2130 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. Another sign of the "conservative" push for changes within the system. The brother of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, Mohammad Hashemi Rafsanjani, has told Khabar Online that the Expediency Council will seek to remove "ambiguities" in Iran's election law. At the same time, Mohammad Rafsanjani denied that the Expediency Council will seek to remove the Guardian Council's monitoring of elections.
NEW Iran Special: Interpreting the Videos of the Tehran Dorm Attacks
NEW Iran Document: Karroubi Statement on 22 Bahman & The Way Forward (22 February)
UPDATED Iran 18-Minute Video: Attack on Tehran University Dormitories (14/15 June 2009)
New Jersey to Iran (and Back Again): The Activism of Mehdi Saharkhiz
The Latest from Iran (22 February): Karroubi’s Challenge
1840 GMT: WaPo'ed (definition: "declaring an opposition movement dead without evidence and with dubious motives). Just a quick note to folks at The Washington Post: in the past 72 hours, you have distorted a piece by your own Iran correspondent to portray the demise of the Green movement on 22 Bahman and you have run an Associated Press report which declares from thin air:
Opposition forces were left disillusioned Feb. 11 after police and hard-line militiamen snuffed out protest marches to coincide with the anniversary of Ayatollah Khomeini's 1979 revolution. Many opposition blogs and Web sites are increasingly questioning whether Mousavi or other pro-reform leaders have run their course.
Today you run not one but two opinion pieces which call for a "war of necessity" with Iran: Anne Applebaum's "Prepare for war with Iran -- in case Israel strikes" and Richard Cohen's pronouncement, "It may be time for Barack Obama, ever the soul of moderation, to borrow a tactic from Richard Nixon and fight crazy with crazy."
I do hope the poor editing/reporting and war whoops are unconnected, because there's the uncomfortable impression that you're trying to shove the opposition into the corner so you can have a bomb-bomb-bomb showdown with Tehran.
1835 GMT: Former President Mohammad Khatami has shown solidarity with a visit to Mehdi Karroubi's son Ali, who was taken away and beaten on 22 Bahman.
1830 GMT: The Tehran Dorm Attacks. We have a double special this evening with Mr Verde analysing the footage of the assault and with the full 18-minute video of the attack.
1750 GMT: Political Prisoner Update. Fereshteh Ghazi offers a useful round-up of news on detainees, "Constant Intimidation; Repeated Charges".
1745 GMT: A Clerical Voice Is Heard Once More. Ayatollah Bayat-Zanjani has spoken up again about the abuses of the Government: “Power is a tool to defend people’s rights and, if rights cannot be defended based on that power, then that power will lose its legitimacy even if some would try to make up legitimacy for it.”
1740 GMT: Full-Court Press. As we predicted this morning, a big day for the regime's propagandists on the "foreign enemies" front: Press TV has another article on the capture of Jundullah leader Abdolmalek Rigi, this time highlighting his "US-issued passport".
1735 GMT: Yah, Yah, Whatever. More spinning of rhetorical wheels in the uranium enrichment discussions. Iran’s Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, has submitted a letter that Iran is “still ready to purchase the fuel it needs for Tehran’s research reactor”. However, if buying is not an option, “Iran is ready to simultaneously exchange the fuel required for the Tehran research reactor with its low-enriched uranium within Iranian territory if the I.A.E.A. lacks the ability to fulfill its duties.”
In other words, Tehran has re-stated the position held since November, so no apparent breakthrough from the recent Turkish mission to Iran.
The Guardian of London has posted a copy of the letter.
1730 GMT: Karroubi Watch. Thanks to Khordaad 88, we've finally posted the English translation of Mehdi Karroubi's Monday statement on 22 Bahman and the way forward for the opposition.
1640 GMT: Going Off-Script (Economy Watch). But, in a break from regularly scheduled progaganda, Press TV has this surprise:
Iran needs to invest $24bn to $30bn per year in its oil industry to reach the 20-year goals of the country the Head of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) says....
[Seifollah] Jashnsaz stressed that Iran needs to attract more foreign investment to keep the oil industry alive. "If we do not make the necessary investment, the harm of the lack of timely investment in the oil industry will be irreversible to the country," he pointed out.
Iran faces an uphill effort to develop its oil and gas reserves because of credit concerns and issues stemming from sanctions backed by Western nations over its peaceful nuclear program.
1630 GMT: No Complications Here. Of course, for Press TV, there are no nuances in today's Rafsanjani statement (see 1335 GMT):
Head of Iran's Assembly of Experts Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has criticized the head of the UN nuclear watchdog over his recent report on Iran's nuclear energy program.
Speaking at the opening of an Assembly of Experts meeting, Ayatollah Rafsanjani said the recent report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) repeated the previous US accusations against Iran....Ayatollah Rafsanjani said, “It seems all the Western countries were prepared for and informed about such a report, which they welcomed after its release.”
He further criticized the 'failed' US policies in the Middle East, including Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine.
1345 GMT: Before going on academic break, two important points from an EA source:
1. The BBC Persian video of the attacks on Tehran University's dormitories on 15 June is being seen inside Iran, and it is causing much comment and anger.
2. Jundullah Abdolmalek Rigi was captured last week by Iranian forces. Some believe that this morning's regime announcement of Rigi's detention is a reaction to divert attention from the BBC Persian video.
1335 GMT: Non-Surprise of the Day. So Hashemi Rafsanjani launches the two-day Assembly of Experts meeting with this not-very-provocative statement:
Our focal point is clear and that is the constitution, Islam, the principle of the office of the jurisprudent and supreme leadership. There are those who do not recognise these, but that is not the case with the majority of people in our society. It is very important for us to try to safeguard these.
