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Entries in Zahra Rahnavard (7)


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.


Today on EA - 29 December 2009

TOWN CRIERIran: Two days after Ashura and the Iranian Government is desperately trying to reestablish some form of control.

The list of Ashura detainees continues to grow and now includes the sister of Nobel Peace Prize holder Shirin Ebadi, many eminent journalists and the brother of Mir Houssein Mousavi's wife Zahra Rahnavard.

We're still adding to our video collections from the Ashura protests. Set three is here. Previous sets are here and here. We also have video analysis from Karim Sadjadpour and Trita Parsi.

America's President Obama addressed the nation on the attempt to blow up a commercial jet on Christmas Day. We have the video, a transcript and our analysis on his take on anti-terrorism and the Iran protests.

All the latest news is, as always, in our liveblog.

Israel: Israel has announced it will build a further 700 apartments in East Jerusalem, despite US objections.

Israel/Palestine: On Sunday, Israel's Foreign Minister Lieberman said he saw no chance for a comprehensive Israel-Palestine agreement in the next 10 to 20 years.

The Latest on Iran (29 December): A Desperate Swing of the Fist

ASHURA71930 GMT: Kill Them. Abbas Vaez-Tabasi, a member of the Expediency Council and the Assembly of Experts has declared on state television, "Those who are behind the current sedition in the country ... are mohareb (enemies of God) and the law is very clear about punishment of a mohareb [execution]."

Today's Show of Support for the Regime? If you believe Peyke Iran, it wasn't much. The website reports that residents in Rasht ridiculed a demonstration of 300 plainclothes Basijis chanting slogans for the execution of reformists like Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mohammad Khatami, and Mehdi Karroubi.

1850 GMT: Javan Farda reports that Shiraz University was closed today.

1845 GMT: The Arrests Move Higher. Government forces have arrested Mir Hossein Mousavi's chief aide Alireza Beheshti. Beheshti, the son of one of Iran's most commemorated martyrs, Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, was also detained briefly in September when the regime tried to disrupt preparations for Qods Day demonstrations.

NEW Latest Iran Video: Today’s University Protest (29 December)
NEW Iran: A List of the Ashura Detainees
NEW Iran: The Regime's Fightback?
Latest Iran Video: Obama Condemns “Violent & Unjust Suppression” (28 December)
Iran: Ashura’s Message “Iranians Are Not Punching Bags” (Josh Shahryar)
Iran: A Point of No Return?
The Latest from Iran (28 December): The Regime’s Arresting Strategy

1830 GMT: The Karroubi Family Speaks Out (Cont.): Mehdi Karroubi's son Taghi has added to the criticisms by Karroubi's wife and son Hossein of regime restrictions on his father. He said that Government-provided security has stopped protecting Karroubi when he leaves the house. This is effectively a ''quasi-house arrest'.'

Karroubi's car was attacked on Saturday by assailants.

1815 GMT: Attacks on the Clerics. Ayatollah Sane'i now appears to be a primary target of the regime: assaults on his offices by plainclothes men have been reported in Tehran, Mashhad, Kerman, Sari, Gorgan, and Shiraz.

Attacks in Shiraz on the Qoba Mosque and the residence of Ayatollah Dastghaib have also been reported.

1730 GMT: "Western" Media and the Green Movement. A reporter from The Times of London has asked us to clarify our opening update (0710 GMT). While we mentioned the newspaper as part of "a chorus of affirmation that this opposition is on the point of victory", he/she wants to make clear that it should not be included in our preceding reference that "most of [the Western media] had written off the opposition only a month ago".

1720 GMT: The Elm-o-Sanat Protest. We've posted three clips from today's demonstration at Elm-o-Sanat University in Tehran. Gooya reports that more than 10 students were injured in clashes with security forces.

1650 GMT: Mahmoud Speaks. President Ahmadinejad has surfaced to comment on the Ashura protests: "The Iranian nation has seen a lot of such masquerades. A Zionist (Israeli), and American ordered [nauseating] masquerade."

