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Saturday
Feb192011

The Latest from Iran (19 February): Is That All There Is?

2150 GMT: 1 Esfand. Students at 14 Azad (Technical) Universities around Iran have announced their support of Sunday's rallies.

In an interview with the Green outlet RASA TV, Mir Hossein Mousavi's advisor Ardeshir Amir Arjomand confirms that Sunday's marches go ahead even though Mousavi is under house arrest:

2110 GMT: Tonight's Rooftop Chants. Reports are coming in of loud Allahu Akbars (God is Great) on rooftops in Iran. One Iranian has put together a soundtrack.

1845 GMT: Shutting Down the Media. The Ministry of Culture has revoked press credentials for 11 international journalists accused of covering Sunday's protests.

1835 GMT: And Now, This Important Clerical Message. Ayatollah Dastgheib, a leading critic of the Government, has put out a sharp allegorical message, "Pharaoh thought he could stop the wave by killing Moses".

Having brought out the regime's threats to opposition figures Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, Dastgheyb then offers encouragement for regime followers to come out and join the Green Movement, referring to dropouts at the Egyptian court who turned to Moses secretly.

And so, on the eve of 1 Esfand, Pharoah (the Supreme Leader) is juxtaposed with Moses (senior clerics).

1830 GMT: 1 Esfand. The routes for Sunday's marches in cities across Iran have been posted:

1825 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. A warning to former President Hashemi Rafsanjani from Deputy Speaker of Parliament Mohammad Reza Bahonar: "Hashemi has less than a week to make clear his position on sedition leaders and 25 Bahman".

That warning would indicate that Rafsanjani, who posted a sharp denunciation of President Ahmadinejad on Monday, was not fully in accord with the Assembly of Experts --- which he chairs ---- when it criticised the 25 Bahman marches as US/Israel-supported "counter-revolution".

1700 GMT: Warning the Media. Mohammad Javad Aghajeri of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has declared that foreign agencies will be shut "if they report bad things".

1510 GMT: 1 Esfand. More endorsements of Sunday's march, including the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front and students of Mashhad University.

The youth branch of the IIPF has also issued a statement backing the rally, as have the Union for Democracy and Human Rights and the students of Isfahan Ashrafi University.

1505 GMT: The House Arrests. Neighbours of Mehdi Karroubi have complained, in a letter to the Minister of Interior, about the loud and "dirty" pro-regime groups carrying out a campaign of harassment outside the Karroubi residence.

1500 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Hossein Salemkar, a graduate student of Sharif University, has been arrested after the 25 Bahman protests.

1355 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Two German journalists, held since last October, should soon be free after their 20-month sentences were changed to $50,000 fines.

Marcus Hellwig and Jens Koch, who work for Bild am Sonntag, were arrested as they interviewed the son and lawyer of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, condemned to death for adultery and the murder of her husband.

1330 GMT: Intimidation. A pro-regime group has attacked the house of Amin Khosravi, a leader of the student association in Yasu in Kurdistan and a supporter of Mehdi Karroubi.

1200 GMT: The House Arrests. Kalemeh claims, through sources on the spot, that a "metallic wall" is being erected around Mir Hossein Mousavi's house to cut him off completely for a long period of time.

1140 GMT: The Hate Rally. There has not been much information of gatherings for the regime outside Tehran yesterday, but Fars News features an account --- complete with the picture of a noose --- of the hangings of effigies of Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and Mohammad Khatami in Tabriz after Friday Prayers.

1120 GMT: Clerical Advice. Moulana Abdolhamid, the Sunni Friday Prayer leader in Zahedan in southeastern Iran, has declared that restraining liberties is no solution to problems and that freedom of speech will prevent uproar.

1105 GMT: Assassination Attempt. Hojatoleslam Rasoul Bargi has been shot and is hospitalised in Tabriz in East Azerbaijan.

1020 GMT: The Trailer for the Marches of 1 Esfand....

1013 GMT: 1 Esfand. The newly-created Green Students Union for Tehran Universities has issued a call for participation in Sunday's opposition rallies.

1010 GMT: Another 25 Bahman Video. More than 15 minutes of footage from Monday's opposition protests....

0820 GMT. Rafsanjani Watch. The fight around former President Hashemi Rafsanjani. After a sustained campaign this week against Rafsanjani by circles around President Ahmadinejad, Jomhouri Eslami has countered by jabbing at insults against Rafsanjani by "narahat elements" (the annoyed) to prevent his re-election as head of the Assembly of Experts.

0815 GMT: 1 Esfand. Arshama3's Blog post a list of cities around the world, from Stockholm to Toronto, holding rallies on Sunday in support of the opposition march in Iran.

0745 GMT: Editorial Note. To readers who have kindly enquired....

Yes, I have noticed the dramatic article in The Daily Telegraph of London claiming that there is a split within the Revolutionary Guards and that the Guards have declared they will not fire on protesters.

I have not posted this in updates nor have I linked to the article, although there is some discussion in comments, because 1) similar claims have proven unfounded in the past; 2) The Telegraph does not produce the letter that underpins its claims, so there is no way to verify  them; 3) the journalist who puts out the story has proven far from reliable in his past reporting.

0740 GMT: For What It's Worth. The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has confirmed new restrictions on foreign media.

0640 GMT: James Miller offers answers to my questions below in a sharp analysis, "Walking the Same Green Tightrope".

0625 GMT: It was such an anti-climax. I had expected a big display from the regime on Friday. I had analysed why, given the opposition's public re-emergence on Monday, it was necessary for Iranian authorities to show the "positive" of mass support to match the "negative" of their continuing detentions and intimidations.

It never really happened. The space at Tehran Friday Prayers was filled --- it always is, even at the most settled of times --- and there were enough people to give an aerial shot of a filled Enghelab (Revolution) Square. It was "thousands" in the summaries. It was "tens of thousands" in one (AFP), but it was no 30 December 2009, when the regime drew out many tens of thousands to blunt the Green Movement's challenge in the Ashura demonstrations.

The regime did deliver on the rhetoric castigating the leaders of "sedition", especially Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, but there was even a pull-back in the language used by Tehran Friday Prayer leader Ayatollah Jannati. There would be no regime support for executions --- the two men apparently were already "dead" because their Revolutionary reputations had been blackened forever. There would not even be formal trials. Jannati, who has previously called for prosecution, apparently accepted the judiciary's caution that this might make martyrs out of Karroubi and Mousavi. Instead, Jannati publicly confirmed that Mousavi and Karroubi were under house arrest, their communications cut.

State outlet IRNA tried its best to big up the occasion, with several articles and a set of photographs, but even the hardline Fars could not be bothered to do much more than put out a cursory article and an eight-point resolution condemning Mousavi and Karroubi. Press TV did not care at all --- they were wall-to-wall with a focus first on Egypt and then on Bahrain.

Did I get it wrong? Despite the promise of a "Hate Rally", was there never a plan by the regime to bring out a full challenge to the opposition success on 25 Bahman? Is it hanging back, waiting to crush the Green Movement if it dares come out again publicly? Or does it believe --- having physically caged Mousavi and Karroubi and swept up another large group of journalists and activists --- that there is really no challenge beyond a few discontents on the streets?

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    EA WorldView - Home - The Latest from Iran (19 February): Is That All ThereIs?
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    EA WorldView - Home - The Latest from Iran (19 February): Is That All There Is?

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