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Entries in Zahra Rahnavard (6)


Iran Analysis: The "Now What" Moment (Farhi)

Farideh Farhi writes for Inter Press Service:

After eight tumultuous months, during which attention from all sides of Iran's political spectrum as well as anxious watchers around the world focused on a series of street clashes between protesters and the government's security forces, an eerie calm has taken hold in Iran.

The government's ability to control the aesthetics of street demonstrations on the occasion of the revolution's 31st anniversary on Feb. 11 has once again confirmed the robust nature of the Iranian state, which used its long experience with government-sponsored demonstrations to stage what it now claims was a decisive "show of unity" involving "50 million" people "to bury the corpse of sedition."

Iran: Another Rethink on Green Opposition (Ansari)
Latest on Iran (18 February): Watching on Many Fronts

This is a significant development insofar as it disabuses policymakers outside Iran, as well as a large number of Iranian exiles, of the fantasy of the impending doom of the Islamic Republic or the belief that substantive change in Iran can or will come quickly.

Yet, despite the government's proclaimed unity, nothing that happened on Feb. 11 suggests that the fundamental cleavages that have rocked Iran in the past few months have been overcome. Indeed, the only message of Feb. 11 is that, by spending a tremendous amount of resources and energy on security, arrests and mobilisation, the government can control the crowds.

Reports from a variety of participants suggest that many supporters of the opposition that has come to be known as the Green Movement did come out, but simply did not know what to do or how to make their presence felt in the streets. In addition, the regime's deployment of abundant numbers of security personnel ensured that anyone who did make his or her presence known was swiftly pulled out of the crowd, led away or arrested.

In other words, the security and intelligence organisations managed the stage so effectively that, despite the attendance of more than 400 foreign journalists and photographers, the presence of the government's supporters
dominated the coverage. This was achieved not only by the massive security presence, but also by limiting the movement of foreign journalists; restricting - and, at times, even preventing - access to the Internet and cellular communications networks; the pre-emptive arrest of suspected protest organisers; and preventing the participation of recognised Green leaders, notably Mir Hussein Mousavi and his spouse Zahra Rahnavard, Mehdi Karroubi and former president Mohammad Khatami, through intimidation and pre-meditated mob attacks. The fact that, unlike the protests during Ashura on Dec. 27, no one was killed last week added to the impressiveness of the government's efficiency in controlling the streets, a striking contrast to the eight months that followed the disputed June elections.

But managing the stage and controlling the crowds on any given day are not the same as actually resolving the problems and grievances that have repeatedly brought protesters into the streets. Unless some of these are addressed, the Iranian state will remain on edge, vigilant, and engaged in a permanent crackdown that will effectively undermine the country's economic and regional ambitions.

The fact that some Green Movement activists may now be less inclined to use official holidays to mount their protests - or even be pushed underground --- will make dissent less predictable and thus significantly more difficult to control without the expenditure of even more state resources for the purposes of repression.

It is this dilemma that the Iranian leaders must address in the coming months. Even if it is accepted that the Green Movement is disheartened and the government "victorious," the country's multi-voiced and faction-ridden leadership cannot simply walk away from the events of the past eight months and avoid the "what now" question.

The country, after all, remains the same as before Feb. 11. Iran's political system, with its bickering elites, remains as dysfunctional as ever. And President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's administration is still perceived as incompetent even by many of its conservative backers at a time when the government faces the dual challenge of embarking upon what it calls the "economic surgery" of reforming the country's unwieldy subsidy system and thwarting growing foreign pressures to curb the country's nuclear programme.

To be sure, facing simultaneous economic and external challenges is nothing new for the Iranian leadership. During the Iran-Iraq War, the government did precisely that by relying on the post-revolutionary spirit of sacrifice and unity in the face of extreme adversity.

But, as pointed out by the conservative editor of Ayandenews, Fouad Sadeghi, the still-unaddressed internal divisions have turned Iran's dual challenge into a triple one, making overcoming the first two unlikely, if not impossible, without addressing the third.

It must be considered a sign of the raw nerve this conundrum struck that Sadeghi, whose brother was killed in the Iran-Iraq War and who was himself  an active member of Basij militia while studying at the highly politicised Amir Kabir Technical University in the 1990s, was arrested on the very eve of the anniversary celebration, soon after publishing his commentary.

Read rest of article....

Iran: The Events of 22 Bahman, Seen from Inside Tehran

EA correspondent Mr Azadi, who was in close contact with sources in Tehran throughout Thursday, writes this summary:

At 10 p.m., Iranian television began its news with part of the Supreme Leader's declaration, "Iran will be safe to the day that we follow Velayat-e-Faqih (ultimate clerical authority)."