1645 GMT: The Karroubi Family Protests. Back from a break to find that the family of Mehdi Karroubi striking out at Government restrictions. Karroubi's son Hossein has announced that his father is “partially imprisoned” because security personnel refuse to cooperate with him. Karroubi's wife Fatemeh writes that her family has been threatened by “nightly attacks of arbitrary forces” She says that she will hold the government responsible for any incident that may affect members of her family.

1225 GMT: Reading Iran from the US. We've just posted the analysis of Karim Sadjadpour and Trita Parsi of the Ashura protests on the Public Broadcasting Service.

1224 GMT: Reports that journalist Nasrin Vaziri, who works for ILNA and Khabar Online, has been arrested.

1214 GMT: Tehran's Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi said that seven people were killed in Ashura clashes (which is kind of strange, since the official line on Monday was that 10 "terrorists" had been slain).

1210 GMT: Here Come the Guards. The Revolutionary Guard jump into the regime's fightback against the Ashura protests: "The...foreign media...has staged a psychological war. Trying to overthrow the system will reach nowhere...designers of the unrest will soon pay the cost of their insolence...The opposition, which has joined hands with the foreign media, is backed by foreign enemies."

1205 GMT: Only a matter of time before this "analysis" was attempted --- the editor of Kayhan, Hossein Shariatmardari, has accused Mir Hossein Mousavi of planning the assassination of his nephew.

1155 GMT: Report coming in that Reza Tajik, journalist and religious activist, was arrested today in front of the Etemaad newspaper Building. Photojournaist Sam Mahmoudi has also reportedly been arrested.

Another activist reports that Dr. Housein Mousavian, a member of the National Front, has been arrested.

1120 GMT: Did Trees Have to Die for This? A Mr Will Heaven seeks his 15 seconds of attention with this blotting of the pages of The Daily Telegraph, "Iran and Twitter". I have more important things to do, such as using Twitter as a portal to keep up with and report on the latest developments inside Iran, so let me respond Tweet-style:

@WillHeaven: U know nothing of #Twitter, #IranElection, or #Iran (& u rip off #Salon, who tried this shtick last week)

1115 GMT: We have posted a list of Ashura detainees, compiled by Tehran Bureau's Muhammad Sahimi last night before the latest reports of arrests.

1040 GMT: Arrest Them All. The latest detainees include journalist Mohammad Javad Saberi and Shahpour Kazemi, the brother of Mir Hossein Mousavi's wife Zahra Rahnavard. Kazemi was detained for months earlier in the crisis before his release in the autumn.

Journalists Badrosadat Mofidi, Nasrin Vaziri, and Keyvan Mehregan have also been detained.

1020 GMT: Ali Larijani --- No Compromise. Speaker of Parliament Larijani, commenting on the Ashura protests, has told lawmakers that officials should "arrest offenders of the religion and mete out harshest punishments to such anti-revolutionary figures with no mercy".

The rhetoric isn't significant: it matches that coming from pro-regime media and "hard-line" MPs (see 0850 GMT). The political symbolism is: Larijani --- who has clashed with President Ahmadinejad throughout this crisis and was reportedly involved in the discussion of a National Unity Plan ---is now declaring that confrontation takes priority over any attempt at a negotiated resolution.

And he is doing so even as the Supreme Leader (is Larijani serving here as a spokesman for Khamenei?) and Ahmadinejad remain publicly silent.

0850 GMT: "Cut Off Their Hands". Scattered hard-line noises out of Iran's Parliament. Mohammad Karamirad, a member of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said that the committee will hold a special meeting on Wednesday to discuss the Ashura protests. Security officials from the Interior Ministry, the Intelligence Ministry, and the police will be invited.

Don't be fooled that this is an impartial enquiry into the demonstrations, however. Karamirad declared, "Rioters who took to streets are challenging the very foundations of the ruling system....They insult Islamic beliefs, and it is our duty to cut off the hands behind such seditious acts and bring an end to the events that endanger the safety and security of the people." He also called on Iran's judiciary to prosecute the leaders of the protests.

Hossein Sobhaninia, another member of the committee, joined that call. He said that events, in which the sanctities of Islam were disrespected and government officials were insulted, would not end if the judiciary did not deal with the seditious acts.

