonstrators beyond the MPs.

0845 GMT: We've now posted video claiming to be of the attack on Ayatollah Dastgheib's offices (see 0830 GMT) in Shiraz.

0835 GMT: Uncertainty and Rumour. Testifying to our theme today, a prominent Iranian activist, Mehdi Saharkhiz, has posted an account of a supposed meeting between the Supreme Leader and Hashemi Rafsanjani, discussing the situation after Ashura.

0830 GMT: The Regime v. The Clerics. Radio Farda has more on the story, which we noted yesterday, of attacks on the offices of Ayatollah Sane'i and Ayatollah Dastghaib in Mashhad and Shiraz.

0815 GMT: In our special analysis this morning, we began from Iran's settling into "tensions of uncertainty" after the Ashura demonstrations and the regime's fightback with widespread arrests.

The uncertainty is evident this morning in news that the nephew of Mir Hossein Mousavi, Seyed Ali Mousavi, is buried in Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery, reportedly after only the Government gave only a few hours' notice that the body should now be laid to rest. No prizes for guessing why, as the regime tries to limit any post-Ashura rallies --- Seyed Ali Mousavi was killed in Sunday's demonstrations.

Or, to be precise, post-Ashura rallies of the opposition. The regime's other gambit today is the call for a mass pro-Government demonstration in Tehran. The uncertainty, even with reports that "thousands" gathered on Monday and Tuesday to condemn the "rioters" of Ashura, is whether this demonstration will be a substantive indication of widespread support, especially for President Ahmadinejad.

And then there are the uncertainties that go beyond today's events. Consider, for example, how a rumour without any clear evidence is now "news". The Twitter chatter on Sunday was that a jet, with an escort of military fighters, was ready at Mehrabad Airport for the Supreme Leader to fly to Russia. Yesterday, that chatter, backed up by a mysterious fax, turned into "news" on Radio Netherlands, and today it is worthy of publication in The Huffington Post.


The Latest from Iran (27 December): The Day of Ashura 

Mideast Iran2225 GMT: Karroubi Comments. Mehdi Karroubi has issued a statement offering condolences for today’s martyred protesters and condemning those carrying out oppression: “The sins that you have committed today cannot be forgiven by God. If you don’t have a belief in God, at least be a human.”

Karroubi offered a sharp comparison, asserting that even the Shah respected the day of Ashura and gave orders for people to be able to commemorate it as they wished..

2155 GMT: Closing and Wondering. As we get to the end of the day, a tentative assessment of the signficance, "A 5-Minute, 5-Point Reaction to The Events of Ashura". (For those who want to see what 24 hours can bring, see our analysis yesterday in Edward Yeranian's article for the Voice of America.)

2150 GMT: Rah-e-Sabz reports that the brother of Abdollah Nouri, Minister of Interior in the Rafsanjani and Khatami Governments, was severely beaten in Isfahan today.

NEW Iran: A 5-Minute, 5-Point Reaction to The Events of Ashura
NEW Latest Iran Video: The Ashura Protests (27 December — 3rd Set)
NEW Latest Iran Video: The Ashura Protests (27 December — 2nd Set)
NEW Latest Iran Video: The Ashura Protests (27 December)
NEW Iran: A Tehran Map for Today’s Events
NEW Iran Uncovered: The Top-Secret Obama-Ahmadinejad Relationship
NEW Iran: The False US Friends of the “Iranian People” (An Open Letter to Charles Krauthammer)
NEW Latest Iran Video: Attack on Jamaran Memorial/Khatami Speech (26 December)
Latest Iran Video: Eve of Ashura Protests (26 December — The Jamaran Videos)
Latest Iran Video: The Eve of Ashura Protests (26 December)
The Latest from Iran (26 December): The Eve of Ashura Demonstrations

2040 GMT: Desperation. Press TV, citing Fars, reports --- presumably with a straight face:

A source with the Iranian Intelligence Ministry has announced the arrest of a number of Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) terrorists in the anti-government protests that sparked in central Tehran.