This was followed by the images from the Azadi Square rally, as the narrator said that the day was mainly to show "our" support for the Supreme Leader and the defeat of foreign enemies and those who would deceive "us".

It was a symbolic end to 22 Bahman, with all the noise coming from the regime: many Green Movement supporters believed that, even though they were "countless", they still were not able to show their presence.

What Happened:

From the early hours, plainclothes security forces and the Basij militia were stationed around various streets, putting them . under the control and surveillance of undercover and uniformed security forces. All entry and exit routes around Tehran, as well as bus terminals, were controlled as well. Government buses had transferred Basij forces and plainclothes officers from different parts of town to the demonstration routes.

From Imam Hussain Square to Ferdowsi Square, there were fewer forces. But from Ferdowsi Square onwards, anti-riot force bikes and trucks loaded with batons and tear gas were on standby: on Keshavarz Blvd, from Aria Hospital to Palestine Avenue, and especially around Tehran University.

The security forces were preventing the people from reaching Enghelab and 7 Tir Squares, as a large group moved along the streets leading to Enghelab Square. From Enghelab to Azadi Square the number of anti-riot police forces was low; instead, there was an increase in the plainclothes forces, who could be identified easily from their walky-talkies.

As there was high probability for students protesting at (state broadcasting) IRIB, a large number of military and Basij surrounded the broadcasting complex, on Jam-e-Jam Street, around Karegar and North Amirabad streets.

Tehran’s Sadeghieh Square was one of the focal points of protesters. Mehdi Karoubi had announced the place as the starting point of the demonstration, and  thousands of supporters of green movement had gathered here. Large crowds of green-clad protesters moved from Apadana, the home of Sohrab Arabi (a martyred protester) towards Azadi sq. and Mohammad Ali Jenah Street. A large crowd of people were moving from Sadeghieh Sq. towards Azadi Square; even under tight security in the area, the slogans of “Down with the Dictator" could be heard.

In Asharafi Esfehani Street, people were shouting slogans such as "Death to Dictator and were tearing photographs of Khameini. The sound of car could be heard, which led to severe clashes between people and government forces. Tear gas was thrown and gunshots were heard. The first cases of arrest were reported from Azadi and Sadeghieh Squares.

Around 10:30 a.m. Mehdi Karroubi was attacked in Asharafi Esfehani Stree by plain-clothes officers. His bodyguards and others around him were beaten by batons and hit by "paint" bullets, while his car windows were broken. Karroubi left in another person’s car but the windows of this car were shattered as well. Two of Karroubi’s close friends, who also act as his bodyguards, were arrested by intelligence services and were sent to Evin Prison. (The two, Askarian and Anbar Nejad, each lost a limb defending their country during the Iran-Iraq War.)

Around 11 a.m. Mohammad Khatami joined the protesting crowds at the intersection of Zanjan St. and Azadi St., but was immediately forced to leave as a result of an attack on his car by plain-clothes officers. About 12 o’clock Mir Hossein Mousavi and Zahra Rahnavard joined the rally but again they were harshly attacked by plainclothes forces, and they were forced to leave the rally immediately.

In Azadi Square, the people on the East side were shouting “Death to Dictator!” and chanting: “Courageous Iranians: Support! Support!”; however, loudspeakers in the area were extremely loud and appear to have been arranged to overpower anti-government slogans. Government helicopters were spotted in the sky, flying just above the crowd of people. Rumours went around that the helicopters were taking videos of the crowd.

During Ahmadinejad’s speech, at some points, people could be heard shouting, "Liar, liar’, possibly causing him to lose his concentration on a couple of occasions. After the speech, because of security concerns, he left by helicopter.

The official pro-government march of 22 Bahman was finished, yet sporadic clashes continued in different areas of the city. More anti-riot police forces were called in to suppress the protesters, and eyewitnesses reported armed anti-riot police on motorcycles heading toward central Tehran. A large number of military forces were reported to be stationed around the Supreme Leader’s residence, the IRIB building, and North Amirabad Street. Until 11:30 p.m. local time, the sounds of siren and slogans could be heard in Shahrak Gharb and Vanak Square near Tehran University.