750 GMT: Which Way Forward? Following up on our snap 5-point analysis of the significance of the Ashura protests, an EA reader directs us to the thoughts of Ebrahim Nabavi in Rah-e-Sabz. Nabavi searches for a positive outcome to the conflict, advising the opposition to leave enough space for the regime to prevent a fierce confrontation.

0710 GMT: We begin this morning with a summary and analysis of the Government's attempt to restore some credibility through the rather crude tactic of arresting lots of people it does not like or trust. One of the latest names to emerge is Nushin Ebadi, the sister of the Nobel Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi.

Meanwhile, it is stunning how the Western media --- most of whom had written off the opposition only a month ago --- are now a chorus of affirmation that this opposition is on the point of victory. The Times of London proclaims "the tipping point of revolution". Abbas Milani in The Wall Street Journal announces "The Tipping Point in Iran". (Note to EA readers: if we ever use "tipping point" in an analysis, pull us aside for a journalistic flogging for the crime Resorting to Overused Cliche.) The Washington Post has the variant of "Iran's Turning Point". The New York Times offers support through an editorial denouncing "Iran's War on Its People".


The Latest from Iran (17 December): An Uncertain Regime

MOHARRAM22145 GMT: Mowj-e-Sabz Suspends Publication. The editors and reporters of the Green Movement website Mowj-e-Sabz/Mowjcamp, a key source of information in the post-election crisis, have announced tonight that they are suspending the posting of articles.

The authors declare that this is the "end of a wave but the beginning of a path", as they "leave the arena temporarily to other Green [activists]". The announcement points to 22 Bahman (11 February), the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, as a key date for mobilisation.

Overall impression? The Mowj-e-Sabz activists, having been under constant regime pressure and having had their domain "seized" by hackers (the announcement claims they were Russians hired by the regime) this week, are taking a step back and drawing breath. The impression is of an opposition movement preparing to move more slowly but consistently in a long-haul battle.

2130 GMT: Paying Respects. Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, have visited former Vice President and recently-released detainee Mohammad Ali Abtahi in his home.

2125 GMT: More than 900 Sharif University students have signed an open letter protesting the arrest of protesters on 16 Azar (7 December).

1920 GMT: Propaganda of the Day (2). Israeli officials are putting out the story that President Obama, on his trip to Beijing in November, "warned his Chinese counterpart that the United States would not be able to keep Israel from attacking Iranian nuclear installations for much longer". This "part of the U.S. attempt to convince the Chinese to support strict sanctions on Tehran" matches up with leaks to the US media from a faction (probably including Dennis Ross of the National Security Council) in the Obama Administration --- which we noted --- that Israel would send the missiles into Iran if nothing was done about Tehran's nuclear program.

NEW Iran Analysis: The Regime’s Sword Wavers
NEW Latest Iran Video: Interview of the “Basij Member” on the Election and Abuses (16 December)
NEW Iran & The Arrest of Majid Tavakoli: “To Men Who Are Not Ashamed of Being a Woman” (Shirin Ebadi)
NEW Latest Iran Video: The Larijani Threat to Arrest Green Leaders (16 December)
Iran Document: The Rafsanjani Speech in Mashhad (6 December)
Iran: Why the US Sanctions Game on Tehran is All Wrong
Iran Picture of the Day: Mohammad Khatami’s Cellphone
Iran: A Beginner’s Guide to Moharram
The Latest on Iran (16 December): What’s Next?

The bigger story, however, lies beyond the spin. The Israeli officials added that the effect on Beijing was short-lived: "the Americans now understand that the Chinese agreed to join the condemnation announcement [at the International Atomic Energy Agency] only because Obama made a personal request to [Chinese leader Hu Jintao], not as part of a policy change". They noted that China has "refused a Saudi-American initiative designed to end Chinese dependence on Iranian oil".

If true, that means --- for all the bluster of the pro-sanctions crowd in Washington in conjunction with the Israelis --- any notion of economic punishment including the Chinese is a fantasy.