OK, so that Rafsanjani's now-obligatory alignment with the legitimacy of the Supreme Leader. What will be significant is how he uses that to press for changes in the system. Here was a clue: acceptance of
responsibility by those who permitted or carried out post-election abuses:
The events that took place at Kahrizak [with the Supreme Leader's order to close the prison] and the consoling of those who were hurt in these events, or the release of those who were arrested, have been along this axis [of responsibility]. [The Leader] is vigilant that there should be no turmoil.
1330 GMT: Citizen Journalism Alert. It's a convenient coincidence, as we post our special feature on Iran and citizen journalists, that one of the most prominent activists on Twitter has used his/her 50,000th tweet to announce the launch of a new initiative, the Global Freedom Movement.
1200 GMT: Prediction Fulfilled (0645 GMT). Press TV plays out the propaganda line over the arrest of Jundullah leader Abdolmalek Rigi:
Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najar told reporters on Tuesday that Rigi was arrested outside the country as he was preparing for a new act of sabotage. He was consequently transferred to Iran.
In a news conference following Rigi's capture Tuesday, Iran's Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi shed light on certain details regarding Rigi's arrest as well as his links with foreign elements.
Moslehi said that Americans utilized an Afghan passport for Rigi, a declaration which adds to already existing evidence on Rigi's links with the US.
Moslehi said that Rigi had contacts with CIA and Mossad and had even met the NATO military chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer in Afghanistan in April 2008.
According to the minister, Rigi had also contacts with certain EU countries and traveled to them.
1055 GMT: Just before going on an academic break, we have posted a special feature, "In Praise of Citizen Journalists".
1050 GMT: No Comment Necessary. From Reuters:
"No power can harm Iran ... The Iranian nation will chop off the hands from the arm of any attacker from any part of the world," [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad said in a televised speech in eastern Khorasan-e Jonubi province.
0935 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Moussavi supporter Mohammad Estaki has been arrested in Isfahan. Journalist Kayvan Samimi has been moved back to solitary confinement in Evin Prison. Mohammadreza Razaghi of the Mousavi campaign and Asghar Khandan have been freed. Sara Tavassoli, daughter of the director of the Freedom Movement of Iran, has been released.
0933 GMT: "An Assembly with Eyes Wide Shut". Anticipating the start of the two-day meeting of the Assembly of Experts, Rah-e-Sabz has a lengthy analysis of the divisions between hardliners and moderates in the body.
0900 GMT: Karroubi v. Larijani Watch. Now to the serious news. The pro-Larijani Khabar Online takes Mehdi Karroubi's seriously enough to launch a full attack on it as "destroying the structures" (sakhtar-shekanane) of the Islamic Republic. Khabar then pretends that there's nothing significant at all, as Karroubi's declaration comes 11 days after the downfall of the Greens on 22 Bahman.
0855 GMT: Mars Attacks? It really is a banner day for headlines. The English service of Fars News contributes with "Sunni Scholars: Aliens Seeking to Sow Discord among Muslims".
0735 GMT: Later this morning, we're hoping to get out an analysis of the significance of social media and "citizen journalism" in this conflict. For now, just note (somewhat ironically, since the film was initially shot by the attackers) the impact of BBC Persian and YouTube footage --- shown in a separate EA entry --- of the assault on the Tehran University dormitories on 15 June. As with previous YouTube video, publicised by Twitter and Facebook, the anger over the video is likely to support the resurgence of opposition.
0730 GMT: Over-the-Top Headline of the Day (2). In The Huffington Post, "Iran Invites Israeli Bombers to Visit Its Nuclear Facilities".
0720 GMT: Full marks to Nazila Fathi of The New York Times (and to The Los Angeles Times yesterday) for valuable coverage of the Karroubi statement: "It was clear from Mr. Karroubi’s call for a referendum that he did not expect the government to take it seriously. But his ability even to make such a demand and spread the message over the Internet seemed calculated to frustrate the Iranian authorities."
0715 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has published a letter that it claims is from imprisoned student Seyed Zia Nabavi to the head of Iran's judiciary, Sadegh Larijani. Nabavi, jailed for 15 years, declares, "I have yet to see a document authorizing my arrest and stating the reason.”
The student was detained on 15 June, during the first mass marches after the election. His sentence claims he was conspiring against national security and associating with opposition group Mujahedin-e-Khalq.
0710 GMT: Over-the-Top Headline of the Day? The New Republic, featuring Abbas Milani's profile of Mir Hossein Mousavi: "Iran Finds Its Nelson Mandela".
0645 GMT: An interesting comparison emerges this morning in news from Iran. On the regime side, the headline is the announcement by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence that the leader of the Baluch insurgent group Jundullah, Abdolmalek Rigi, has been captured in eastern Iran.
I suspect the news will be trumpeted loudly today. Jundullah's suicide bombing last October killed 42 people, including six Revolutionary Guard commanders, and shook up and distracted Iranian security forces. This turns around the political situation: Rigi's detention and the blow to Jundullah will be held up as a symbol of the regime's triumph over foreign-supported threats to the Islamic Republic.
On the opposition side, however, the news about Rigi will be irrelevant. Instead, Mehdi Karroubi's declaration yesterday turns another page in the post-22 Bahman rebuilding of the challenge to the Ahmadinejad Government. Following the two meetings between Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, which have promised significant news, i.e., a plan of action, for the Iranian people, Karroubi's call is doubly significant. It is immediately important because it offers a specific political focus in the demand for a referendum on the Guardian Council. Its wider importance, however, is that it indicates --- despite all the repressive measures and propaganda of the Government --- that the resistance is far from over.
The key here is that the two events don't match up. So while the Government puts out its victory message today, listen but also watch for any Green steps. There are dramatic and significanct sideshows, and then there are main events.