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Entries in Tabnak (2)


The Latest from Iran (15 December): The Path to Moharram

MOHARRAM11955 GMT: Dealing with Insults. Tabnak reports that a special order has been has issued from high-level officials declared that anyone who insults the heads of the three branches of Government (Presidency, judiciary, legislature) and the head of Assembly of Experts "will be dealt with severely".

(Crazy question: since Hashemi Rafsanjani is the head of the Assembly of Experts, will Ahmadinejad allies like Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, who have implied Rafsanjani and his family have acted illegally, "be dealt with severely"?)

1909 GMT: Mir Hossein Mousavi's website Kalemeh has published his latest message to students.

1904 GMT: Montazeri on Responsible Protest. Grand Ayatollah Montazeri has declared that the regime "raises the 'overthrowing' charges so that they can repress people; possibly they send some individuals among the people to chant slogans in favour of overthrowing the system".

Montazeri continued, “If the authorities give permission for free and peaceful gatherings, they will witness that the majority of people do not want anything but to reinstate their denied rights and be compensated for them. They want the freedoms that have been clearly mentioned in the Constitution and, in general, the reform of the system.”

NEW Iran: A Beginner’s Guide to Moharram
NEW Latest Iran Video: The University Protests (15 December)
NEW Iran: US State Department Pushes for “Proper” Sanctions in 2010
NEW “Where is My Vote?” (Part 2): TIME Snubs Green Movement as “Person of the Year”
Latest Iran Video: And Your University Protests Today…. (14 December)
NEW Latest Iran Video: Challenging the Regime’s Forces on 16 Azar (7 December)
NEW Iran: Scott Lucas in La Stampa on “Khamenei’s Final Warning”

NEW Iran: “Arrests” and the Regime’s Sword of Damocles
The Latest from Iran (14 December): Taking Stock

1850 GMT: Tavakoli Moved to Solitary Under Eyes of Revolutionary Guard. A reliable Iranian activist reports that Majid Tavakoli, the student leader detained during the 16 Azar protests, has been brought to Revolutionary Court and then put in solitary confinement in Evin Prison's Ward 240, overseen by the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps.

1830 GMT: Ahh, Someone Noticed. Several hours after we mentioned the case of jailed Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, largely absent in the US media, the high-profile blog The Daily Dish summarises the claim of his lawyer that he was sentenced to 15 years on the basis of little, if any, evidence.

1715 GMT: Video has come in of a protest today at Razi University in Kermanshah.

1555 GMT: The Khaje Nasir University Demo. Reformist sites explain that today's protest (see video) was over the arrest of Kamran Aasa, whose brother of Kiyanoush Aasa was killed in the post-election conflict.

1545 GMT: Warnings and Protest Claims. On a pretty slow day, Morteza Tamedon, the Governor of Tehran Province, has grabbed a couple of headlines by declaring that security forces will be mobilised to deal with any demonstrations on the days of Tasua and Ashura (26-27 December). Tamedon also waved aside the request of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi for a permit for a march honouring the image of Imam Khomeini, since they could protest the recent "burning of Khomeini" in a statement.

The Islamic Republic News Agency has put out its interpretation of today's demonstrations at Tehran Azad University, with 700 students rallying for the Government and 100 opposition students gathering nearby. Hmm.... Might want to check that against the video.

1420 GMT: Radio Farda has a report on one of the student demonstrations/discussion at a packed seminar in Tehran.

1310 GMT: Guides and Videos. Mr Azadi has written an introduction to Moharram, the holy month that begins on Friday, and we have the first video from today's university protests.

1125 GMT: Conservative Bust-Up? Iranian state media is now reporting a story we heard yessterday from sources: Tehran's Chief Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi has filed a lawsuit against the websites of Jahan News and Alef News for "insulting" President Ahmadinejad.

Alef belongs to the prominent member of Parliament and relative of the Larijani brothers, Ahmad Tavakoli, who has been critical of Ahmadinejad on numerous occasions since June. Jahan is connected with MP Ali Reza Zakani and is often labelled as linked to "Iranian intelligence circles".

1000 GMT: We've posted a separate entry on the manoevures within the US Government on sanctions against Iran. The State Department is trying to get control of the process, being pushed by Congress, to ensure international support.

0935 GMT: The "Other" American Prisoner. A paradox: while "Western" media overheated yesterday over the passing comment from Iran's Foreign Minister that the three US hikers might be tried, none of them seems to notice the latest developments in the case of Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, sentenced this autumn to 15 years in prison. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has issued a statement that "the case against the Iranian-American social scientist Kian Tajbakhsh contains no evidence to support the allegations against him, according to...interviews with Masoud Shafie, Tajbakhsh’s lawyer".

0855 GMT: A "Sensible" Engagement? An interesting passage from today's editorial in The Guardian of London:

"It has become a cliche to say there are no good options about Iran. This does not mean that Washington is doomed to choose the worst option – barring military assault – each time negotiations fail. Giving diplomacy no more than three months to work, as opposed to sanctions on Iran which lasted for more than 20 years, may have been a mistake. So too was limiting the talks to the enrichment process alone. There are many other fronts on which Iran should be engaged."

0600 GMT: The Counter-Attack of Engagement. For days, the Iran news from the US Congress has been of a push towards stricter sanctions, with a bill proposing measures against the gas and oil industries as well as other financial penalties. A group of Congressmen offered an alternative yesterday with the introduction of two proposals.

The Stand with the Iranian People Act would pursue "targeted" measures against companies providing the Iranian regime with software and technology for Internet censorship and surveillance, cutting off their US Government contracts, and impose travel restrictions on "human rights abusers" within the Iranian Government. At the same time, the measure would "enable US non-governmental Organizations to work directly with the Iranian people".

The Iranian Digital Empowerment Act would remove restrictions on companies and private citizens in the US who wish to send software to the people of Iran, including communication and anti-censorship tools, by clarifying that sanctions do not apply.

0530 GMT: After a week of activity and rumour, there was a relative calm yesterday. The regime did launch a few attacks on its foes, with Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi's attack on Hashemi Rafsanjani and the Supreme Leader's representative to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps speaking darkly of the "hypocrites" (who just happen to be the Khomeini family) running the Imam Khomeini Archives. President Ahmadinejad, after almost a week's silence on the internal crisis, offered a few words about the offensive act against the Imam, then apparently returned to his battle with Parliament to get passage of economic legislation. The sense was that the Government was either planning its next manoeuvre or scrambling about, trying to figure out where to go after the "burning of Khomeini" episode.

Meanwhile, University students made clear, in quadrangles and in classrooms, that they are not going to ease the protests before Moharram begins on Friday. Mir Hossein Mousavi set down the lines for the upcoming challenge --- demonstrate peacefully and lawfully while making clear that it is the regime that has committed injustices and denied rights --- as he and Mehdi Karroubi emerged after a meeting to announce they would request a permit for a march, protesting the insult to Imam Khomeini, from the Ministry of Interior. Former President Mohammad Khatami also chipped in with a general statement of support for protest.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Latest from Iran (12 December): Bubbling Under

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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