1900 GMT: Propaganda of the Day (1): On his "Go-Away-and-Play-While-The-Adults-Deal-with-the-Political-Crisis" trip in Copenhagen, President Ahmadinejad "has described capitalism and materialism as root causes for the world's environment crisis".

I don't want to be snippy, Mahmoud, but have you been in Tehran on a hot summer day when there's no wind coming off the mountain?

1715 GMT: The New Green Website. Repeating the important news yesterday: the Green Movement website Mowj-e-Sabz/Mowjcamp can now be accessed at

1700 GMT: For What It's Worth "Do Nothing". I've had problems with Roger Cohen's treatment of Iran in recent months, in particular his dismissal of the role new media/social media inside and outside the country in this political contest, but today I find myself on his side:

All this [history of Iran's nuclear programme] says — nay, screams — to me: Do nothing. It is President Barack Obama’s outreach that has unsettled a regime that found American axis-of-evil rhetoric easy to exploit. After struggling, Obama has also found his sweet spot in combining that détente with quiet support for universal rights....

[The protesters'] cause would be best upheld by stopping the march toward “crippling” sanctions on Iran....As Elizabeth Shakman Hurd of Northwestern University has written, “the United States is empowering the dissenters with its silence.”...Obama, himself of hybrid identity, must show his understanding of this historic urge by doing nothing. That will allow the Iranian political clock to tick faster still.

(For what it's worth, my comment to a reader yesterday, "My own preference has been to put the nuclear issue to the side and suspend discussions while Iran’s internal situation is in flux. That approach brings its own issues and difficulties — how to hold back Israel, for example — but I think it’s a more effective denial of legitimacy to Ahmadinejad and Co. than the questionable stick of sanctions.")

1330 GMT: The Latest on the Marches. Still confusion and uncertainty over whether the opposition will protest tomorrow. Some Iranian websites are reporting that the Green Movement will NOT demonstrate. The latest from Mir Hossein Mousavi is that he, Mehdi Karroubi, and the Association of Combatant Clergy are still waiting for a decision on their separate requests for permits.

1140 GMT: Out-of-Date News: Mehr News' English-language website just posted this news of reconciliation:
A senior lawmaker announced on Monday that two groups -- a six-person group from the Expediency Council and an eight-member group from somewhere else -- have started efforts to broker unity among principlists and reformists. [Deputy Speaker of Parliament] Mohammad Reza Bahonar also blasted harsh criticism against Expediency Council Chairman Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani....Bahonar who is also the secretary general of the Islamic Association of Engineers praised Rafsanjani’s efforts for national unity....Bahonar also said opposition groups in the country must have media to express their views.

So a prospect of reconcilation, then? Not quite: Bahonar said this "on Monday", before the latest regime assaults against Rafsanjani.

What say you now, Mr Bahonar?

1015 GMT: Abuses, Threats, and the Tribute to Majid Tavakoli. We've posted three important entries: 1) a video of the speech by Sadegh Larijani (see separate analysis) threatening arrest of opposition leaders; 2) an article by Shirin Ebadi on the "We All Wear Hejab" response to the arrest of Majid Tavakoli; and 3) the video of the interview by Britain's Channel 4 of the purported Basiji militiaman.

(Note: the Larijani video is not on our lead page because the audio automatically loads when a reader scrolls.)

0920 GMT: Shutting Down Ayatollah Dastgheib. The lecture hall of Ayatollah Ali Mohammad Dastgheib in Shiraz, "The Cradle of Martyrs", has been shut down. The hall was the biggest one for the mourning ceremony of Imam Hussain during Moharram.

As Dastgheib has been a critic both of the Government and of the Supreme Leader since June, speculation is that the closure is to prevent opposition protest.

0915 GMT: Clerical Boycott. Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Khashani, a member of Guardian Council and the head of theological college of Shahid Motahhari, has refused to participate in the sessions of Association of Combatant Clergy as a protest against the association's failure to react against insults of clerics such as Hashemi Rafsanjani and Ali-Akhbar Nategh-Nouri by some Presidential candidates (i.e., Mahmoud Ahmadinejad).