Those involved in the day assess that Green Movement was not able to show itself as well as it wished, even though there were many people on the streets:

1. The city was like a military base, and the control of the police was extensive.

2. Opposition leaders were stopped m participating in the rally, to prevent the formation of a Green Wave

3. People carrying Green symbols were arrested quickly.

4. The Green Movement made a mistake with the instruction to hide Green symbols until Azadi Square. This caused confusion amongst Green protesters, as it was hard to identify who was with and against them.

5. It seemed that people were waiting for others to make the first move and then follow them.

In conclusion, all involved declared that, while the Government used the day for their propaganda, 22 Bahman was still an important experience for the Green Movement to continue on its path.

Iran on 22 Bahman: Ahmadinejad "Wins Ugly" (This Time)

I guess it was inevitable that --- to post a dramatic headline or to make artificial sense out of the complex and messy politics of events --- the open-and-shut, Victory-or-Defeat results would already be declared. Britain's Sky TV, known best for its across-the-wall sports coverage, puts the onus of loser on the opposition: "The danger for Iran's anti-Government Green movement is that after yet again failing to mobilise huge numbers on a key day, it will lose momentum....The Government looks to have maintained its firm grip on the country." The Times of London pronounces, "Iran crushes opposition protests with violence". Others leer --- The Herald Sun in Australia, "Iran regime strangles Green Movement on the streets" --- while some don't even see a contest (Time: "Where Was the Opposition?")

The Tehran Bureau ran up the white flag, "A big anticlimax," "defeat," "An overwhelming presence from the other side. People were terrified." Even Juan Cole, normally an expert offering nuanced, in-depth analysis, leaps to "Regime Victory on Revolution Anniversary; Opposition Fails to Mobilize".

OK, if we have to resort to a sporting metaphor to summarise the twists and turns of 22 Bahman, let's use one that offers some insight into what is to come as well as what has happened.

The Regime Won Ugly. And that's not the same as winning.

The Latest from Iran (11 February): Today is 22 Bahman

Let me explain: when a team "wins ugly", it doesn't triumph through overwhelming superiority, a strength that is likely to see it chalk up victory after victory. Instead, it scrapes through --- in a contest in which all sides makes mistakes and miscalculations --- because its faults aren't quite enough to take away its lead, because it hangs on with just enough of a territorial advantage, because it has a bit of luck to offset its weaknesses or enough tenacity to avoid exhaustion.

That's a good starting point for 22 Bahman. If the regime prevailed today, it did so in part because expectations of the opposition had been set so high. The dramatic scenes of protest of Ashura (27 December), fuelled in part by the recent death of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, the relay of strong statements by Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and Mohammad Khatami, and the signs of regime fatigue offered the prospect of overcoming the blunt force and propaganda of the Government. And "overcome" was not the triumph of years or months from now but of this moment; 22 Bahman, 31 years after the Islamic Revolution's victory, might prove the triumphal day once more.

That didn't happen, and I guess in that sense, it has to be Government and Supreme Leader 1, Mousavi-Karroubi-Khatami and Greens O. But that winning score is a "negative" margin, rather than a tribute to the "positive" efforts of the regime. There was nothing hopeful in the rows of security forces who, having been prepared after the humiliations of Ashura, were not going to countenance another retreat. There was nothing of glory or Islamic value in the confrontations with Mehdi Karroubi (wounded, his son missing), Zahra Rahnavard (beaten), Mohammad Khatami and Mir Hossein Mousavi (forced into retreat), let alone the thousands of encounters in which chains, batons, and flying-squad detentions trumped hope and determination.

"Negative", not "positive". And no, the regime's rally in Azadi Square does nothing to alter that assessment. President Ahmadinejad's speech was not even subtle enough to offer a pretence of legitimacy through economic progress, social cohesion, or political manifesto for a post-election Iran in which the election is still a matter for dispute. This was a 75-minute diversion puffed up with a "surprise" (the 20% enrichment of uranium) which had been announced four days ago, the ritual denunciations of the "West" and Israel, and a fantastical vision --- awaiting the 12th Imam --- of Iran straddling the globe. Even the snapshots of the rally were beholden to these fancies, all deployed to avoid any reference to internal issues. There was the big rocket of Presidential strength:

And there was the eternal Western evil that would sweep over Iranians if they did not acknowledge Presidential leadership:

Of course, this was converted by State media into the markers, as the numbers in Azadi Square went from hundreds of thousands to a million to 2 million to 5 million, of all of Iran unified. And that unity was sustained by the reduction of any evidence to the contrary to a "couple of hundred" protesters in an outlying square in Tehran, soon to be dispersed by security forces.