At right, a stunning photograph to set beside the story: an anti-riot officer, wearing a green headband given to him by demonstrators, joins the "MKO terrorist" crowd.

2035 GMT: Martial Law?! Rah-e-Sabz is reporting that martial law was declared at 9 p.m. local time in Najafabad.

The website is also claiming "unprecedented police violence" outside the IRIB buildings.

2030 GMT: Ashura & Mousavi. A crowd have gathered outside Ebn-e-Sina Hospital to mourn and support the family of Mir Hossein Mousavi. Mousavi's nephew Seyed Ali died in the hospital today after being shot in demonstration in Enghelab Square.

2020 GMT: The US Comments. The White House has issued the following statement:
We strongly condemn the violent and unjust suppression of civilians in Iran seeking to exercise their universal rights. Hope and history are on the side of those who peacefully seek their universal rights, and so is the United States.

Governing through fear and violence is never just, and as President Obama said in Oslo -- it is telling when governments fear the aspirations of their own people more than the power of any other nation.

2005 GMT: AUT News reports on Internet chatter we've heard all evening: Mohammad Moin, the son of Mustafa Moin, former reformist Presidential candidate and Minister in the Rafsanjani and Khatami Governments, was arrested today.

2000 GMT: The Ashura "Martyrs" in Tehran. Rah-e-Sabz has named the five people killed in the capital today: Mehdi Farhadi Nia, Mohammad Ali Rasekhi, Amir Arshadi, Shahram Fraji, and Seyed Ali Mousavi.

1950 GMT: What We're Watching. Reports of clashes outside buildings of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting and in squares and avenues across Tehran: Mirdamad, Karegar, Enghelab, Azadi, Tajrish, and 7 Tir.

1835 GMT: And Tonight? From a distance, it feels like the final round of a heavyweight boxing match. The challenger --- having landed some mighty blows and even putting the champion (if you can call the regime "champion") on the ropes --- has punched himself/herself out.

So the protests tonight are smaller, with security forces preventing a mass gathering. For example, groups tried to congregate in Mohseni Square but were contained along Mirdemad Avenue.

Yes, it feels like the final round. Except that you and I know it is far from the final round, right?

1715 GMT: I'm Telling You, They Set the Koran on Fire! That's Fars News' latest attempt to tarnish the protests (which only hours supposedly had not occurred).

1705 GMT: A 3rd set of videos from today is now posted.

1635 GMT: Rouydad is now reporting on the Arak protest and clashes, and we have video from there and Najafabad.

1550 GMT: Beyond Tehran. Josh Shahryar is summarising:
Protests in Mashhad can be confirmed now. Protesters gathered outside Grand Ayatollah Sane’i’s house and at Imam Reza’s Shrine. At least 17 people were arrested – most of them students. Many people were injured in clashes as well.

Protests in Babol can be confirmed too now. Many protesters – including a young girl – were beaten badly by security forces here.

The number of people arrested in Tehran has reached at least 10. The number is probably going to rise. At least 4 people were also killed here.

So far, the protests could be confirmed in Tehran, Shiraz, Isfahan, Tabriz, Mashhad, Babol, Ardabil, Qom and Najafabad.

In addition, an Iranian source is reporting protests and clashes in Arak.

1510 GMT: Mousavi's Nephew Dead. A "close aide" to Mir Hossein Mousavi has confirmed the killing of Mousavi's nephew Seyed Ali by security forces this afternoon.

1500 GMT: Understatement of the Day. Press TV takes the gold medal: "The Iranian capital on Sunday witnessed sporadic anti-government protests on the anniversary of the Shia Muslim Ashura religious event."


1420 GMT: Parleman News is reporting that Seyed Ali Mousavi, Mir Hossein Mousavi's nephew, was shot and killed in today's demonstrations. Mousavi was reportedly slain in Enghelab Square around noon local time (0830 GMT).

