Iran Election Guide

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Latest Iran Video: Foreign Minister Mottaki on Elections & Protests (31 January)

Take this as you will, as Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki responds to the challenges of CNN's Fareed Zakaria.

I do have to note that Mottaki needs to brush up on US politics --- the disputed election of George W. Bush was in 2000, not 2004, and the Supreme Court that ruled in his favour was not appointed by him. He might also want to check the situation in his country --- the Supreme Leader never held out the option of a full recount of the Presidential vote, and he might want to reconsider the claim that protesters were firing guns. And, as he holds on to the lifeboat claim of massive support on 30 December, three days after Ashura, I'm not sure that is boosted by compared Iran's crackdown on protest to the response to demonstrators at the Copenhagen climate change summit.


The Latest from Iran (31 January): No Backing Down

2240 GMT: We close tonight by posting a video of the comments of Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, defending the regime's approach in the Presidential election and against subsequent protests, on CNN.

2155 GMT: News from Evin Prison. Another demonstration tonight by families of detainees and their supporters --- Peyke Iran reports hundreds present. The website claims 23 detainees have been released to the cheers of the crowd.

2020 GMT: All is Well! All is Well! Today's award goes to a Brigadier General Hassan Firouzabadi, who offered this assessment of the current situation:
The Islamic Republic of Iran is looking at a bright future under the aegis of the visionary leadership of Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and the support of a considerable number of devotees inside and outside the country...

“Ceremonies marking the 31st anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution will kick off this year at a time when Iran has made great progress in various fields of science and technology. The global powers, along with their supporters inside the country, desperately sought to undermine the principles of the Islamic Revolution.

So, Mr Firouzabadi, we pass over to you the EA All is Well Trophy Video:


NEW Latest Iran Video: Foreign Minister Mottaki on Elections & Protests (31 January)
NEW Iran Analysis: Mousavi and Karroubi Answer the Regime — “Defiance”
NEW Iran From the Outside: Helping Through “Active Neutrality”
Latest Iran Video: Defending the Executions (30 January)
Iran Document: Mousavi-Karroubi Declaration on Rights and 22 Bahman (30 January)
Iran’s Executions: The Reformist Participation Front Questions to Sadegh Larijani
Iran Patriotism Special: Wiping the Green From The Flag

The Latest from Iran (30 January): Threat

2015 GMT: The speaker of the reformist minority group in Parliament, Mohammad Reza Tabesh, resigned to protest restricitons such as the filtering of the party's website Parleman News and the banning of its reporter from the Parliament and preventing guests of MPs from entering the Parliament. (Those guests include family members of political prisoners. One delegation was turned away today.)

The Deputy Speaker and members of the party intervened and requested Tabesh to remain in his post.

1920 GMT: Mahmoud, They Haven't Forgotten You. Just in case anyone was wondering if the "conservative" opposition to the Government had gone quiet, a refresher on a story from yesterday....

High-profile member of Parliament Ahmad Tavakoli, in a letter to Ahmadinejad through the website Alef News, has criticised the warnings handed out to newspapers by the Press Supervisory Board: "In most of the cases the reasons mentioned were very unsound and unbelievably unjustified." Tavakoli also derided the Ministry of Intelligence's list of 60 international organisations, involved in "soft war" with whom Iranians were to have no contact: "In the spheres of politics and media, it is the duty of the government to enhance freedom and to ban illegal limitations and narrow-minded restrictions."

1915 GMT: On the Economic Front (cont.): The Central Bank has issued a gloomy report about Iran's economic performance in recent months, with declining investment, output, and exports. The report has appeared in both the Green movement's Rah-e-Sabz and the pro-Rafsanjani Ayande News.

1800 GMT: On the Economic Front. The Swiss engineering group ABB AG has stopped taking new orders in Iran with a view to ending operations in the country.

1755 GMT: Iranian Labor News Agency reports that 218 members of Parliament have signed a motion calling on "prominent figures" to support the Supreme Leader:

“We must give stern warning to the enemies and bullying powers that their conspiracies will be thwarted by Iranian wise and vigilant nation as before. We advise the prominent figures who fanned the flames of dispute to make good on their mistakes and remain committed to rule of law."

1745 GMT: Detainee News (cont.). Dr. Alireza Beheshti, Mir Hossein Mousavi’s top advisor (not to be confused with Alireza Beheshti Shirazi, another Mousavi advisor) and son of the late Ayatollah Beheshti, has complained about unacceptable prison conditions in a short telephone call to his family. Beheshti's wife said that the regime is still searching for charges against her husband; one of the possibilities is that he has multiple mobile phone numbers.