But an unity sustained only by the "negative" is destined to melt away almost as quickly as the crowds dissipated from Azadi Square, duty done, needs met, or loyalties rewarded by the time slot allocated for the Ahmadinejad speech. Come tomorrow, or perhaps after the extended holiday that ends Sunday, the 31st anniversary of the Revolution will be just a date in the calendar as economic disputes resume, the qualms over the President resurface, and the detainees languish in Iran's prisons amidst the symbolic, limited but important manipulation of abuse cases such as the Kahrizak scandal.

There are distinctions to be made in this "negative" victory. It is probably more substantial for the Supreme Leader. The window of political opportunity to curb his authority and, in extreme visions, to remove him from office has now closed; those pursuing compromise within the system like Hashemi Rafsanjani have had to do so by pledging fealty to Ayatollah Khamenei, and figures like Mousavi and Karroubi have now defined their resistance as one that accepts the Leader's rule, provided he deals with an unjust and abusive Government. Khamenei is a damaged figure, a damage that is seen not only in the failure to get resolution but in his own bouts of self-doubt, but he will survive.

Not so Ahmadinejad. He lives another day because Iran's security forces held the line, even advanced in the physical battle against the opposition. But there is no political authority accrued from his postures: even Seyed Mohammad Marandi, the staunch defender of the Iranian regime, was at great pains this morning, when he spoke on British radio to say that the Iranian people had come out for the Republic, not the President (no Marandi interview is now complete without ""I Didn't Vote For Ahmadinejad").

If the opposition had truly been "crushed" today, that might have been sufficient to ensure Ahmadinejad's longer-term survival, even in the absence of any positive measures. But the Green movement and figures like Mousavi and Karroubi were not crushed. They were bashed about, dispersed, and, most importantly, exposed as tactically naïve with today's loudly-declared plan to march from Sadeghiyeh Square to the Government's lair in Azadi. Their ranks have been thinned by the detentions, and their communications have to fight new ways to deal with regime restrictions.

But they are not crushed. They also live for other battles. A Mousavi or Karroubi declaration could come tomorrow or Saturday or later in the week. The Green websites, with new ones emerging as others are closed, will be trying to find the front foot in stories of defiance and justice. And the planning will be moving beyond the tactic of trying to "hijack" the regime's highlight days.

That does not mean easy answers for the opposition, let alone those establishment figures who would like to see the back of Ahmadinejad not today but a moment in the near-future. But --- and perhaps this was the hubris that fed into the build-up for 22 Bahman --- nothing was ever going to come easy in this post-election crisis.

"Winning ugly" doesn't mean winning. It means a scrappy, jaded, exhausting victory on this day and this day only. There will be another game soon, and the negative of force and the rhetoric of diversion may not be enough, especially if those who see behind the batons and the speech-screens refine their approaches.

Put this on your scorecards. Without "legitimacy", the President --- if not the regime --- has to "win ugly" every time. The opposition --- from within the system or without --- only have to win once.

The Latest from Iran (11 February): Today is 22 Bahman

2130 GMT: For What It's Worth. The Supreme Leader's office has issued a statement saying that Ayatollah Khamenei is jolly happy that today's gathering has shown the unity of Iran in the face of the "arrogance" of Western nations.

2100 GMT: A Correction and a Question. One of the hot stories this morning was that reformist Mohammad Reza Khatami and his wife, Zahra Eshraghi, the granddaughter of Ayatollah Khomeini, had been briefly detained before being released with their promise they would not return to the streets (see 0815 and 0832 GMT).

A reliable EA source from Iran offers this, based on inside information, "The husband and wife were led to their car by security forces in plain clothes to leave the area for their own security."

But that in turn raises a question, "Security from whom?"

NEW Iran on 22 Bahman: Ahmadinejad “Wins Ugly” (This Time)
NEW Iran Document: Interview with Hossein Karroubi (11 February)
NEW Latest Iran Video: The 22 Bahman Protests (11 February — Set 4)
NEW Latest Iran Video: The 22 Bahman Protests (11 February — Set 3)
NEW Latest Iran Video: The 22 Bahman Protests (11 February — Set 2)
NEW Latest Iran Video: The Marches of 22 Bahman (11 February — Set 1)
NEW Latest Iran Video: 22 Bahman – TV Coverage
NEW Latest Iran Video: President Ahmadinejad’s Speech
NEW Iran: A Song for 22 Bahman
NEW Iran: A Beginner’s Guide to The Post-Election Conflict
A Song for Whomever: “Wise Up”
Iran Analysis: On the Eve of 22 Bahman
UPDATED Iran Analysis: The Rafsanjani “Ultimatum” to the Supreme Leader
The Latest from Iran (10 February): Mousavi, Pink Floyd, & 22 Bahman

2000 GMT: We have just posted our special analysis of 22 Bahman, "Ahmadinejad Wins Ugly (This Time)". I hope it takes discussion beyond today to the political complexities of weeks and months ahead: it is one of the toughest pieces I've ever had to write.