0905 GMT: Defending the Opposition. The audio of the speeches by reformist members of Parliament Mohammad Reza Tabesh and Nasrullah Torabi (see yesterday's updates and separate analysis), warning against regime intentions to arrest political figures in the Green movement, has been posted.

0855 GMT: The Verbal Sword-Fight. Saeed Jalili, the Secretary of the National Security Council, also spoke at the same conference of prosecutors addressed by Sadegh Lariajni with his "We Have the Evidence" declaration (see separate analysis). Jalili's talk was more the standard formula of legitimacy, followed by insinuation of foreign-directed opposition:
Enemies cannot deny the massive turnout and the tight internal political competition leading to the elections. Indeed the election was a turning point in the Islamic Republic’s history and underpinned our political credibility in the world....Regrettably some quarters are trying to change this turning point into an opportunity for themselves. This is a major act of injustice towards the Islamic Republic.

0755 GMT: The Basiji Confession? There is a lot of Internet chatter this morning about an interview by Britain's Channel 4 Television with a man claiming to be a former member of the Basij militia. The interview includes confirmation of the torture and rape of detainees and the assertion, "In truth the orders [to manipulate the Presidential vote] didn't come after the election. The orders for all that you witnessed came before the election."

0740 GMT: The Clerics-Rafsanjani Alliance? One announcement which may be of significance amidst our recent consideration of political plans and manoeuvres: Ayatollah Mousavi-Ardebili, a critic of the Ahmadinejad Government in the post-election crisis, is meeting former President Hashemi Rafsanjani this evening.

0735 GMT: We've started the morning with a special analysis, "The Regime's Sword Wavers", which summarises recent developments and looks forward to the start of Moharram tomorrow. Our conclusion? "A swinging sword does not necessarily find its target. And it does not necessarily bring legitimacy".

One note to add to that analysis: all of this turmoil occurs as President Ahmadinejad is far, far away in location at the Copenhagen summit. Is he also far, far away politically, a bystander as regime officials, Hashemi Rafsanjani, and the Green opposition trade blows amidst increasingly hostile rhetoric?

Iran Analysis: The Regime's Sword Wavers

SWORDEnduring America, 14 December: "What can the Supreme Leader and the Revolutionary Guard do with a Sword which, for all the detentions and all the propaganda, dangles not as a sign of its threat but of (for now) its impotence?"

Even by the standards of this post-election conflict, the last 48 hours have been extraordinary for their rhetoric. At one point, there were no less than five regime officials (head of judiciary Sadegh Larijani, Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi, Supreme Leader representative Mojtaba Zolnour, Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, Tehran Governor Morteza Tamedon) throwing around threats of arrests. Yet the opposition was even more spirited and even more high-profile: both Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mehdi Karroubi met the threats with defiance and more than a little humour (both were quite concerned about Yazdi's health, physical and mental), MPs offered public support, Mir Hossein Mousavi's Alireza Beheshti challenged the regime's continuous "lies about imperialism", and Mousavi's wife, Zahra Rahnavard, held up the Green Movement as the representative of the ideals of Imam Khomeini.

The Latest from Iran (17 December): An Uncertain Regime

And the outcome today, on the eve of the holy month of Moharram? A regime, nervous and possibly a bit frightened, which can neither swing its Sword of Damocles nor keep it steady.

Yesterday afternoon EA correspondent Mr Azadi began putting the pieces together. On Tuesday, Yazdi had put out his scathing ridicule of the "joke" of Karroubi and threatened Hashemi Rafsanjani's son, Mehdi Hashemi, with arrest if he stepped foot in Iran, Tamedon had talked both of security forces on alert for troublemakers on Friday and of Rafsanjani, and Zolnour apparently said all the opposition leaders should be rounded up. Then yesterday, it emerged that both Larijani and Moslehi were telling important groups of officials and clerics that the evidence was in place to hold trials; the Minister of Intelligence was now spinning a conspiracy tale in which representatives of Hashemi Rafsanjani had planned the post-election conflict in Britain with foreign agents.