Beheshti, detained in the new wave of arrests after Ashura, has suffered a heart attack while in custody. He reportedly has not been able to meet his lawyer or study his file.

1645 GMT: Larijani, Tough Guy. An English translation of the remarks of Sadegh Larijani (see 1445 GMT), head of Iran's judiciary, from Rah-e-Sabz's original report:

Larijani, while defending the execution of a number of people, particularly those accused of being a Mohareb (enemy of God), said: "These people were Moharebs and members of terrorist groups, had weapons or were found with explosives when arrested."

Sadegh Larijani once again reiterated the resolve of the judiciary in dealing with Mohareb groups and said, "Legal criminal procedures were meticulously followed during every phase of the investigation with regards to the cases of these individuals."

With regards to those who seek to create an illusion that there was negligence by the judiciary system in dealing with the defendants and who suggest that they were arrested hastily and without respect for the law, Larijani said, "The criteria by which the judiciary addresses all judicial cases is based only on Sharia (religious and divine law)."

1615 GMT: Detainee News. Seyed Alireza Beheshti Shirazi, a senior advisor to Mir Hossein Mousavi senior advisors and the chief editor of his Kalemeh Sabz newspaper, is still in solitary confinement. Beheshti, detained in the Ashura demonstrations, has not been charged, has not been given a lawyer, and has not been allowed to contact his family.

Dr. Ali Arab Mazar, another imprisoned Mousavi advisor, has finally spoken to his family in a two-minute phone call.

1445 GMT: Defending the Executions. A quiet news day has been interrupted by a statement from the head of Iran's judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, justifying Thursday's executions of Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour.

1015 GMT: Colleagues at Iran Review in Tehran have notified us of a series of analyses, from their staff and from the Iranian press, offering insight into Iranian positions on Afghanistan, on the West's approach to Tehran's nuclear programme and Russia's position, and on Iraq's forthcoming elections.

0935 GMT: Fist-Shaking of the Day. Officials in the Obama Administration use their favourite reporters at The Washington Post and The New York Times, to show they are getting very tough with Iran.

With further sanctions on Tehran complicated both by the resistance of other countries and by differing views of the White House and the US Congress, "military officials" have proclaimed that anti-missile defences are being accelerated in Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait.

There are other motives in the posturing. An administration official declares, “Our first goal is to deter the Iranians” if Tehran gets a bit miffed about tougher sanctions. That's a pretty weak line, since Iran is unlikely to launch an overt military attack (to my knowledge, Tehran has not done so since the 1979 Islamic Revolution). The official's second aim, "to reassure the Arab states", is more a pointer to the ongoing political battle between Iran and the US for influence in the region. The third objective, however, may be the most significant, beyond the appearance of toughness, "There is certainly an element of calming the Israelis as well.”

0850 GMT: Spinning Hashemi. Iran's state outlet, Press TV, gives the "appropriate" reading for Hashemi Rafsanjani's cautious, balanced statement on the marches of 22 Bahman (11 February). Setting aside any notion of a challenge to the regime, the website headlines, "Hashemi-Rafsanjani: February 11 rallies will foil outside ploys".

0820 GMT: The website of the Holland-based Radio Zamaneh, a key location for news and analysis in the post-election crisis, has been attacked by the "Iranian Cyber Army", the same group that diverted traffic from the Green website Mowj-e-Sabz,   Twitter, and the Chinese service Baidu.

0805 GMT: Another Show of Defiance. More than 2000 people --- detainees' families, Mothers of Mourning, and supporters --- reportedly gathered outside Evin Prison on Saturday night to call for an end to executions.

After the killing of two detainees on Thursday and rumours of more hangings, the demonstrators demanded not only an end to executions but also the unconditional release of all political prisoners. The families of prisoners were told that 23 detainees would be freed, and a few were released, including a 23 year-old woman who expressed her thanks to the crowd.

0800 GMT: The biggest news story on Saturday was the statement of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, responding to the regime's threats, trials, and executions, as they maintained their criticism of the Government and called on followers to march on the anniversary of the 1979 Revolution, 22 Bahman (11 February). We have posted a separate analysis.

Amidst our continuing discussions of the relationship between the Green movement and those outside Iran, we have also posted an incisive comment from Mahmood Delkhasteh, proposing the policy of "active neutrality".

And we have posted a video of a Tehran University academic, speaking on Al Jazeera English, defending last Thursday's executions of two political prisoners.

Iran Analysis: Mousavi and Karroubi Answer the Regime --- "Defiance"

Occasionally the analysis is easy.