1710 GMT: And Another Re-Assessment. Setareh Sabety sends in her thoughts:
A journalist friend asked me what I thought of today's events and I thought I'd share it with everyone. This is just a tired witnesses assessment of a day that is still not over and where not all reports and clip have yet arrived.

Today did not seem as big as Ashura [27 December] at all, although there are some reports [of continuing protests] and Jaras is tellling people to assemble in the evening. People have been prevented from going near SedaSima (IRIB) or Evin (Prison). The clips show such a huge lack of coordination and street-level leadership. The students that seemed to do the organizing in 16 Azar (7 December) are now all in jail it seems. So unless dramatic new footage comes in or the scattered protests are prolonged into the night, then it is a slight disappointment for the greens and not as huge a protest as predicted.

The big points won are 1) the brutal treatment of (Zahra) Rahnavard and (Mehdi) Karroubi gives them more revolutionary stature and 2) the regime did not succeed in outshining the demonstrators because once again it had to resort to violence and not just outnumbering the protesters. The news of the brutality will ruin the image of a populist government that the regime wants to display. This is a regime that prides itself in its ability to rally masses on these occasions. Today it has lost more credibility.

If no further developments or revelations occur, the opposition needs to rethink its strategy of demonstrating on official and permitted days when the regime has time to plan and clamp down on its moves. Also it will become more apparent that in the face of such regime tactics and brutality more organization and leadership is needed. We have lost our fear but we need to know where to go with our new-found courage!

1700 GMT: Pedestrian passes on a letter from a friend who was at Azadi Square:
The greens made a stupid miscalculation to want to “take over Azadi” and this illusion was further enforced by individuals abroad [e.g., Sazegara]. State security and supporters had taken over the area, and it was impossible to have a significant impact there. I of course did not see the entire city, but the turnout of the greens felt very low. We needed at least 400,000 to show a significant impact, and thus far, it does not feel that way.

This is disastrous. The only real power the greens have had up to now is by showing their numbers on the streets. Now if with their two week campaign of terror, they’ve actually managed to get everyone to stay home, they will start putting even more pressure on activists and opposition groups … the few who are left out of prison that is.

I feel nauseated, and very scared.

1655 GMT: We have posted Tehran Bureau's interview with Hossein Karroubi, the son of Mehdi Karroubi, about the attack on his father's entourage, the arrest of his brother, and the events of 22 Bahman.

1600 GMT: In addition to the Shiraz arrests (1500 GMT), Rah-e-Sabz reports more than 100 arrested in Mashhad.

1540 GMT: Rah-e-Sabz says clashes continue in parts of Tehran, including Arya Shahr and Ferdows Boulevard.

1500 GMT: Rah-e-Sabz is reporting that more than 20 people were arrested in Shiraz today.

1450 GMT: Mousavi's Day. Kalemeh reports that Mir Hosein Mousavi tried to join the rally with people on Azadi Street when plainclothes militia, special forces, and Government supporters with batons surrounded him.

1415 GMT: Kalemeh is reporting that Zahra Rahnavard, the wife of Mir Hossein Mousavi, was beaten in Sadeghieh Square by a group of basijis. People helped her scape by making a human chain around her.

No indication if Mir Hossein Mousavi was present.

1340 GMT: MediaWatch. Islamic Republic News Agency, down yesterday, is back on-line but Fars News is out of action.

1251 GMT: Well, That Settles That. Press TV's website tries to put everything in order in a few sentences:

Millions of Iranians across the country have taken to the streets to celebrate the 31st anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution....In the capital Tehran, an extraordinarily high number of people from all walks of life marched across the city and gathered at Azadi (Freedom) Square to take part in the festivities. They were carrying banners denouncing the enemies of the country....

A few hundred of supporters of Iran's defeated presidential candidates also rallied in Tehran.

Press TV's broadcast coverage, which now features nuggets such as a tourist from Brazil and vistor from "Oregon" being surprised and amazed at the pro-Government crowds, is presenting the opposition rallies with shots of a few people milling about in a square in western Tehran. Snuck in is a reference to both Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi being seen at the demonstrations.