The speeches were not necessarily co-ordinated. Indeed, because they probably weren't, they were far short of successful. Larijani's statement, which should have been the most significant given his official position, was a bit lost in crowded airspace, while Moslehi's speech --- at least to my outside eyes --- comes across as extreme. Is the regime really saying that Mehdi Hashemi and Rafsanjani's daughter, Faezeh Hashemi (who is in Iran), go on trial as part of the inner circle of the "velvet revolution"?

Instead of cowing the opposition into submission, the volley of regime shots were met by a furious counter-attack. Karroubi was careful, in a well-crafted response, to focus on Yazdi rather than swinging at officials such as Larijani and Moslehi, but Rafsanjani, durig the course of the day, took on not only Yazdi ("Get Help", "Get Cured") but the regime in general. Perhaps the former President was planning, after months of relative silence and uncertain manoeuvres, to surface but it appears that the attacks on him and his family helped make up his mind.

The irony is that, if the regime had kept its mouth shut or at least been more measured in its attacks, it could have left the opposition, rather than itself, in wobbling confusion. The Green movement seemed to be undecided, or even split, over tactics for the first day of Moharram. Should it join the Government-authorised marches, behind the message of "The Ideals of Khomeini are Our Ideals", or should it stand aside and let the regime have the field of demonstrations to itself for the first time in six months?

Supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi put out a letter, with a picture of Mousavi, favouring a public appearance but other activists balked: 1) some feared this would lead to violent clashes; 2) some did not want to associated with any march in honour of Khomeini, even if it had the symbols of resistance of Imam Hossein, whose death is marked by Moharram; 3) some argued that staying away would embarrass the regime when the outcome of a relatively small demonstration showed the lack of support for the Government. This morning, the argument is still unresolved.

Yet this debate in the opposition camp is secondary to the image of the regime's fist-shaking being met by a smack from Karroubi, who had been muted in recent weeks, Rafsanjani, and others. So why did it make such an inept move?

The more I look at events, the more I think that in part the answer is a fear of Rafsanjani. It was notable, for example, that Moslehi's attack did not name any other leader apart from the former President: Mousavi, Karroubi, and Mohammad Khatami were all absent from the speech. And it may be equally notable that Tehran Government Tamedon specifically referred to Rafsanjani's 6 December speech in Mashhad as an unacceptable challenge to the regime.

At the time of the speech, we published not only an extract from the speech but an analysis pointing to discussions between senior clerics and Rafsanjani as part of a renewed effort for a "National Unity Plan" or similar political compromise between the regime and the Green opposition. This prospect was challenged by others as an illusory hope but we still maintained this: what mattered was whether the regime thought the initiative was serious, causing it discomfort and prompting a response.

The last 48 hours mark that response: the Government is worried about Rafsanjani, possibly even more than the protests on the streets or the Mousavi-Karroubi-Khatami alliance. My hunch --- and it is only a hunch --- is that regime officials think Rafsanjani might have planned a high-profile appearance, if not tomorrow than at some point leading up to or on  the special day of Ashura (27 December), to mark his defiance of the Ahmadinejad Government. For the first time since his Friday Prayer of mid-July, the trumpet (or alarm, in the ears of the regime) would be sounded: Hashemi's Back, Hashemi's Here.

If true, that's a pretty significant development in the ongoing battle. But I think the threats also come from a second fear, and this one may be more important.

The regime is worried about its own supporters. Uncertainty and fright comes from the prospect that the large numbers won't show up tomorrow. The Friday Prayer congregation at Tehran University will be full, but how many will then go on the streets? And, if they are on the streets, how loud will they be for Khamenei and Ahmadinejad rather than Imam Hossein?

For six months, from the day-after-election "they are all dust" victory speech of Ahmadinejad to the 19 June Friday Prayer speech of the Supreme Leader to this Sunday's reprise of Ayatollah Khamenei --- not to mention the actions beyond the speeches from detentions to security presence to the steady propaganda brumbeat --- the regime has relied on attack.

But a swinging sword does not necessarily find its target. And it does not necessarily bring legitimacy (irrespective of the words of Machiavelli). So tomorrow's test is not of how many come for the opposition but, arguably for the first time since 12 June, how many come out for the Supreme Leader, for the President, and for current regime and its actions.