24 hours ago, we were evaluating the regime's stepped-up threat, through the public declaration of Ayatollah Jannati, "We Will Kill You". We wrote, "This Government, this Supreme Leader has to prevent the mantle of the 1979 Revolution from being wrested from its grip on 22 Bahman (11 February)."

And we watched for a response.

Iran From the Outside: Helping Through “Active Neutrality”
Iran Document: Mousavi-Karroubi Declaration on Rights and 22 Bahman (30 January)
The Latest from Iran (31 January): No Backing Down

We got it within hours. Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, in a meeting documented by video cameras, issued a declaration that stood upon Karroubi's own stepped-up challenge of the last week and, indeed, harked back to Karroubi's response last autumn to Government warnings of arrest: Bring. It. On.

In their expression of sorrow to the families of Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour, the two men executed last week for crimes against national security, Mousavi and Karroubi offered a clever political riposte. They reassured supporters who had criticised the lack of comment over Zamani and Rahmanipour, and they made a connection with the Green Movement even though the executed prisoners were not involved with post-election resistance:
It seems like such actions is only to scare people and discourage them from participating in the 11 February [22 Bahman, anniversary of the 1979 Revolution] rally.

The widespread arrests of the political figures, journalists and academia, charged with protesting to defend their rights, are illegal. The process of obtaining confessions from these prisoners is also in contradiction to Islamic principles and the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Significantly, Mousavi and Karroubi renewed the latter's pointed challenge to Ayatollah Jannati, the head of the Guardian Council who is blamed for betraying the Islamic Republic by giving legitimacy to President Ahmadinejad.

Some in the Green movement will quarrel that Mousavi and Karroubi were unsubtle in declaring their allegiance to the Islamic Republic, "The majority of the people only want to regain their rights and are not seeking to overthrow the system," but this is an obvious strategy. It holds both the "middle ground" of Iranians who may be disillusioned with the Government and even the Supreme Leader but who do not want to put aside the Islamic Republic, and it makes the regime, rather than the opposition, the betrayer of and threat to the highest values of that Republic: "It seems like the rulers are even feeling danger by this voice of the people seeking justice."

And, of course, Mousavi and Karroubi offered the most defiant of responses to a regime which, over recent weeks, has tried to crush the prospect of mass demonstrations on 22 Bahman. To their followers, Mousavi and Karroubi put out the simple message: Join the Rallies. It was a message they did not give on 16 Azar (7 December) or even Ashura (27 December). Now the signal is clear: no more holding back.

Ayatollah Jannati, representing the regime, reviewed the prospects of more arrests, trials, and even executions and shouted, "Do It".

Yesterday, in a quieter but equally forceful manner, Mousavi and Karroubi responded, "Go Ahead. Try and Do It. We Do Not Give Way." Now it remains to be seen not only how the regime but also the Green movement take up that response.

On Friday

Turkey: Foreign Minister Davutoglu on Afghanistan and Ankara's Foreign Policy

EA correspondent Fulya Inci writes:

As the London Conference convened on Pakistan and Afghanistan on Thursday, Turkish officials Pakiistani and Afghan counterparts. That was the fourth tripartite meeting for a regional initiative for Afghanistan since Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu took office.

In an interview with the Turkish channel NTV, Davutoglu set out Turkey’s approach toward Afghanistan’s future. He defined explained Afghanistan’s importance for Turkey: stability and political balance in Asia, Turkey’s mission in the country as part of a NATO force, and the historical friendship between Ankara and Kabul. Turkey has pursued a "safety zone" in Afghanistan, providing $200 million in economic aid.

Turkey: “Ankara Ready to Mediate between Syria and Israel”

Asked about an opportunity to the Taliban to play a role in Afghanistan’s future, Davutoglu supported a political arrangement that covers all groups and minorities, even if they are armed militants. He asserteded that such a strategy will engage the Afghan people, who have a say in the defence, stability, and security of their country.

Beyond Afghanistan, Davutoglu offered a series of statements on Turkey's current foreign policy. He criticized the recent intervention of the Armenian Constitutional Court in the October 2009 protocol which sought to normalize the relationship between Armenia and Turkey. He referred to the issue of the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, disputed between Armenia and Azerbaijan, saying that Turkey is still hopeful for the process of resolution.

Davutoglu rejected the idea that there has been a "shift in the axis" of Turkish foreign policy, claiming that Ankara's main principle was “being constructive in all peaceful efforts, irrespective of whether they are in the West or East”.

Iran From the Outside: Helping Through "Active Neutrality"

Mahmood Delkhasteh, an academic, columnist, and activist, writes in The Guardian of London:

Since the late 19th century, almost every generation of Iranians has seen at least one major upheaval or revolution. The first revolution for democracy in the Middle East took place in Iran in 1905, at a time when European countries (excepting the UK) were under various forms of dictatorship. No country has experienced so much constant turmoil and political unrest in the past century as Iran.