1250 GMT: Service Announcement. Remember, folks, if everything is running too slow here, we have set up a back-up site for the LiveBlog.

1240 GMT: How Big Was the Security Presence to Prevent a March In Tehran? Have a look at our thumbnail picture from Sadeghiyeh Square, which was to be the start point for a move on Azadi Square and which was where Mehdi Karroubi was turned back.

1230 GMT: Karroubi's Son on the Attack. Hossein Karroubi, son of key opposition figure Mehdi Karroubi, has given details of the assault on his father's entourage this morning. In an interview with Deutsche Welle, Hossein Karroubi declared, "I witnessed the most brutal treatment of people in the past eight months today."

1225 GMT: Yes, Hashemi Was There. Iranian Labour News Agency runs the picture (see left) that proves former President Hashemi Rafsanjani was at the official rally today.

1210 GMT: The State of Play. In Tehran, it is a case of the regime's one-off Big Bang with the Azadi Square rally vs. the smaller but still important fireworks that have occurred throughout the capital and will continue through the day.

Elsewhere, we are now ready to confirm opposition demonstrations in Isfahan, Mashhad, Ahvaz, and Shiraz.

Peyke Iran has a summary of clashes in Tehran and Isfahan.

1145 GMT: EPersian radio --- a source that we treat with caution because claims can be exaggerated --- reports that the crowd in Tabriz is chanting: "Today is day of blood; Yazid (the caliph who killed Imam Hussein; take your pick who the modern equivalent is) will have to go!"

1135 GMT: Government forces are mobilized against protesters gathering on Yadegar Imam Road.

1130 GMT: Member of Green movement in Shiraz: heavy security presence, at least 20 people arrested.

Mehdi Karoubi's son confirms to CNN his father was attacked. Doctor treating him for tear gas burns to his eyes.

1125 GMT: Female protesters arrested in Vali Asr and Haft-e Tir.

1110 GMT: There are many injuries in Esfahan.

1100 GMT: Clashes have now spread to the northern parts of Tehran.

1045 GMT: What We're Watching. Clashes continue across Tehran, especially in the north of the city. This is likely to be a long day, and no predictions should be made at the moment.

Scott Lucas is off to do BBC World just after 11:30. Tricia Sutherland and Ali Yenidunya will be minding the EA shop.

1015 GMT: Clashes are escalating at Amir Abad, close to the main Tehran University dormitories.

1005 GMT: North Tehran is the scene of "sporadic and at times heavy" clashes, especially at Vanak Square. That is notable, since Vanak had been relatively free of clashes in demonstrations in November and December, including Ashura.

1000 GMT: Farda News is reporting that former President Hashemi Rafsanjani participated in the rally today at Enghelab and Palestine Streets.

0940 GMT: The mainstream site Mardomak is calling the security forces on Tehran's streets "akin to a military regime".

0920 GMT: Resources To Keep By Your Side. For those taking notes, an activist has posted a full paraphrase --- "10,834 characters, likely filled with typos, and relatively boring" --- of Ahmadinejad's speech.

And here is the map of the action today in Tehran:

0905 GMT: To Prove Our Analysis. An example of the hit-and-run confrontations comes from Rah-e-Sabz, which reports clashes between security forces and people trying to reach Azadi Square, as the crowds chant "Death to Dictator" and "Death to Khamenei".

Of course, none of this is making it onto State media, whose propaganda strategy is in overdrive. All of their coverage is focused on the rally in Azadi Square, with the theme being "Iran v. the West" (in other words, no mention as well as no images of internal conflict). Press TV is trotting on "analyst" after "analyst" talking about resistance to Western domination --- one example is the Beirut-based Franklin Lamb.

Two questions: 1) how long can this regime effort last, if the crowds have done their bit and are ready to go home? 2) what happens for the day, as opposition groups (whose size we cannot yet estimate) regroup and marches at different points through Tehran, even as the security forces try to prevent a single, large demonstration?

0900 GMT: Meanwhile, Back to the Real Story. So far, this morning is a repeat of the mornings of other protest days. While the regime tries to hold its showpiece rally, the priority of security forces is to prevent any mass gathering of opposition.

So the running violence throughout the capital is of Iranian security forces pushing back at crowds as they move towards squares. The most dramatic examples was the aggression against the entourages of Mehdi Karroubi and Mohammad Khatami, but the episodes is being repeated in numerous places.

0855 GMT: The Ahmadinejad Showpiece. President's speech was 1 hour, 15 minutes, but you could pretty much wrap it up in the snippets we've posted below.