1350 GMT: Rouydad News is reporting clashes in Tabriz, with "probably at least four" killed.

1330 GMT: The Official Interpretation. Islamic Republic News Agency writes that a "cult of Mousavi" has caused chaos in Tehran, damaging public property and inconveniencing citizens.

IRNA also tries the story of a group of students out to cause trouble, with foreign media on hand to report "uproar and chaos".

Fars News reports on same lines,

1245 GMT: Taking the Streets? We have been busy looking at and uploading footage, starting a second set of vide0s, of the demonstrations. The images indicate that, at least for periods today, protesters have beaten back security forces --- despite the first deaths in months --- and taken control of sections of Tehran.

Rah-e-Sabz, still under cyber-attack, has reported, "Police forces are refusing their commanders' orders to shoot at demonstrators in central Tehran....Some of them try to shoot into the air when pressured by their commanders."

1135 GMT: Reports now of protests in Babol.

1130 GMT: Still a fluid situation with reports of gatherings and clashes throughout Tehran and in other cities. We have posted the first set of videos from today, including dramatic footage of protesters fighting back against security forces, especially at College Bridge (Pole Kalej). One report claims the forces relinquished Val-e Asr Square to demonstrators.

1025 GMT: Reformist websites are now confirming the 4th death. Reliable sources says a 5th person has been killed outside Amir Kabir University.

0955 GMT:  4th Death? Sources are reporting that a person has been killed in demonstrations at Vali-e Asr.

0950 GMT: Rah-e-Sabz confirms that its site is under attack.

0940 GMT: Mardomak confirms no live footage from Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, unlike past years, of Imam Hossein Square in Tehran.

Meanwhile, Ironic Journalism Award of Day goes to Press TV. After showing ceremonies in Zanjan (but not Tehran), the channel reported very seriously that Moharram marches have been banned in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

0930 GMT: We've posted the first claimed video of today's protests and also the link to a useful map of Tehran.

0925 GMT: Beyond Tehran. Reports now coming in of protests in Isfahan, Shiraz, and Najafabad.

0915 GMT: Deaths of Protesters? Rah-e-Sabz (which is up but is difficult to access because of overload) is reporting three people killed and two injured in the area near Kalej Bridge (Pole Kalej).

0830 GMT: We are watching carefully the torrent of claims of clashes across the capital, including claims that security forces have backed away at certain points in the face of determined protesters. BBC has now posted, "Tehran police 'fire tear gas at opposition protesters'."

0815 GMT: Mardomak reports tear gas fired in Enghelab Square and clashes in Imam Hossein Square. After clashes at Amir Kabir University, the crowd has been dispersed.

0810 GMT: Rah-e-Sabz, before it went down, also reported tear gas at Vali-e Asr.

0805 GMT: Fancy a Lighter Moment? It promises to be an intense day, so if you need a break, have a look at our special world exclusive, based on minutes of investigative journalism, "The Top-Secret Obama-Ahmadinejad Relationship".

0755 GMT: Watching reports of clashes at Imam Hossein, Vali-e Asr, and Enghelab Squares.

0745 GMT: The reformist site Rah-e-Sabz, a key source in recent days for "Western" media, has just gone down. The site had just reported tear gas used in Enghelab Square and the closing off of Vali-e Asr crossing.

0740 GMT: Mardomak is reporting clashes at Ferdowsi Square and heavy traffic around Pol-e Choubi.

0715 GMT: First unconfirmed reports of clashes in Tehran, mainly at Imam Hossein Square and 17 Shahrivar Street.

0711 GMT: Nothing to See Here, Go Away. Press TV still repeating the history and religious background of Ashura over and over, against live shots from Taft. Just keep talking --- even though nothing new is being said --- and maybe no one will notice the current political context and events.

0700 GMT: Press TV are carrying live shots of the Ashura ceremony in Mashhad and Taft. No word of Tehran, however.

0655 GMT: The reformist website Rah-e-Sabz reports an "extensive security presence" in Tehran, noting in particular forces around Imam Hossein and 7 Tir Squares.