Besides the current demand for democracy in Iran, however, there has always been the demand for independence. Iranians have an ingrained sensitivity about the independence of their country, traceable far back even in the epic mythical tales of ancient Iran.

The Latest from Iran (31 January): No Backing Down

In Shahnameh (or Book of the Kings), for example, the legendary warrior hero Rustam is the defender of Iran's independence. We should not presume that these are just stories created to pass spare time in tea houses. There is rather a principle which, a thousand years ago, transformed the unknown philosopher-poet Ferdusii into a national love affair and turned a warrior into a legendary hero. It still affects the Iranian psyche today.

Thus, it is no surprise that contemporary arguments about the benefits of globalisation, the weakening of nation states, and the semi-irrelevance of national governments whose role is merely to balance the demands of multinational corporations with public demands, have hit a wall of steel within Iran. The country's independence cannot be negotiated on these grounds.

Of course there are numerous Iranian scholars and intellectuals who have bought into these arguments, but the west should be aware of the gap between them and the national public consciousness of the Iranian people. This revolution is not staffed by these self-appointed intellectuals and political activists, but is to be found among the people themselves. And because it is horizontally organised and networked, it has been impossible for the regime to decapitate it.

The chants and slogans teach us how this collective movement is increasingly clarifying its democratic demands through self-assessment and critical dialogue, internally and in response to the changing reality. The initial response to the vote rigging, for example, was expressed in the simple question: "Where is my vote?" Gradually, people realised that voting was only a means through which to exercise their authority over the state, and that as long as this was impossible demanding the right to vote was irrelevant.

This small awakening, combined with the brutal repression of their peaceful demonstrations, shifted the movement's core demand from ending political corruption to demanding, as the slogan went, "Independence, Freedom [and an] Iranian Republic".

This slogan prefigures the republican nature of the future regime as one based on principles of both independence and freedom. It is a secularised version of a slogan popular in the 1979 revolution: "Independence, freedom, Islamic Republic". In both cases, independence and freedom are the main demands. These were imagined to have been possible in the form of an "Islamic republic" in the previous revolution but, as the state has since proved that it is neither Islamic nor a republic, people have learned to express the original demands within a new discourse.

The concept of independence is understood by the majority in Iran as "negative equilibrium" – an idea originally championed by Mohammad Mossadeq, the democratic prime minister who was overthrown in a CIA-engineered coup in 1953. Mossadeq argued that Iran could not secure its fragile existence through "balancing out" interfering powers against each other, as had been government policy in the preceding decades (whether this be setting Russia against Britain or the US against Russia). Instead, he suggested that no foreign power should be allowed to violate or compromise Iran's independence in the first place. Thus, while the demand for freedom may be understood at an individual level, the desire for independence is seen as an exercise of freedom in collective or national form.

Any foreign interference in favour of either the opposition movement or the regime, therefore, violates this sense of independence and weakens the process of revolution. Recently, the exiled ex-president, Abulhassan Banisadr, urged foreign governments to adopt "active neutrality" towards the regime and the country's evolving political situation. This means taking two different kinds of actions: negative (or withdrawing) actions, and positive (or active) ones.

The first negative move should be to remove the threat of military attack and economic sanctions as a way of forcing the regime to make concessions about the nuclear issue. Both these are lifelines for the sinking regime, which needs some sort of international crisis to keep itself afloat. A democratic Iran does not need the atomic bomb; it needs not to have it.

Second, foreign governments should not give their financial or political support to the opposition. They should withdraw as potential actors from this stage.

In addition to these withdrawals, there are certain ways that foreign governments can act positively to hasten the revolution.

One is to actively and publicly oppose the violation of human rights in Iran, in accordance with the demands of global public opinion.

The second is to prevent foreign companies from selling equipment or services which enable the regime to spy on, censor and control the opposition. Third, they can identify and publicise the names of those members of the regime who have stored money in foreign banks, and expose the amount of these deposits and investments.

Finally, foreign governments can support efforts to bring Iran's leaders to the international courts of law so that they can be tried for committing crimes against humanity.

Such actions, as part of a wider policy of "active neutrality", can both weaken the Iranian regime's capacity to use violence against the people of Iran and send a message to Iranians that no country will interfere in Iran's domestic affairs after this regime is gone.

When the people are certain that they will not be exploited in this way, they can mobilise their resources in full to end the life of a corrupt and criminal regime and advance the democratisation of Islamic countries.