Key take-away: Ahmadinejad was almost entirely focused on the "external", with Great Iran v. Duplicitous/Evil/Scheming "West". He avoided the internal issues.

Press TV has followed the script, paying particular attention to the "20% uranium declaration" and the nuclear issue.

How does this play, not only with the "Iranian people" but with the opposition and his critics "within the establishment"? Wait and see.

0832 GMT: Fereshteh Ghazi have confirmed that reformist leader Mohammad Reza Khatami and his wife, Zahra Eshraghi (the granddaughter of Ayatollah Khomeini), have been released after a brief detention (see 0815 GMT). They have been warned not to return to the streets.

0830 GMT: President Ahmadinejad still going on about Iran v. The World: "Iran does not welcome confrontation....Obama should make great changes", etc., etc.

0827 GMT: Rah-e-Sabz now carries the report of Ali Karroubi's arrest (see 0805 GMT).

0825 GMT: And Ahmadinejad's Big Declaration? "The first batch of 20% uranium has been produced already."

0815 GMT: Rah-e-Sabz is claiming that Mohammad Reza Khatami, first Secretary-General of the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front (and not to be confused with former President Khatami), and his wife, Zahra Eshraghi, the granddaughter of Ayatollah Khomeini, have been arrested. (

0810 GMT: That Ahmadinejad Speech. "World powers need us more than we need them."

0805 GMT: Urgent --- Ali Karroubi, son of Mehdi Karroubi has been arrested. The news has been confirmed by his brother, Hossein Karroubi.

0757 GMT: And Khatami? Parleman News is reporting that former President Mohammad Khatami was present in marches between Zanjan St and Azadi Square, supported by loud chants, but he was soon forced to pull back and leave after pressure from pro-Government force. (

0749 GMT: The Karroubi Attack. We are treated as confirmed, given the report from Fereshteh Ghazi on her Facebook page:

Karroubi was subject to aggression on Ashrafi Esfahani Street. Batons and "coloured bullets" were used to attack his bodyguards. Windows of his car smashed. He was forced to go back home in someone else's car. Karroubi was unscathed but unable to proceed."

Rah-e-Sabz also reports.

0748 GMT: More Ahmadinejad: "Domination of the world depends on control of energy. Imperialist Britain managed to subjugate most of the world in its empire through the cheap Middle Eastern energy. The engines of war were successful becuase they extracted and appropriated cheap Middle Eastern energy.

From a geopolitical standpoint, major potential is linked to our regime."

0745 GMT: Attack on Karroubi. The best report so far re the claimed assault on Mehdi Karroubi comes from a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty journalist who talked to Karroubi's son: "Karroubi and his car came under attack by hardliners, people being beaten up."

Parleman News and Fereshteh Ghazi are now reporting the attack as well.

0730 GMT: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has begun his speech in Azadi Square. He has begun by praising 22 Bahman, declaring that "this Revolution goes beyond Iran's border....It affects the globe....The future of humanity is inter-connected."

Now Ahmadinejad is explaining why the "great powers" are against Iran.

0715 GMT: Press TV's correspondent in Azadi Square is going a bit over the top in the effort to show how massive this is for the regime: "Each year I see something more interesting....This year, in the beautiful skies, it's the skydivers. And the speaker is calling on the judiciary to take action on events that happened after elections."

0714 GMT: State media footage of President Ahmadinejad in Azadi Square:


0710 GMT: State media is featuring film of large pro-Government crowds moving along routes to Tehran University and Azadi Square. No footage, however, from Sadeghieh Square.

0700 GMT: An EA correspondent, from reliable Tehran sources, reports heavy security presence in 7 Tir Square and Hafez Street, armed with batons but no visible firearms.

0650 GMT: Web Issues. The websites of Islamic Republic News Agency, which was taken off-line yesterday, or Press TV are not loading.

0645 GMT: Press TV is reporting President Ahmadinejad is at Azadi Square.

0640 GMT: There are reports of clashes at Sadeghieh Square, where Mehdi Karroubi was due to arrive about 10 minutes ago. These come from reliable Iranian activists, but we are treating with caution for the moment.

0620 GMT: Reza Sayah of CNN, from a witness, reports "pick-up trucks with speakers roaming streets blaring pro-govt slogans and songs".

0610 GMT: The Green site Rah-e-Sabz is reporting extensive deployment of security forces, including detachments in Amirabad Street and around the state television complex. (EA correspondents note that this probably should be Karegar rather than Amirabad Street.)