0640 GMT: Drama and Polemic. We've posted stunning footage of yesterday's attack on the Jamaran memorial.

And we've finally caught our breath to highlight our analysis of the embrace of the "Iranian people" by American "false friends", trying to use the movement to extend US power in the name of the "new birth of freedom".

0625 GMT: A hat-tip and a heads-up for coverage of events. While we were down because of host problems yesterday, we noticed the good work being done by the LiveBlogs of The Daily Nite Owl (EA correspondent Josh Shahryar) and of IranNewsNow. Both are already in action this morning.

0605 GMT: AUT News reports that, in addition to the disruption of the Jamaran memorial and the speech of former President Mohammad Khatami by plainsclothes "thugs" (see yesterday's updates), 2000 Basiji surrounded the mourning ceremonies at Dar al-Zahra last night.

Ferehsteh Ghazi has a detailed report, in Persian, of the events and violence at Jamaran. Robert Mackey's blog for The New York Times draws from several sources for a summary.

0600 GMT (0930 Iran time): The holy day of Ashura, marking the death of the third Imam, Hossein, at the hands of Yazid's forces at the battle of Karbala, has begun. Government forces reported "in large numbers at all intersections from Enghelab to Azadi Squares" in Tehran.


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.

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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 (23 December): This Time, No Pause?

IRN GREEN2035 GMT: We've posted the video and full transcript of President Ahmadinejad's interview with Britain's Channel 4 (see 1925 GMT).

1925 GMT: Mahmoud Says All is Well. President Ahmadinejad has given another "exclusive" interview to a Western broadcaster, this time Britain's Channel 4. Once again, the discussion started with nukes, nukes, nukes, allowing Ahmadinejad (who I suspect is pretty used to this line of questioning) to stake out his defence of the Iranian nation against Washington --- "We are against the expansionist policies of the United States" --- and ending in the cul-de-sac of the question, "Is the matter of extended hands finished?"

NEW Iran Video & Transcript: Ahmadinejad Interview with Britain’s Channel 4 (23 December)
NEW Latest Iran Video: The Isfahan Protests (23 December)
NEW Iran: Is the US Government Now Going to Engage with the Opposition?
NEW Iran Analysis: The Regime’s Cracks Widen, The Wave Resurges?
NEW Iran: Is Ayatollah Sane’i The Next Montazeri?
UPDATED Iran Video: University Demonstrations for Montazeri (22 December)
Iran Special Analysis: After Montazeri — From Protest to Victory?
Latest Iran Video: The Last Goodbye to Montazeri (21 Decem
The Latest from Iran: Momentum against a Sinking President? (22 December)

It's the second half of the interview that is surreal, however, with Ahmadinejad's defiance --- in the face of all evidence to the contrary --- "We have freedom in Iran - people are free to express their views":

JON SNOW: The Basij here, and we have this firsthand from a member of the Basij, he says they were given the permissions to go in and use no restraint and attack people who disagree with you. Women, men were hit with batons - and some were killed.

MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD: In my opinion you have access to some information which I don’t know.

JS: Well we have spoken to a Basij who told us what orders they were given.

MA: With whom did you talk to?

JS: We spoke with a member of the Basij who has now run from Iran.

MA: Clearly this source of information must be very exact. I think it is not correct to judge in this way. In our country the law prevails.

JS: But you can see videos Mr President. You've scene the pictures of what the Basij were doing and what the Revolutionary Guard were doing. And what he has seen too is the beating and the raping of men and women in detention.

MA: Did you see all of these things on the pictures?

JS: We saw all of the things in the streets - of course we do not get the stories of what happened in the containers where people were being detained.

MA: There have been clashes amongst some people - how can you find out if he was Basij or another person? Let me repeat that. In my country the law prevails.

JS: You deny that the Basij beat up these people?

MA: No, we are not concerned with these things as you claim. The law prevails. Some people may violate the law in any place anywhere. And maybe they have not observed and respected the law during demonstrations or protests they may have participated in illegal demonstrations. Or they might get involved in clashes whether they are ordinary people or from among the Asians....

The law will certainly investigate. Iran is a free country. Do you believe that Iran should be like West? We have freedom in Iran - people are free to express their views. They can also cry for their rights…you are making a mistake….

1835 GMT: Please Don't Green the Currency. And now this from the Central Bank of Iran: it is asking you really, really nicely to please, please stop putting slogans on banknotes.

1825 GMT: The Homosexuals and Women Are Especially Dangerous. Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi, last noticed when he was trying to take down the Rafsanjani family, widened his net --- really widened it --- today. I think the statement stands on its own, with no further elaboration:
Moslehi announced that the ministry has identified 80 foundations and organizations that were active in the post-election protests. In a meeting with the nation's provincial premiers he announced that these organizations were involved in the post-election "sedition" and one of them even has a $1.7-billion budget.

The Intelligence Minister reportedly added that the objective of the "seditious movement" in the Islamic Republic is "altering the behaviour of government officials and the people" as well as dismantling the Islamic Republic regime from within. Mr. Moslehi maintained that this movement was established earlier at the conference of Berlin and Denmark.

He listed "People's Mojahedin Organization, monarchists, religious and ethnic terrorists, Baha'is, homosexuals, feminist groups, nationalists and Marxists" as members of this movement.

Heydar Moslehi announced that "we are now completely on top of this sedition and have the traffic of the seditious elements with the West under close surveillance."

1630 GMT: Ayatollah Sane'i's office claims that attackers in Qom were allowed to move unchecked on Tuesday, as police did not respond to calls for help.

1625 GMT: The Ministry of Intelligence has ordered the cancellation of all memorial services for Grand Ayatollah Montazeri.

1550 GMT: A tearful Ayatollah Taheri, who was supposed to give the memorial address for Grand Ayatollah Montazeri in Isfahan, said he tried six different entrances to get into the mosque, but all of them were closed.

Mir Hossein Mousavi's website Kalemeh also says that security forces used pepper spray and tear gas on the crowd, beating some people severely.

1535 GMT: Isfahan Protests. We've posted the first two clips that we believe are authentic.

1415 GMT: Ahmadinejad in Shiraz --- The Workers Protest. Another sign that the President's Magical Mystery Political Tour is not going smoothly. From Persian2English:
Workers of the Long Distance Telecommunications Company of Iran, who protest regularly over unpaid wages chose this time to make their voices heard at Hafeziyeh Stadium in Shiraz. The protest occurred during a speech by Ahmadinejad at the same location.

Many people had banners with slogans such as “800 families, 8 months without pay” and “it has been 12 months since we got paid”. Before arriving at the Stadium, Ahmadinejad called the protesters "without honour” and “two-faced". He asked God to destroy them.

1354 GMT: Reports that journalists Fariba Pajooh and Nafiseh Zarekohan and student activist Hojat Sharifi have been released on bail.

1350 GMT: Uncertainty. Back from a lunch break to find no advance in confirmed news on today's clashes in Isfahan. Instead, there is a deluge of rumours of security forces holding positions, including the mosque which was to hold the Montazeri memorial, Isfahan, and conversely protestors seizing locations and setting up barricades in Isfahan and Najafabad.

It has been stunning, however, how Western media --- in contrast to their limited attention in recent months --- are now all over any report of protest in Iran. Almost every major US and British broadcaster and newspaper is recycling the Rah-e-Sabz report from Isfahan. The Green movement is now the "prodigal" child, adopted once more by non-Iranian journalists as the rightful heir of the Islamic Republic.

1345 GMT: The Reiss Trial. The case of Clotilde Reiss, the French graduate student arrested this summer, drags on. After rumours and confusion this week over a possible "prisoner swap" between Paris and Tehran, Reiss appeared today for trial. The hearings were suspended after three hours, however, with an indeterminate conclusion: Reiss' lawyer said, "The final part of pleadings concerning the accusations against the French national will be made in the next session of the trial."