0600 GMT: Press TV and Fars are now putting out state media line: "People across Iran have begun celebrating the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution". Live shots of people standing about in Azadi Square. The studio anchor is on a "looped" script, repeating over and over the basics of 22 Bahman and "tens of millions" of Iranians coming out on this day to support the regime.

CNN International, in contrast to previous protest days, is already going big on its coverage. It's now running an extensive overview with interviewees like Mehdi Khalaji and Behzad Yaghmaian.

0550 GMT: Well, Press TV English hasn't quite gone to special coverage. It's showing "In Prison My Whole Life". Thought at first this might be a subversive reference to post-election detentions, but on second glance, looks like it is a study of US injustice.

0545 GMT: Reports, which we are checking, of several hundred gathered in Tabriz. People are on the move in Tehran, where it is 9:15 a.m.

0540 GMT: Activists reports that "Death to Dictator" is already being chanted by people gathered in the north and northwest of Azadi Square, the official gathering point for the pro-Government rally and the unofficial destination of the opposition marches.. Basij militia have gathered at bus stops at the northwest corner of Azadi Square. (iranstreets)

0530 GMT: Here we go. It is 22 Bahman, the anniversary of the 1979 Revolution, and we, like many others, start the day with nervous expectation of what is to come.

Iran Document: Interview with Hossein Karroubi (11 February)

Tehran Bureau spoke with Hossein Karroubi, son of Mehdi Karroubi, hours after the Karroubi entourage was attacked trying to join opposition protests in Tehran on 22 Bahman:

How is your father Haj Agha Mehdi Karroubi?

We're treating him for burns to his face and eyes. He's having trouble with his lungs too. He was badly attacked with pepper spray. Plainclothes agents (vigilantes) approached him and kept spraying it in his eyes. He's resting at home though; he's not been hospitalized.

Any news of your brother Ali?

We haven't been able to figure out where he is. Everyone we call claims to have no information on him. We believe he's in the custody of the law enforcement agency.

Government officials are touting the celebrations today as a referendum on the past few months, on the Green Movement. What do you think? Was this a defeat for the Green Movement?

Well, they bussed in as many people as they possibly could from many towns and locations -- I even saw them rounding up people myself -- and depositing them at Azadi Square, surrounded by and escorted by thousands of officers. This is while they started beating the others (opposition) starting at 8 am. Of what value is such a pro-government turnout? If they allowed this side (opposition) to gather, they would see how the masses really turn out. For example, at Sadeghi Square, where we were, folks told us they started beating up on them since they started arriving at 8 am. They kept gathering and they kept dispersing them. What value was their [the government's] turnout under these circumstances?

The Iranian blogosphere appears to be disappointed by the lack of a Green presence. Some are claiming they are no longer worthy of Mr. Karroubi?

No, that's not so. This is not the case. The people were actually very kind. There were gatherings starting at 8 in the morning there. They got beat up pretty bad. When we got there, people warmly gathered around him. But when they were violently attack -- they even pulled a dagger. When a thug pulls a dagger and attempts to attack you with it and with knives and batons.... No, we actually thank the people for their support.

Do you think this paves the way for the arrests of Mr. Karroubi and Mr. Mousavi?

Until now their [government] actions have been irrational; we hope they proceed in a more rational fashion from this point. I hope such a thing doesn't happen. I hope they don't act in such a disgraceful manner for the whole world to see.

if there are arrests, do you believe they will be followed by televised confessions of the opposition leaders?

They've already tried really hard to use such tactics and failed. For all their efforts, the many arrests and all the pressure they've put on detainees, they were only able to televise a handful of these so-called confessions.

Do you think the arrests of Mr. Karroubi's bodyguards were premeditated?

Mr. Karroubi received a letter from [NAJA intelligence] saying that Mr. Karroubi would be the target of a suicide attack and that he shouldn't participate in the march today. And at the same time, they called some of our friends, his entourage in for questioning. They got a written promise from them, agreeing they wouldn't take place in gatherings with Mr. Karroubi anymore. They did everything to dissuade Mr. Karroubi from attending. But when I saw him this morning, he was intent on going to the march.

How may Greens do you think showed up and participated today?

I really couldn't tell. I was only in the Sadeghiyeh area, which was only one of the paths of the march. The folks there said there were many of them there, but they [authorities] would beat them up and not allow them to gather.

Other areas it was the same. I asked around and they said more or less the same thing. They said police forces and vigilantes had a strong presence and they beat up on many people.

We're hearing reports that Zahra Rahnavard was beat up. Is this true?

I don't know. This is the first I've heard of it.