1158 GMT: Going after Larijani. Mir Hossein Mousavi's advisor, Alireza Beheshti, has launched a scathing attack on the head of Iran's judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, effectively accusing him of sanctioning the aggressive measures of plainclothes security forces.

1155 GMT: Norooz is now reporting on the surrounding of Ayatollah Taheri's house by security forces.

1135 GMT: Another Tuesday Demonstration. Footage has now emerged of a demonstration, reportedly at Isfahan's Sanati University:"Our [Supreme] Leader's message is insulting our Marja [senior clerics]/Desperate Dictator, our movement will continue."

1103 GMT: Arrests in Isfahan. Among those arrested in today's clashes, according to activists: Hojatoleslam Masoud Adib, Mir Hossein Mousavi's campaign manager in Qom, and Mohammad Nazeri, an activist in Mousavi's election campaign.

1100 GMT: With the help of EA readers, we've now put the question, "Is the Obama Administration About to Engage with Iran's Opposition?"

1035 GMT: Today's Fist-Shaking. Iran police chief Esmail Ahmadi-Moghaddam is the man to hand out the warning, "We advise this movement to end their activities. Otherwise those who violate the order will be fiercely confronted, based on the law."

1015 GMT: Jaras website is reporting that the home of Ayatollah Jalaleddin Taheri has been surrounded by security forces. Taheri was supposed to give the address at the memorial in Isfahan, cancelled because of the security presence, for Grand Ayatollah Montazeri.

1005 GMT: Down with Supreme Leader? We've posted new video from yesterday's demonstrations, including a clip declaring "This is the month of blood; Seyed Ali [Khamenei] will be overthrown."

1000 GMT: Reformists report more than 50 arrested, including four journalists, in Isfahan.

0925 GMT: The Protest That Failed? Perhaps, given the source, this claim should be taken with a grain of salt; however, the reformist site Rah-e-Sabz asserts that, despite regime efforts to bring out a crowd for President Ahmadinjead's speech in Shiraz on Tuesday, the turnout was "thousands less" than they hoped for.

0850 GMT: The World is Watching. The BBC's flagship radio news programme has just carried a special item on the Rah-e-Sabz report of "heavy clashes" in Isfahan, with "several injured". While Jon Leyne's summary adds nothing to the story on the reformist website, it indicates that the BBC is now paying close attention to developments, with Leyne adding context from Monday and Tuesday's demonstrations.

0835 GMT: And Away on the Nuclear Front. Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani has trotted out the now-firm Iranian Government line: the elevation of uranium stock to 20 percent enrichment must take place inside the country, for example, through the "swap" of Iran's 3.5 percent stock for the 20 percent supply.

0810 GMT: Hiding the Politics. The announcement from Press TV is matter-of-fact, ignoring any political dimension or symbolism of growing conflict:
Iran's Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution has appointed poet Ali Moallem Damghani to the position of President of the Academy of Arts. The Council named Moallem on Tuesday to replace defeated presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi.

0755 GMT: The reformist site Rah-e-Sabz is now also reporting "heavy clashes" in Isfahan.

0750 GMT: A LiveBlog is reporting that security forces closed the doors of the mosque in Isfahan and that there are now clashes in the area.

0730 GMT: With both the tension and opposition momentum after Grand Ayatollah Montazeri's death both unchecked, we start today with two analyses. We have posted our reading of the regime's growing problems and consideration of whether the Green Wave is now resurgent. And Josh Shahryar assesses whether the reformist opposition will have a new clerical beacon, replacing Montazeri, in Ayatollah Yousef Sane'i.

As we post these, the breaking news is of the regime trying to hold back the tide of challenge: today's memorial service in Isfahan for Montazeri has been cancelled because of the large presence of riot police and security forces.